Since starting her career as the lead singer for the Miami Sound Machine, Gloria Estefan has become one of the most beloved figures in popular music. Her success in the ’80s and ’90s with tracks like Congo, Rhythm is Gonna Get You, and 1-2-3 took Latin music to the world stage, paving the way for other Latin artists like Ricky Martin, Shakira, and Jennifer Lopez.
With over 75 million record sales, 38 Billboard No.1 singles, three Grammy awards, and the title of ‘Queen of Latin Pop’ under her belt, she ranks as one of the most commercially successful artists in the world. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Gloria Estefan songs of all time.
Gloria Estefan has always known her way around a party tune, and in summer 1988, she recorded one of her biggest and best to date. With its huge blasts of horn and irresistible Latin rhythms, 1-2-3 had hit written all over it – which is exactly what it was. Released as the fifth and final single from the multi-platinum album Let It Loose, it hit No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart, No. 3 on the Hot 100, and No. 9 on the UK Albums Chart.
9. Anything For You
For years, it was hit and miss whether Estefan’s singles would make the US charts or not. In 1988, she made a huge breakthrough with Anything For You, which not only topped the Billboard Hot 100, but stayed there for the next two weeks. It marked a major turning point for the singer, not to mention the first of three further No. 1 singles with the Miami Sound Machine.
8. Prisoner of Love
As Live About notes, Prisoner of Love might not have been the highest-performing single from Eyes of Innocence, but it’s notable for highlighting Estefan’s effortless ability to fuse different styles convincingly. On one hand, it’s a dance track. On the other, it’s a classic piece of bubble gum pop. And then there’s the rock side too… basically, it’s a song for all audiences, as well as a great example of why Estefan has always been such a major crossover threat.
7. Words Get in the Way
Words Get in the Way was something of a game-changer for Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, both in terms of its sound and its success. Up till that point, the band had specialized in uptempo, Latin-infused dance numbers. By contrast, Words Get in the Way was a slow dance ballad … and a super successful one at that. Released in June 1986, it became the Miami Sound Machine’s first single to break into the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, not to mention their first to climb to No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. It was eventually certified gold after selling over 35,000 copies in the US.
6. Don’t Wanna Lose You
Released as the first single from Estefan’s 1989 debut album Cut Both Ways, Don’t Wanna Lose You proved the singer was just as capable of scoring hits without the Miami Sound Machine as she was with them. Critically, it went down a storm, with All Music describing it as “super” and Pop Rescue saying that it found Estefan “pitched against a wonderful synthscape and simple pop-rock beat.
Occasional electric guitar chips in, but this is a song about giving Gloria enough space to sing her heartfelt lyrics over a somewhat minimal track.” It was equally well-received commercially, peaking at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and certifying gold.
5. You’ll Be Mine
Described by Billboard as a “lively, Latin-spiked ditty,” You’ll Be Mine finds Estefan in a particularly playful mood, surfing atop a wave of strong African rhythms and sexy Latin beats with enough infectious joy to get even the biggest party popper on their feet. An international hit, it reached the top 20 in France, Finland, Scotland, Spain, and the UK, and No. 2 on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart.
4. Coming Out Of The Dark
Coming Out Of The Dark was written and recorded during a particularly difficult time for Estefan. In March 1990, she and her family were on a tour bus on their way to a show when they were involved in a horrendous highway crash. Estefan’s spine was fractured in the accident, and for months she was unable to do anything she’d previously taken for granted.
After endless therapy, she eventually recovered enough to make her return to the stage. She made her come back at the American Music Awards, where she gave Coming Out Of The Dark its debut. Although it’s not as well-remembered as some of her more upbeat, catchy numbers, the story and the pain behind the song elevate it to greatness.
3. Bad Boy
The second single released by Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine was Bad Boy, an upbeat, uptempo pop hit with huge hooks, big vocals, and enough suggestive charm to make it a hit with teens, but not enough vulgarity to make it a flop with parents. Released in August 1985, it became the band’s second top ten hit in the US, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. A few years later, it enjoyed a second lease of life when it was used as the opening track for the hugely successful movie, “Three Men and a Baby.”
2. Rhythm Is Gonna Get You
Rhythm Is Gonna Get You was first released in June 1987 as the lead single from the album Let It Loose. It was an outright flop, failing to make any kind of impression on the charts in any country it was released. Eight months later, it was re-released after being featured in the buddy cop movie, “Stakeout.” Again, it failed to chart. But the record label knew they had a prospective hit on their hands. After the follow-up singles Anything For You and 1-2-3 all became successful, they tried again. It was third time lucky: the song rose to No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is now considered one of Estefan’s most popular hits.
Widely considered to be Estefan’s signature song, Conga barely made a mark on the Spanish language charts, but it made a massive dent in the English-speaking ones. Released in July 1985, it hit No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a top ten hit in various other countries. Estefan’s slick but passionate delivery makes it what it is, but there’s no denying those fabulous Latin rhythms either.
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