Grading the Tropical Charts

Billboard’s Tropical Songs chart rounds up the top hits getting the most radio airplay in Musica Tropical genres like bachata, salsa, cumbia, vallenato, rumba, and merengue.

1. Romeo Santos, “La Diabla”

Bronx-born singer Romeo Santos drops the fourth single from his first solo album after leaving the popular urban bachata group Aventura. First there was “Mi Santa,” so naturally next comes “La Diabla.” Gorgeous guitar parts and airy rhythms. The king stays king.

Grade: A-

Best YouTube Comment: “WOW these are split your wrist fall in deep love songs. It is so amazing that this song is sad but all I can think about is falling in love the melody is so smooth.” — albam1228

2. Wisin y Yandel + Jennifer Lopez, “Follow the Leader”

Love or hate La Lopez, you can’t knock her indefatigable hustle. Lately she has been polishing her crown as the unlikely queen of Latin pop, reminding us that “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” Glow perfume debuted more than a decade ago, and that she can still dance as hard as she did when she was a Fly Girl. Lopez guests on a song by Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel in a video choreographed by her boyfriend, Casper Smart. She wears Björk buns and fake back tats, singing on an Acapulco balcony while dancers do parkour. The verses alternate between English and Spanish, as a little accordion loop spins around like rims on a Fiat. Definitely a grower.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “someone did a bad job on Yandel’s fade! (HIS left side) Not hatin tho, still good music!! ;)” — tatysussy1111

3. Prince Royce, “Incondicional”

Prince Royce had a huge hit in January with “Las Cosas Pequenas” that lasted all the way into spring. This follow-up single doesn’t stray too far from the successful formula of “Las Cosas Pequenas,” with Royce’s rapturous vocals gliding over another cantering tropical beat. In the video, Royce performs in a Mexico City square backed by a fleet of mariachis. He drives around the city in a convertible and shades like Marcello Mastroianni accompanied by a mysterious ginger girl as they trace chemtrails in the sky, then do a climactic Romeo & Juliet balcony scene. His ad lib “Royce” is constantly going through my mind. Royce!

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “The mix of Bachata and Mariachi is phenomenal!!!! I love this song” — carmenyadira

4. Tito El Bambino, “Dame La Ola”

Might be catchier than “Call Me Maybe.”

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “como siempre REPLAY BUTTON” — SandroMartinez

5. Victor Manuelle featuring Voltio and Jowell y Randy, “Ella Lo Que Quiere Es Salsa”

There’s something undeniably hypnotic about the juxtaposition of the traditional salsa instruments with the atonal Auto-Tuned crooning that has become de rigueur in all forms of crossover hopeful pop, but ultimately it sounds a little passionless. Too bad, since Victor Manuelle, the king of son cubano, can bring it when he really wants to.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “ta buena la rola!!!” — MrJuankaponi

6. Shakira, “Addicted to You”

Shakira is perfect. This song is just OK.

Grade: B-

Best YouTube Comment: “SHAKIRA I love you YOU’RE GREAT SONGER THIS MUSIC JUST BEST” — TuralHumbatov

7. Elvis Crespo featuring Ilegales, “Yo No Soy Un Monstruo”

Elvis Crespo is the world’s most mature teenager, wearing some bad teeth and zippered sunglasses, conducting Auto-Tuned traffic over a rinky-dink carousel beat to teach us that bullying old-ass merengue singers creeping around high schools is bad for the emotional environment. Bonus points for making such an upbeat song called “I Am Not a Monster.” Too insistent!

Grade: C

Best YouTube Comment: “I almost can’t believe he was caught masturbating on a plane this song make us forget about it. keep it up elvis crespo.” — mrvmc3

8. Chino & Nacho featuring Jay Sean, “Bebe Bonita”

If you say “Bebe Bonita” into a candlelit mirror three times at midnight, Jay Sean appears and does a guest verse. I like any video that involves heat-seeking homing technology. But really, I like saying “Bebe Bonita,” and so will you. Bebe bonita, bebe bonita.

Grade: A-

Best YouTube Comment: “Best video ever. Hot chick comes down to earth like the terminator…but just looks for a dude to fuck” — PlayaPimpPoet

9. Frank Reyes, “Amor A Distancia”

No flaws detected. Frank Reyes has the soulful voice that earned him the self-appointed title “prince of bachata.” A perfect example of what Auto-Tune lacks.

Grade: A+

Best YouTube Comment: “SEXY Video! LOVE SO bautiful but so complicated!!!!” — 21Jackieleon

10. Hector Acosta, “Tu Veneno”

Hector Acosta narrates this tale of a poisonous relationship involving a secret potion and ripped-up love letters that turns out to be a play (TWIST), plus an awesome guitar solo.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “she wants your platano” — OrlandoVelezful

Filed Under: Grading the Charts, Jennifer Lopez

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert