We Want Our Ballads: How Latin radio lost its pop love sound and how to get it back.
September 14, 2014
This week, Chayanne's new studio set, En Todo Estaré, debuts at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart, and at No. 1 pretty much everywhere else in Latin America.
Chayanne Crowns Top Latin Albums
But wait a minute: While first single "Humanos a Marte" cracked the top 10 of our Latin Airplay chart, it never made it to the top five, much less to No. 1, the spot where Chayanne has placed a string of hits in the past.
That's because even though "Humanos a Marte" is a lilting, mid-tempo pop/reggae track, Chayanne is viewed as a romantic crooner and that's a no-no in U.S. Latin radio today. In fact, Latin pop in general faces a very uphill battle on its way to getting any airplay here.
Programmers argue that ballads just don't do well in radio (U.S. Latin radio, that is). Their main contention is that "young" listeners -- meaning the 18- to 34-year-old sweet spot advertisers chase -- don't want to hear traditional love songs. All they want is reggaetón and dance and urban-tinged uptempo fare like "Bailando" and "6 AM."
But while such uptempo fare most definitely has an audience, so do the more mellow, pop-leaning tracks. If only radio allowed them to be heard.
Instead, the medium has aggressively and wrongly reduced Latin music in this country to a single sound and experience, even as all the other measurements of success -- including album sales and streaming -- tell a bigger and more exciting story.