That makes everything more fun and, when picking the best of 2009 Latin pop albums, it opens the door to adding music to the list that might be unexpected (or not).
In either case, here are ten dynamite albums that made 2009 a special year for Latin pop fans.
Releasing two simultaneous albums in two different genres might seem a stretch for most artists, but Alejandro Fernandez makes it seem like a piece of cake. His Dos Mundos double disc set includes Dos Mundos Tradicion. an album that consists primarily of ranchera tunes, produced and composed by the inimitable Joan Sebastian.
And while Tradicion is truly enjoyable, Latin pop is where Fernandez has always shone and shine he does in the second album, Dos Mundos Evolucion. He has the voice, the lyrics and the music that make this album one of the best pop discs of the year.
Paulina Rubio has come a long way since her Timbiriche days and while her antics off the sound stage have sometimes overshadowed her music, Rubio understands pop.
I haven't always liked her albums, but there's a new level of polish in Gran City Pop that really grabs the listener. No, it's not so much profound lyrics (though the lyrics are good), or a matter of exceptional music (though so many songs stay on your mind). This is just am album that's well-crafted and well-sung.
"Promiscuous" girl Nelly Furtado released her first Spanish-language album as a thanks to her many Latin fans and she went to a lot of trouble to do it. First, she doesn't really speak Spanish fluently (her roots are Portuguese) and had to ramp-up her language skills. Second, she needed to find a collaborator to help her take this album from concept to final product. She picked fellow Canadian-with-Cuban-roots, Alex Cuba, as her Spanish language musical guru. Finally she lined-up a stellar list of guest artists including Juan Luis Guerra, Josh Groban, Concha Buika, Alejandro Fernandez and Alex Cuba.
I think it's time to say 'thanks' back to Nelly.
There's a lot of wonderful music that came out of Mexico this year, but my vote goes to La Quinta Estacion. The group is from Spain, but they moved to Mexico and you can hear a lot Mexican influence on the album. The music is fresh, dynamic and chock full of great tracks.
La Quinta Estacion is known primarily as a rock band and I could have easily put this album on the 'Best Rock' list as there are a few really solid rock numbers on the album. But really, the distinctions between genres is getting pretty sketchy and, with the ballads like "Recuerdame" and ranchera-style "Me Dueles" being such stand-outs, the allbum fits here too. However you classify it, Sin Frenos is one of the year's best.
Spain's Alejandro Sanz is an all-time favorite and 2009's Paraiso Express is a perfect example of what makes him so popular. His music can make you cry, it can make you laugh, it can make you sing. It does all of this in Paraiso Express.
Sanz co-wrote the track "Looking for Paradise" with Alicia Keys and (co)penned the rest of the songs on the album. Many of these are about love, about strong women, about growing up. But, unlike the types of albums that take themselves so seriously that you wonder why the singer didn't just go to a shrink rather than burden the public with their problems, the tunes on this album reflect a view of life that's fresh, optimistic and musical.
David Bisbal got his start as a runner-up on one of Spain's reality programs, Operacion Triunfo, but none of his subsequent albums can be considered in that 'runner-up' category.
Sin Mirar Atras has some slow spots but, all-in-all, there are more truly memorable songs including tracks like "Esclavo de Tus Besos" and "Sin Mirar Atras.' Although it's never hit the charts like other of the album's tracks, I love "Al Andalus".
You'll see Natalia Lafourcade's Hu Hu Hu on alternative music lists, but alternative music is just music that hasn't yet become all that well accepted. I think we can safely move Mexico's Lafourcade into the pop arena now, although her music is pretty unique.
Her lyrics are fun, some of her songs sound like they were written for children (unless you listen closely), she mixes pop numbers with an orchestra that would more likely be backing serious opera singers. I love the combination and this album.
Los Amigos Invisibles Commercial is another album that's not really pure pop, rather a collection of original songs that belong on the electronic dance floor. Fused with funk and fun, it brings to mind the days of disco but the album doesn't feel dated. I don't think there's even one ballad on the disc, but it doesn't have to cry about love to be a great pop treasure.
Cucu Diamantes is a real dynamo, as anyone who has ever seen her perform with New York's Yerba Buena, will agree. So when she released Cuculand, her first solo album, I was expecting more of the Latin funk and fun sound that made Yerba so popular.
Nope. This is Diamantes showing the world that she has the skill and voice to carry an album, from ballads to mega-pop numbers with some Cuban motifs and sounds thrown in for good measure. Great debut, great album.
10. Bebe - 'Y'
Bebe's Pafuera Teleranas was a hit with both the public and critics and it took her four years to deliver the follow-up. She's still original, she's still edgy, she still has that gravelly, high voice that's like no other. But still, I wasn't initially as entranced with Y as I thought I might be.
But, this album grows on you. This is a woman who has something to say and, with the help of some wonderful musicians, says it her own way with her own type of music that is compelling and in which you can hear or understand something new everytime you listen to it.