If there’s one song that’s No. 1 on this list, it has to be ‘Despacito’, or ‘the non-English single from 2017 that was absolutely impossible to avoid’. This list would be incomplete without the global, chart-topping smash hit from Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee that was everywhere in 2017, even more so when the remix version by Justin Bieber was released. And with good reason: it’s an absolute sensation.
If ‘Despacito’ was the undisputed non-English language single of the year, then J Balvin’s ‘Mi Gente’ certainly comes in as a close second, confirming once and for all that reggaeton has broken out of the Latin American market and gone global. The track continues to dominate airplay around the world with its irresistible hook since June of this year.
Nigerian Afrobeat superstar Wizkid continued his seemingly inexorable rise to the top this year with the release of his excellent album Sounds from the Other Side. He previously rose to prominence with a famous feature on Drake’s massive 2016 single ‘One Dance’, and the rap icon returned the favour by featuring on ‘Come Closer’. Wizkid seems destined for great things, and if he keeps putting out music like this, he’ll be at the top in no time.
Brazilian rapper and soul singer Criolo released his excellent Espiral de Ilusão album this year, confirming his reputation as the best artist to come out of the country in years. The album is available as a free download, as is his fantastic lead single Menino Mimado, a sublime samba unlike the musician’s typical rap style that doesn’t sacrifice any of his unique artistry.
Shakira is one of those singers whose songs have completely crossed the English-non-English divide and in 2017 she released a fantastic Spanish-language track that was impossible to avoid in Latin America. With an irresistible chorus and nearly 500 billion views on Youtube, ‘Me Enamoré’ is high on the list of non-English songs in 2017.
Never underestimate how prominent K-pop is outside of the English-speaking world: South Korean boyband BTS has released four studio albums and sold millions of records around the world since 2013. ‘Blood Sweat & Tears’, an electronic trap song with an irresistible synth hook, was the first single from their 2017 album Wings and the epic video has nearly 200 million Youtube views.
Along with J. Balvin, Maluma is another Colombian reggaeton artist who gained a global following this year with his string of hit tunes. The most popular was Felices los 4, a gentler and more romantic number than the average reggaeton tune with a video that has racked up 1.2 billion views on Youtube since it was released in April. You can definitely expect to hear more from Maluma in 2018.
International party-starters Major Lazer made a come-back in 2017 with one of the most streamed albums of the year. They also dropped an absolutely exceptional Portuguese-language track featuring two of the hottest Brazilian artists in the world right now—Anitta and drag-queen superstar Pabllo Vittar (more on her later). With a trippy video set in the desert and an outstanding hook, ‘Sua Cara’ demands repeat listening.
Nigerian singer, songwriter and record producer Davido was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but relocated to Lagos, Nigeria, at a young age. He sings in a mixture of English and Igbo and his 2017 single ‘If’ is the perfect example of a romantic ballad blended with Afrobeat and R&B.
Globe-trotting British DJ Will Holland, a.k.a. Quantic, has released some truly remarkable music over the past few years, much of it in collaboration with some of Colombia’s most talented artists. In 2017, he and Colombian singer Nidia Góngora released an entire album together. The single ‘Que Me Duele?’ is a wonderful piece of work and an electro-tropical crossover that sums up the spirit of the album in four glorious minutes.
Pabllo Vittar had a truly remarkable and record-shattering 2017, and her solo record Vai Passar Mal contains a number of great tracks that could easily be on this list. Her best single, K.O., is an irresistible funky tune which quickly became the most successful song ever released by a drag queen.