In a year that saw Latin music’s commercial success skyrocket past $1 billion in revenue for the first time, the true triumph lies not just in the industry’s financial ascent but in the relentless sonic exploration that defines the genre. From León Larregui’s technicolor electro-rock odyssey PRISMARAMA to DannyLux’s sad sierreño gem DLux and Tainy’s neon-hued experimental outing DATA, 2023 showcased a vibrant tapestry of sounds that fearlessly embraced innovation.
Powerhouses like Karol G, Bad Bunny and Billboard’s Pop Star Rookie of the Year Peso Pluma dominated the cultural conversation. Karol’s Mañana Será Bonito made history as the first Spanish-language LP by a female artist to top the Billboard 200 and Bad Bunny returned with another astounding No. 1 album on the aforementioned chart, topping it for a third consecutive release with October’s Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana.
Mexican music, in particular, emerged as the undisputed breakout genre, dethroning reggaetón for the first time within the Latin music world, as the Billboard charts attested to this year. Peso Pluma’s Génesis made history, debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. The regional scene continued its explosive growth with standout releases like Natanael Cano’s Nata Montana, Eslabon Armado’s Desvelado, Carin Leon’s Colmillo de Leche and Fuerza Regida’s Pa Las Baby’s y la Belikeada, all earning their place on our Best Latin albums of 2023.
Beyond música urbana and Mexican music, 2023 also welcomed a diverse range of deeper, more introspective albums. Juanes’ raw and sincere Vida Cotidiana brought the Colombian superstar back to his rock roots, Milo J’s South American bohemian essence on 111 combined tango and bolero music exquisitely and Alex Anwandter’s unabashed elctro-pop masterpiece El Diablo en el Cuerpo further enriched the musical landscape.
Here are the 25 albums that impressed us most: a testament to a year marked by innovation, historic achievements and the continuing global rise of Latin music. (The list is in alphabetical order by artist.)
Alex Anwandter, El Diablo en el Cuerpo
In Alex Anwandter’s dynamic dance album, agony, ecstasy and burning desire take center stage. Crafting anthems for weekend revelry, the singer/producer unleashes unbridled freedom with a dash of deviance. The album kicks off with the unflinching electropop of “Maricoteca,” a call to trouble with a snarl that declares, “Don’t look for your mother/ No one will save you here.” Later, his “Mi Vida En Llamas” collaboration with Puerto Rican indie-pop duo Buscabulla elevates avant-garde disco to euphoric heights, aided by the heavenly vocals of Raquel Berrios. Across 14 tracks — which also feature Javiera Mena, Julieta Venegas and more acclaimed artists — the Chilean pop iconoclast seamlessly incorporates influences from Latin American ballads, synth-pop and other sounds, immersing himself in the pleasures of the body with dazzling effects. — ISABELA RAYGOZA
Bad Bunny, Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana
Lush in richness, pleasure and his deep affection for his native Puerto Rico, Bad Bunny’s Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana dives into the enigmatic uncertainties of what tomorrow may hold. El Conejo Malo maneuvers through his escalating fame with ease and a daring sensuality across 22 tracks, against hard-hitting trap beats and a back-to-origins style, courtesy of go-to producers MAG, Tainy and La Paciencia. The haunting refinement of “Nadie Sabe,” bolstered by its symphonic backing and otherworldly choruses, establishes the introspective mood of the album. Meanwhile, the now-iconic melancholic violin and piano excerpt from Charles Aznavour’s 1964 song “Hier Encore” in “Monaco” adds a layer of complexity. The standout “Acho PR,” featuring De La Ghetto, Arcángel, and Ñengo Flow, pays tribute to the vibrant barrio life of Puerto Rico, and “Nadie” captures Bunny’s nuanced contemplation of fame interwoven with self-mythology, all conveyed with his signature attitude and flair. — I.R.
Becky G, Esquinas
On Esquinas, Becky G journeys into the heart of Mexican music. The 13-track LP, co-written and produced by Edgar Barrera, not only showcases the singer’s musical prowess but also serves as a beguiling tribute to her abuelitos, who inspired her to explore the music of their native Mexico. In a striking example, Becky G delivers a whirling ranchera ballad alongside Leonardo and Ángela Aguilar on “Por El Contrario.” Along with breakout superstar Peso Pluma, she dives into corridos tumbados with finesse in “Chanel.” Also joined by Yahritza y Su Esencia, Ivan Cornejo, DannyLux, Chiquis and Gabito Ballesteros, the singer comes full-circle to create a heartfelt homage to her heritage. The album, whose title translates to “corners,” is a convergence of two cultures, two languages and two flags — and throughout the musical odyssey, Becky G embraces her identity as a proud 200 percenter. — I.R.
