In case you missed Colombian singer-songwriter Karol G‘s rise to star status in the U.S., she put the whole music industry on notice this week with the historic No. 1 bow of her fourth album, Mañana Será Bonito, on the Billboard 200 albums chart (dated March 11).
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The album debuts atop the Billboard 200 with 94,000 equivalent album units, making it the first Spanish-language album by a female artist (or by a Colombian artist) ever to reach the chart’s apex. In addition to featuring 2022 hits like “Provenza” and “Gatúbela,” the album also crashes the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 this week with its new Shakira team-up “TQG” — which enters at No. 7, making it Karol G’s biggest hit on the chart to date.
How significant is this debut? And which Latin artist might be next to top the Billboard 200? Billboard staffers discuss below.
1. Karol G enters the Billboard record books this week with her Mañana Será Bonito album, becoming the first female artist to score a No. 1 album with an all-Spanish-language album. On a scale from 1-10, how do you rate the historic significance of the accomplishment?
Leila Cobo: It’s a 10, for multiple reasons. Karol becomes only the second artist in history to debut at No 1 on on the Billboard 200 with an album in Spanish; she’s the first woman to place a Spanish-language album at No. 1; and she’s the first Colombian to do so as well. The latter distinction is also particularly important because Colombia’s tradition of exporting music is relatively new. Prior to Shakira — and to a lesser degree before her, Carlos Vives — Colombian artists were not heard internationally. So, to have a No. 1 from an artist born and raised in a South American country, and whose presence in our charts is relatively recent, is truly groundbreaking from a cultural standpoint.
The fact that Karol G is a woman whose fan base is mostly female is also groundbreaking. It shows that the world is ready for a different kind of superstar, one who espouses a different kind of aesthetic and message. Karol G is Colombian through and through, and the fact that the world has embraced that indicates to me that people are far more open to diversity than ever before if the music supports it.
Griselda Flores: A resounding 10. This feat is huge and marks a pivotal moment for Karol G’s career. From KG0516 — which scored her her first top 20 entry on the Billboard 200 two years ago — to her momentous Coachella debut and her history-making 2022 tour, Karol G has been consistently working toward becoming one of Latin music’s leading forces. Now, her reach and impact are undeniable and cements her as a top artist, not just a top Latin artist. It’s also an important landmark for women and Spanish-language music. Bad Bunny was the first one to score a No. 1 Spanish-language album, but for a woman to do it … a glass ceiling has been broken.
Sigal Ratner-Arias: 10. With Hispanics being the largest minority group in the U.S., and Spanish the most-spoken language after English, Karol’s No. 1 is a testament to Hispanic consumers’ power, and the need to keep opening doors to more women in Urbano music.
Isabela Raygoza: I’m giving this feat a whopping 9.9. Aside from Mañana Será Bonito’s musical merits, the data speaks for itself. As Billboard’s Keith Caulfield reported, it’s the first Latin album by a woman to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since Selena’s bilingual 1995 Dreaming of You; and only two all-Spanish albums had previously topped the list, both by Bad Bunny, Un Verano Sin Ti (2022) and El Último Tour del Mundo (2020) — an astonishing accomplishment. It further attests to Latin music, a genre historically dominated by male artists, being in a new era,. Her achievement is not due to a trend for a selected group, nor is it a one-hit wonder. There’s a solid foundation behind her success. Plus, for a woman to achieve this victory during Women’s History Month makes it even more special.
Andrew Unterberger: I’d say a nine. As many incredible inroads that Latin artists had made stateside in the past 5-10 years — between blockbuster tours and festival headline slots, crossover hit singles and award show appearances — no one outside of Bad Bunny had been able to quite crack the code on achieving U.S. streaming stardom on the level of English-language stars. Now, Karol G undeniably has — she not only debuts in the Hot 100’s top 10 this week, but charts 11 of Mañana‘s tracks across the listing — which is a huge deal for any Latin artist, and particularly for a female artist, in what’s long been a male-dominated field.
2. Mañana debuts at No. 1 with an impressive 94,000 equivalent album units, beating out SZA’s seemingly indefatigable blockbuster SOS — by far her best career performance, and one that may take some that haven’t been paying close attention to her trajectory by surprise. What’s one important thing Karol has done in the two years since 2021’s KG0516 that’s allowed her to level up commercially like this?
Leila Cobo: She’s toured massively, and, perhaps more importantly, she really upped the level of her live show. If you compare Karol’s 2022 show with her 2021 show, the difference is big: She performs better, she sings for most of the show, and her staging, band and dancers have all been upgraded. It really signaled she was entering the major leagues, being able to deliver in the arena stage like any other act. Right now, there is no other woman in Latin music touring at that scale. It was impressive — and as an industry observer, it felt like she had deliberately upped the ante.
