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The Latin-R&B Connection

by Rachel Devitt

The Latin-R&B Connection

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Though they're tied to different audiences, different parts of the world, even different languages, R&B and Latin pop music have managed to find many points of intersection over the course of each genre's storied musical history. And why not? Despite their demographic and categorical differences, these two musical schools have quite a lot in common, stylistically speaking: singing traditions that include both dramatic, full-throated belting and whisper-like crooning; a penchant for (and adeptness at) balladry; a serious investment in/obsession with romance; and a cozy relationship with dance and mainstream pop styles.

What is surprising, however, is how many permutations of this connection have cropped up during the evolution of both genres. There's Latin soul, the genre that helped give birth to salsa by pairing Latin dance traditions with R&B and jazz. And Latin funk, an important and influential style under the funk umbrella. And there are also, of course, plenty of plain old Latin R&B artists who sing Spanish lyrics in a soul pop style.

On today's musical map, one of the most important Latin-R&B crossroads is located in the urban music scene. Over the past decade or so, reggaeton and bachata artists who've grown up listening to English-speaking urban music have begun to incorporate more and more elements of R&B into their sound, from the feathery-fine, post- Michael Jackson singing style favored by many contemporary bachata artists to an increasing lyrical emphasis on the club -- and what happens in the bedroom afterward. Listen to all the fascinating ways in which these musical worlds have collided.