Carin León, Colmillo de Leche
Carin León’s Colmillo de Leche is an endearing homage to the Mexican singer-songwriter’s love for music and his roots — 95% of the musicians on this record are Sonorans, and those who are not live in Hermosillo, León’s hometown. The set is a testament to his musical versatility, as it smoothly blends genres like soul, flamenco, pop and salsa with more traditional regional Mexican sounds and the singer’s exquisite vocals. The 18-track LP not only attests to León’s artistic dexterity but also secured him a well-deserved Latin Grammy for the best norteño music album in November. Colmillo showcases León’s distinctive style of carrying melodies through different sounds as he effortlessly conveys a wide range of emotions, from heartbreak and love to joy and longing. — INGRID FAJARDO
DannyLux hit No. 1 on the Billboard Latin Songwriters chart in 2021 and waited two years to drop his debut album. Safe to say, it was worth the wait. The música Mexicana artist, whose eclectic sensibility has helped shape regional Mexican music’s latest iteration, delivered a 17-track set that thrives on a collection of styles, including bachata, EDM, pop and his signature guitar-driven sad sierreño sound. In DLux, the 19-year-old from Palm Springs winds through love and loss, singing ultra-melancholy songs with a glimmer of hope puncturing through. — GRISELDA FLORES
Eladio Carrión, 3MEN2 KBRN
Eladio Carrión’s 3MEN2 KBRN stands as a triumphant finale to the SEN2 KBRN trilogy, debuting impressively at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The bilingual 18-track LP is a collision of the rapper’s dual identity — born in Kansas and raised in Humacao, Puerto Rico — with his linguistic prowess shining over punishing drill and top-tier trap beats. Teaming up with 50 Cent, Future, Myke Towers and Lil Wayne, the Sauce Boyz creator seamlessly navigates between scenic rap bars and clever wordplay. From the infectious bounce of “Coco Chanel” with Bad Bunny to the gritty New York drill vibes of “M3” featuring Fivio Foreign, the album encompasses a diverse range of influences. Carrión’s relentless pursuit of musical innovation and cross-cultural fusion cements his status as a leader in the realm of Latin trap. — I.R.
Eslabon Armado, Desvelado
Desvelado scored the Mexican American group scored their sixth No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Albums chart. Perhaps Eslabon’s best album yet, the guitar-driven production cemented the group’s stronghold on música Mexicana, today thanks to power collabs like “Ella Baila Sola” with Peso Pluma, the norteña-tinged cumbia “Quédate Conmigo” with Grupo Frontera and the cathartic sad sierreño “Me Decepcionaste” with DannyLux. Desvelado is a testament to frontman Pedro Tovar’s ability to create Gen Z anthems with super-modern lyrics about love and heartbreak. — G.F.
Fito Páez, EADDA9223
Three decades ago, Fito Páez brought us one of his most transcendent works. It wasn’t his debut or his sophomore album; it was his seventh. But with songs as urgent as the one that gives its title to the set, El Amor Después del Amor became an instant classic. This year, Páez celebrated the anniversary by completely redoing the record with new versions of all its 14 songs, along with big-name guests like Lali and Nicki Nicole (“Dos Días en la Vida”), Nathy Peluso (“La Verónica”), Elvis Costello (“Tráfico por Katmandú”), Mon Laferte (“Sasha, Sisí y el Círculo de Baba”), Ángela Aguilar (“Brillante Sobre el Mic”) and more. It wasn’t about reinventing the (magic) wheel — pun intended — but with ambitious orchestral arrangements and a few gems and surprises, EADDA9223 (whose title combines the initials of the original with the then-and-now release years) stood out. It received a best new album nomination at the Latin Grammys and is competing in February for the Grammy Award for best Latin rock or alternative album. — SIGAL RATNER-ARIAS
Fuerza Regida, Pa Las Baby’s y Belikeada
Pa Las Baby’s opens with a dark and seductive tone, as a sultry voice professes her affection for corridos… then she appears to pick up a machine gun and shoot. Effortlessly blending sensuality with outlaw imagery, Fuerza’s album takes listeners on an audacious expedition, delving into corridos bélicos with a distinctive drill influence. The 30-track LP — which earned the band a No. 2 spot on the Top Latin Albums chart — also serves as a testament to the group’s evolution as they immerse themselves in la belikeada movement. They deliver the expected corridos alterados, complete with menacing accordion arrangements, occasionally with a dash of cumbia (“Zona de Comfort”), EDM (“Harley Quinn” alongside Marshmello) or reggaetón (“Freaky Freaky” with Calle 24 and Armenta). Also featuring El Fantasma, Maria Becerra, Gabito Ballesteros, Manuel Turizo, Chino Pacas and other hitmakers, the album consolidated them as a force not only in Mexican music but also in pop: In fact, they landed the No. 1 spots on Billboard’s year-end Top Artists – Duo/Group list, a first for a Latin band. — I.R.
