Some American pop music fanatics are surprised that Drake’s “One Dance” has blended tropical pop, Latin dance rhythms and hip-hop swagger in a powerful mix that will likely spend ten-plus weeks on top of the Billboard pop charts by the end of the year. If you take a serious look at the history of both pop and dance music in the United States, though, this tropical/hip-hop blend has been a successful mix for more than three decades. Interestingly enough, we’re in an era where because the top artists, Billboard-wise (instead of one-hit wonders) are making these songs, there’s a possibility that these songs could have a future at the top of the charts for much longer that lasts MUCH longer than once every ten years.
2016 sees a time where “One Dance” is a smash, while an artist like Diplo’s recently made waves with tropical-inspired songs like his Major Lazer production “Lean On,” and “Hey Baby,” his recent electro-style production collaboration with leading DJ Mag Top 100 pairing Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike. Alongside Diplo, artists from Dillon Francis to Kygo and more have run the club and festival circuit with thumping, yet smooth bass jams. As well, Drake joins the likes of Justin Bieber, Gwen Stefani, and others in catching the tropical pop wave.
What we could be in line for is something similar to 2006, when between Sean Paul’s booming rap hit “Temperature” and “Hips Don’t Lie,” Shakira’s duet with Wyclef Jean, Caribbean-born reggaeton dominated the top five songs of the year. Going back to the days of disco dominating both the clubs and the mainstream, there’s something to the idea that a steady beat, pleasant melody and seductive lyrics can create pop magic. Add into this the idea that both “Temperature” and “Hips Don’t Lie” featured sexy and entertaining music videos, and the songs achieved over-the-top success.
Even more, the formula applied to a series of one-time 90s hit-makers and stars of that era as well. From Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” to Santana’s “Maria Maria,” plus Jennifer Lopez’s stardom and one-hit wonders like Lumidee’s “Never Leave You” collaboration with Busta Rhymes, everything from flamenco, to soul, reggae, salsa, and more were explored, and set a standard. Include New York’s ‘80s popular freestyle subgenre — a sound that is hip-hop by way of techno, with a touch of lovestruck salsa lyricism added — providing hits for everyone from Australian pop diva Samantha Fox, New York City’s Shannon, Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine and well-respected New York trio Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam to the mix, and where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Every single Caribbean, Latin, and hip-hop sound that’s crossed over blending with the enormous establishing starpower of artists like Drake, Diplo, Kygo, and Dillon Francis create greater potential for this style of sounds than ever before. Are we looking at a situation where there’s a Drake x Bieber x Diplo collaboration that runs the pop charts for literally an entire year? Or, a situation where booming basslines, soulful love songs, and pop-meet-rap swagger collide over and over again at number one for a decade? Either way, three things that are always true are important here. People love pop stars as much as they love to dance, history loves to repeat itself, and the numbers (like hips…) never lie.