In 2020 a study by the Pew Research Centre revealed 52% of Americans born after 1996 identified as “non-Hispanic white”. This bare majority was a sharp contrast to the some 61% of Millennials identifying as white in 2002. The centre’s studies also note that one in four of the 166 million young Americans who comprise Generation Z identified as Hispanic. 14% identified as black. 6% identified as Asian and 5% identified as “other” or a mix of two previous categories. In short, Generation Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than any American demographic that has come before.
‘Lo Vas an Olvidar’
Billie Eilish and Rosalia collaboration ‘Lo Vas an Olvidar’ tackles this cultural shift. But first a little on the two stars. At age 18, Billie Eilish is one of the biggest names in pop. Rosalia is 27. Already possessing a large international following after a string of breakout singles in 2018, her career has recently been boosted by the success of Latin music genre the world over. What is striking about the pair’s new song is not that these two stars have come together. It is that their song is sung almost entirely in Spanish.
How Did ‘Lo Vas a Olvidar’ Come About?
The collaboration, first hinted at in 2019, was released as a part of a special episode of popular teen drama series Euphoria. Billie Eilish’s previous collaborations have been big business. 2018 Khalid team-up ‘lovely‘ has been streamed more than a billion times on Spotify alone. It is currently Eilish’s second most listened-to song. ‘Lo Vas a Olvidar’, however, is different. It is Billie’s first collaboration with another female artist.
What does ‘Lo Vas a Olvidar’ mean?
The Spanish phrase “Lo Vas A Olvidar” translates into “You Will Forget It”. The title reflects the track itself, a moody ballad that shows both artists at their best. The slow, ambient piece allows Rosalia to show off her spectacular vocals in a way different to her usual uptempo Latin pop. The track’s smooth mix allows both artists vocals to take the forefront. Eilish willingly took on the challenge of singing in a new language And she is more than up to the task. Already Latin fans are praising her respectful pronunciations. Eilish has shared she has always had an interest in music written in other languages. She has enjoyed exploring how to portray her emotions in a new way.
A New Generation of Stars
Billie Eilish and Rosalia are but two of several pops acts navigating Generation Z’s fluid outlook on cultural identity. More and more, pop artists are integrating elements of other cultures into the framework of more traditional pop. Luis Fonsi and Justin Bieber’s ‘Despacito’ took the world by storm in 2019. It was one of the first big contemporary Latin pop collaborations to gain mainstream success worldwide.
Since then, rising Latin genre stars Anuel A, Bad Bunny, and Rosalia have won over large followings within the contemporary pop audience. Bad Bunny has made headlines for his artistic and sometimes controversial videos which transcend language barriers. The fact he was Spotify’s most-streamed artist in 2020 (with more than 50 million listeners per month) speaks to the Latin genre’s recent growth in popularity.
As pop artists and their fans are increasingly engaging with other cultures, it is not surprising bilingual hits are topping the charts. Over 16% of the American population identify as Hispanic. Along with increasing curiosity in America’s Latin neighbours, artists from the ever-thriving Latin American music scene have found new pathways to mainstream success.
What This Means For the Rest of the World
It is no secret American music drives international tastes. This being so, what does a song like ‘Lo Vas a Olvidar’ mean for audiences outside of countries with sizable Spanish-speaking audiences? Many music fans, like Billie Eilish herself, will no doubt be open to embracing a new culture. It remains to be seen whether this interest will translate into a chart-topping international hit.
As musical and cultural influences in the entertainment industry continue to expand, artists from traditionally excluded backgrounds will have an opportunity to share their creativity with the world. An Australian example is The Kid Laroi. In 2020 his popularity on TikTok won the 17-year-old rapper growing international attention. In July 2020, his debut mixtape F*ck Love peaked at Number 3 on the US Billboard 200 chart.
Pop music is driven by novelty. Going all the way back to non-English hits like Kyu Sakamoto‘s ‘Sukiyaki’ (one of two songs by a Japanese artist to ever reach Number One in US history) and Ritchie Valens‘ ‘La Bamba‘, non-English novelty songs have been climbing the US pop charts for more than 70 years. A new generation however is now embracing difference not as a novelty but something to be accepted and understood. Pop music often signals cultural changes well before the rest of the media has caught on. Eilish and Rosalia’s collaboration may not only carry serious implications for the future direction of pop music but popular culture as a whole.
‘Lo Vas a Olvidar‘ signifies a breaking down of old barriers. The single dissolves generational prejudices, bringing fans together in an ever more divided world. ‘Lo Vas a Olvidar’ points the way to a greater understanding and acceptance. It presents a new and more fluid ideal of what shared cultural identity can be.