GALE, Lo Que No Te Dije
Before delivering her debut album, the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter had already given us a taste of her strong capabilities as a songwriter, penning tracks for artists like Christina Aguilera. But when she released the first singles in anticipation of her first LP, her mature vocal delivery and signature anti-pop ethos instantly hooked listeners. On Lo Que No Te Dije, an album boldly devoid of collaborations, GALE fearlessly explores a diverse range of styles — effortlessly transitioning from punk (“D-Pic”) to reggaetón (“La Mitad”) — with each serving as a fitting canvas for her heartbreak ballads and neo-feminist anthems. — G.F.
Grupo Frontera, El Comienzo
After their viral moment on TikTok with their cover of Morat’s “No Se Va,” Grupo Frontera opted to release original music — which is plastered over their debut studio album El Comienzo. On the set, the McAllen-based group delivers 11 heartfelt and relatable songs about love and heartbreak — all backed by their signature norteño-cumbia fusions. Home to the Bad Bunny-assisted “un x100to,” which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this year, El Comienzo also includes “Alta Voz” with Junior H, “El Amor de Su Vida” with Grupo Firme, “Que Vuelvas” with Carin León, and “Las Flores,” a ‘90s-inspired grupero melody in collab with Yahritza y Su Esencia. El Comienzo scored Frontera their first top 10 on any Billboard albums chart when it peaked at No. 4 on the Top Latin Albums chart in Aug. It also hit No. 2 on Regional Mexican Albums and debuted at No. 39 on the Billboard 200. — JESSICA ROIZ
Joaquina, Los Mejores Años
With just five songs, Joaquina managed to capture the teenage angst and vulnerability in such a heart-wrenching and convincing way, that she ended up winning the Latin Grammy for best new artist. Los Mejores Años earned the 19-year-old Venezuelan artist a nomination for best singer-songwriter album; She also scored Billboard‘s Latin Artist on the Rise title in November. Her debut EP includes indie pop/rock tracks such as “Rabia,” “Niñas de Instagram” and “Los Mejores Años,” which have connected with young audiences while impressing veterans like Juanes (who included the Joaquina-penned “La Versión en mi Cabeza” on Vida Cotidiana,) Alejandro Sanz and Fonseca (for whom she has already opened shows). It is, in short, a testament to how much can be said with little when one taps into the depths of the soul. — S.R.A.
Juan Luis Guerra, Radio Güira
Juan Luis Guerra y 4.40 lights up the party with Radio Güira, a six-song EP presented, as its title indicates, in radio station style. “You are listening to Radio Güira, 4.40 FM,” Guerra narrates over a techno-beat at the beginning of “Mambo 23,” the opener of the set, which brought him back to the top of the Latin Airplay chart after almost a decade since his last No. 1. With six songs written and produced by the Dominican maestro, it is impossible not to move and smile to the rhythm of mambo, bachata (“DJ Bachata”), merengue (“La Noviecita” and “Como Me Enamora”), pambiche blues (“Te Invito a un Blues”) and even pop reggaetón (“Cositas de Amor”), all with elegant touches of genres such as jazz and rock, and the sweet, poetic lyrics for which the artist is known. All in all, it is a work that overflows with joy, humor and love. — S.R.A.
Juanes, Vida Cotidiana
In the most honest and raw way, Juanes captures the ups and downs of his personal life and his beloved Colombia in Vida Cotidiana, an 11-track album that goes from the dark indie-rock “Gris” to the Juan Luis Guerra-assisted “Cecilia,” an upbeat love song dedicated to his wife. Born during the uncertainty of the COVID shutdown, the set brought the Latin star back to his rock roots — this time tinged with funk, son and cumbia, among other rhythms — in titles that also include “Amores Prohibidos,” “Ojalá,” and the empowering “Veneno,” a song about toxic relationships. Produced by Juanes, Sebastian Krys and Emmanuel Briceño, Vida Cotidiana won the Latin Grammy for best pop/rock album in November, and is now up for best Latin rock or alternative music album at the 2024 Grammy Awards. — S.R.A.