Griselda Flores: I want to say that there are two important things: one being the singles she released leading up to the album, including “Provenza,” and “X Si Volvemos” with Romeo Santos. Those two singles alone were a massive success, and it really kept Karol on our radar. It didn’t feel like she took a break to do an album and then came back. Meanwhile, her $trip Love Tour also plays a major role in her being able to “level up.” It’s now the highest grossing U.S. tour by a women Latin artist in history. Overall, it grossed $69.9 million across 33 shows in North America.
Sigal Ratner-Arias: Karol has been able to amass an ever-growing fan base not only with her fierce but sweet and relatable personality and female-empowering lyrics, but with real hard work, talent and dedication. She has worked non-stop, making touring history last year with her ambitious $trip Love Tour. (Her hair color changes were also a sensation.)
Isabela Raygoza: Karol G possesses tremendous charisma on and off stage. Her music is honest, and she keeps it real on her social channels. Although she’s a full-fledged Latin pop star, she somehow projects herself as relatable. She shares herself with her listeners in a way making fans feel like they know her, and they resonate with what she’s saying. Aside from putting in the work, crafting great songs, killing it on tour, and bringing fresh content to her fan base, her charisma is one of a kind.
Andrew Unterberger: She has spaced out her singles very well over the past 18 months — with each building on the last, and still feeling like its own event. When “Provenza” reached the top 25 of the Billboard Hot 100 last May without any guests or major narrative hooks, it was pretty clear that something special was happening with Karol.
3. Meanwhile, Karol’s “TQG” collab with Shakira becomes her first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, helped significantly by the starriness of the team-up and public interest in both artists’ recent high-profile real-life breakups. Do you think the song will continue to grow into one of the early year’s biggest hits, or will its debut likely be its commercial peak?
Leila Cobo: I think “TQG” has legs beyond its debut because it’s a great song. Like Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers,” it has a strong melody at a time when fans seem to be eager to listen to great melodies instead of simply great beats. And, of course, the story behind it is irresistible: two very public heartbreak stories, and, on top of that, the first collab between Colombia’s biggest women stars. For fans of Latin music, it’s irresistible. But, to me the secret sauce is the song itself, which is better than the story.
Griselda Flores: To be completely honest, I don’t know. But I am leaning more toward it continuing to grow with radio airplay and the fact that it’s already become a bonafide woman anthem. The reggaetón track has really catchy lyrics, which makes it just a good song. I think it will continue to be a top song — but I would love to see other songs from the album get their moment, which I think will happen once she starts releasing music videos for some of the other songs.
Sigal Ratner-Arias: I think “TQG” will continue to grow, but I’m not sure if it will become one of the biggest hits of the year. Other songs from Mañana that were recently released — including the feel-good reggae groove “Mientras Me Curo Del Cora,” about taking your time when you’re down and being hopeful about tomorrow, whose video just came out Tuesday (amassing 1.5 million views over its first four hours) — may also start growing and climbing the charts.
Isabela Raygoza: I believe that as long as more female artists continue to publicize their messy relationships via songs — a trend that is on the rise, of what I like to call “the tabloid pop hit” — the song will endure. We’ve seen this with the chart-topping “Kill Bill” by SZA, “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé’s Lemonade album, and most recently Shakira’s diss track “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53.” The worthiness of “TQG” is all in the lyrics, rather than the beats, and their one-liner disses are worthy of slogans, which you can read here. Karol G and Shak’s highly publicized disentanglements with their respective exes have become tabloid gold, and they’ve taken control of the narrative and turned their drama into hits, a form of empowerment. Plus, listeners can enjoy the tea guilt free, sip.
Andrew Unterberger: I don’t see it fizzling out quickly, though I’m not sure it’ll ever beat its current No. 7 peak. It might follow a similar trajectory to Shakira’s other splashy top 10-debuting collab from this year, the Bizarrap team-up “Vol. 53” — a top 10 debut, followed by a very gradual tumble down the top 40. But I’ll be curious to see if either of the two songs can capture the radio support to buoy it as its streaming and sales numbers continue to recede; certainly, either would sound great blaring from car radios as the weather starts to heat up.
4. Only one other artist of any gender has ever topped the Billboard 200 with an all-Spanish-language release before: Bad Bunny. Do you see Karol G as being on the path to achieve the same kind of stateside superstardom as Bad Bunny has, or is it still too early to say?