Karol G, Mañana Será Bonito
Karol G made history by becoming the first woman (and only second artist ever, after Bad Bunny) to top the Billboard 200 with an all-Spanish album with February’s Mañana Será Bonito. Despite including “TQG” — her much-vaunted collaboration with fellow scorned-ex Shakira — do not think this album was born out of vengeance or heartache for a second. The 17-track LP, whose album title translates to Tomorrow Will Be Pretty, is like a musical band-aid on the heart. The intro song “Mientras Me Curo del Cora” is an open letter to oneself, a reminder that we can bloom again, no matter how many times we need to start over. Another standout, “Gucci Los Paños,” includes a hint of regional Mexican music as a relief to close a chapter. Mañana features a mix of fierce reggaetón and electronic sounds throughout, loaded with relatable and sophisticated lyrics. It showcases Karol G’s diverse personality, with anthems meant to be shouted, not sung. — I.F.
Laura Pausini, Almas Paralelas
Five years after her last studio album — the Latin Grammy-winning Hazte Sentir — Laura Pausini returned like a typhoon with Almas Paralelas, a 16-track set inspired by real stories, of her own and others, which displays an artistic and personal evolution, both vocally and lyrically. From the energetic pop-dance/electronic song “Cero” to the sensitive piano love ballad “Frente a Nosotros,” the Italian superstar — and the Latin Recording Academy’s 2023 Person of the Year — traversed a range of rhythms and emotions on this passionate journey, addressing topics as basic as love, forgiveness, motherhood, and family. It is a pop gem that made us dance and laugh, reflect, and heal. — S.R.A.
León Larregui, PRISMARAMA
On his third solo album, León Larregui brings his enigmatic allure to the dance floor. Like an intergalactic prophet, the Zoé frontman traverses ethereal arrangements rooted in Mexican folklore, occasionally offering words of wisdom. He describes otherworldly love against tribal-like electronic music on the opener “Incendio de Amor/Carmelita”; on “Tarot Polaroid,” he sings of sacred symbols backed by a whimsical harpsichord and moody bassline. He amps up the vibe on “Quetzal” with distorted guitars, while chanting about temples, altars and ancient birds, with an outro spoken in Nahuatl. Larregui cuts through an array of sounds, from twinkling odes to lo-fi lullabies, bringing 15 songs to life with prismatic effects. — I.R.
Manuel Turizo, 2000
For his third studio album, Manuel Turizo paid tribute to his birth year: 2000 — the album cover is even an adorable baby photo of himself. But like its ultra-personal concept, the 15-track set not only flaunts the Colombian artist’s maturity and versatility over the years, but also represents his most experimental production yet. He flirts with techno beats in “Triste,” tests the trap waters in “U Lala,” and drops a sultry reggae-dancehall fusion jam with “Jamaica.” Meanwhile, in “Vacio,” Turizo opens up about chasing his dreams when he was only a teenager (the artist was 15 years old when he unleashed his first major hit “Una Lady Como Tú”). 2000 is also home to the urban-bachata “La Bachata” and the Marshmello-assisted “El Merengue,” both which hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts and became summer anthems in 2023. — J.R.
Milo J, 111
Milo J’s debut album 111 is infused with a South American bohemian essence. Seamlessly blending traditional tones with a contemporary flair, the LP fuses tango and bolero music exquisitely. The 16-year-old rapper presents a nine-track album that skillfully combines acoustic and electric guitar arrangements, captivating listeners with deep, vulnerable, and medicinal lyrics. It boasts diverse collaborations, such as “Carencias de Cordura” with Yami Sadfie, where the Argentine artist ventures into the Andes with a pasillo that resonates across generations. In “Una Bala,” featuring Peso Pluma, he effortlessly delves into regional Mexican sounds while unveiling a cinematic theme, singing in unison with Yahritza y Su Esencia on “Te Fui a Seguir.” — I.F.