Leila Cobo: If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have said Bad Bunny was a unicorn. However, what is happening with Karol’s album, on the heels of her tour, makes me think she can definitely achieve bigger stateside superstardom. Karol is a very unique female artist. She’s remained singularly approachable and authentic, even as her popularity has increased. She’s very consistent in the themes she espouses and the message she delivers. She is the kind of woman many women, especially young women, can relate to. Her persona really resonates across generations. She’s worked extremely hard at her craft and has raised that bar high. What I love about her is she hasn’t compromised her sound or who she is as she’s gotten bigger, and her fans recognize that. I think she could definitely match Bad Bunny.
Griselda Flores: 100%. I think this No. 1 marks the beginning of a new era for Karol where possibilities are endless. Like Bad Bunny, it all started with a No. 1 album — then he went on to headline a stadium tour, have the first Spanish-language album nominated for best album at the Grammys and become the first Spanish-language artist to headline Coachella. I can see Karol G going that same route, with a stadium tour for next year and another history-making nomination at the Grammys.
Sigal Ratner-Arias: Karol G’s historic success is no accident or surprise. Although Bad Bunny had started much higher in the chart and quicky saw his albums in the top 10, Karol has been steadily climbing the Billboard 200 with every one of her sets — from No. 192 in 2017 (Unstopable) to No. 54 in 2019 (Ocean) to 20 in 2021 (KG0516) and now to No. 1. And she will probably be on tour again with Mañana, which will only push her stardom forward.
Isabela Raygoza: Karol G has already demonstrated that she’s on the path to enjoying a similar kind of stateside superstardom like that of the Bunny. She’s no stranger to the Billboard 200: In fact, every single album she’s released has peaked higher on the chart than the last. She continues to accumulate a growing fan base, and this new album certainly introduced the Colombian powerhouse star to wider audiences well beyond the Latin realm. When she starts to tour MSB, that will only elevate her star higher.
Andrew Unterberger: It’s really hard to say. Usually, when an artist shows the kind of steady and consistent growth over many years that Karol G has for the past half-decade, it’s a good idea not to underestimate them. But the kind of success (and moreover, the level of sheer global approval) that Bad Bunny has achieved is something that only a handful of artists in a generation can manage. For that reason alone, the odds are probably against Karol — but she’s made every right move to be on the road there so far, so I still probably wouldn’t bet against her.
5. Of all the contemporary hitmakers in the Latin world who still have yet to score a No. 1 album, who would you predict to be the next artist to do so?
Leila Cobo: Shakira, especially this year. And if Maluma brings in another major hit like “Hawaii,” he’s also in the running, in my eyes.
Griselda Flores: I’m a regional Mexican fan and I would love to see a Mexican music artist score a No. 1. Now, with a new generation of artists — such as Eslabon Armado, Yahritza Y Su Esencia and Ivan Cornejo — that is fusing the genre’s core sound with urban or alt-rock elements and it’s attracting a new generation and a more diverse audience, the prediction doesn’t seem too unrealistic.
Sigal Ratner-Arias: Shakira. Her Spanish-speaking fans have been patiently awaiting, and the success of her latest songs en Español just show how eager they are to see what she’ll do next. Her personal issues — namely, her recent separation from Spanish soccer player Gerard Piqué — also adds fuel to the curiosity. She recently said she’s “more excited than ever” to go back to the studio, and we expect to hear more from her soon.
Isabela Raygoza: Rosalía. I would probably say that Rosalía has been one of Karol G’s main competitors in the industry, from my point of view, as both women have earned pinnacle achievements in Latin music. The Barcelona singer became the first woman in Latin Grammy history to win album of the year twice: 2019’s El Mal Querer, and 2022’s Motomami. With all her albums, including her 2017 debut Los Ángeles, she has demonstrated her masterclass ability to innovate, which has made her an exhilarating artist. She’s shown various facets of music experimentation that really impresses, whether it’s flamenco pop or glitchy reggaetón. She even won the first ever producer of the year at the 2023 Billboard Women in Music event. Although Motomami charted at 33 on the Billboard 200, I believe she can make the jump with her ability to surprise and intrigue audiences, which could land her a No. 1 album in the future.
Andrew Unterberger: They’re nowhere near the stateside recognition of either Karol G or Bad Bunny yet, but I do have my eye on Grupo Frontera. For most of 2023, the regional Meixcan group has had three concurrent hits on the Hot 100, with their own “No Se Va,” the Carin Leon collab “Que Velvas” and the Fuerza Regida team-up “Bebe Dame.” Usually, when a newer artist is able to simultaneously support three crossover hits like that at once — for months, not just a week or two — it means they’re probably already much, much bigger than we even realize.
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