Mon Laferte, Autopoiética
On Autopoiética, the Chilean songwriter’s voice haunts, and at other times, it spellbinds, all while unraveling intricate sonic layers and diverse influences. Mon Laferte sings of the fallen ancient Aztec civilization Tenochtitlán on a song of the same name, belting words about salvation and self-worth over an arresting trip-hop-meets-bolero beat. She then switches to the chopped-and-screwed cumbia rebajada on “Te Juro Que Volveré,” where she brings to light the struggle of the undocumented immigrant. To keep matters as eclectic as can be, the artist introduces a ‘90s-styled techno cut on the title track, which exudes moody euphoria. Laferte’s bold experimentation, spanning from the reggaetón beats of “NO+SAD” to the operatic reinterpretation of “Casta Diva,” exposes a multi-faceted artist fearlessly embracing her own depth. — I.R.
Natanael Cano, Nata Montana
The pioneer of corridos tumbados returned to his roots in Nata Montana and struck gold. After recording Nata Kong, an album that featured both urban and música mexicana songs, Cano released an only-corridos set featuring collaborations with fellow Mexican music hitmakers, such as Peso Pluma and Junior H. With Nata Montana, he cements his stronghold in a genre he helped originate just a few years back, and displays his craftsmanship as both a musician — with sick guitar skills — and a songwriter, whose lyrics continue to resonate deeply with the new generation of Mexican music fans. — G.F.
Peso Pluma, Genesis
After releasing a handful of singles, including the megahit “Ella Baila Sola” with Eslabon Armado, Peso exceeded all expectations when he unleashed Génesis over the summer. The set debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, the highest rank ever for a música Mexicana album. It also placed a historic 25 simultaneous titles on the Hot Latin Songs chart in July, breaking Bad Bunny’s record of 24. Album gems include the dreamy ballad “Lagunas” with Jasiel Nuñez, the braggy corrido “Lady Gaga” with Junior H and Gabito Ballesteros and the attitude-heavy “Rubicon.” Génesis is up for best música mexicana album at the Grammys in February. — G.F.
Rauw Alejandro, Playa Saturno
On the heels of 2022’s Saturno, Rauw Alejandro blessed fans with its summer sequel, Playa Saturno — a 14-track set that stays faithful to Rauw’s new galactic era. Unlike Saturno, where the Puerto Rican artist mainly experimented with freestyle music, Playa is more reggaetón-heavy, fused with hard-hitting drums, dramatic synth beats, and at times, old-school perreo. The set is home to the viral TikTok track “Diluvio” and also features innovative collaborations like “Picardia” with Junior H, “Si Te Pegas” with Miguel Bosé and “Baby Hello” with Bizarrap. Other collaborators include the iconic urban artists Ivy Queen, Jowell y Randy, Ñejo and Dalmata. Playa Saturno debuted at No. 4 on the Top Latin Albums chart and peaked at No. 29 on the all-genre Billboard 200. — J.R.
Sofía Reyes, Milamores
Reyes sets the feel-good vibe of her new album Milamores with the 20-second “Florecer.” Over the sound of birds chirping in a garden, a hopeful Reyes asks: “Joy, where are you? Come help me wake up. Heal me with your song, heal me with your joy.” It’s the best way to begin an album that does exactly what Reyes intended: heal. Throughout the set, the Mexican singer-songwriter embraces her growth and life lessons, with an array of genres soundtracking her personal journey. From cumbia sonidera to indie-pop, reggae and perreo, Milamores is both lyrically and sonically rich. — G.F.
Tainy has been a driving force that has propelled the once underground sounds of música urbana to global recognition, constantly reshaping the contemporary Latin music landscape. With the unveiling of his inaugural album, DATA, Tainy not only lives up to the hype but surpasses it. Across 19 tracks, he transforms his abstract musical configurations into a dazzling sonic journey, occasionally infusing songs with an otherworldly allure. In the renegade opus of “Pasiempre,” Tainy assembles Latin trap royalty: Arcángel, Jhayco, Myke Towers, Bad Bunny and newcomer Omar Courtz. He positions artists to showcase another side of them: “Paranormal” sees Alvaro Díaz tearing through ’80s-inspired synthwave, while Arcángel reveals a more vulnerable side in “me jodi…” set against an ethereal technicolor beat. Amidst these innovative ventures, Tainy’s reggaetón roots stand firm, evinced in tracks like “Fantasma | AVC” with Jhayco and “La Baby” with Daddy Yankee, Feid, and Sech — a testament to his ability to craft timeless sounds, coupled with an unparalleled willingness to explore new musical territories. — I.R.