This was an eventful year for Latin music. That's kind of a generic statement (isn't every year an eventful year since, well, events happen?), but we mean it quite seriously. Take, for instance, two happenings that started off the year with a bang before leading into two of the year's most exciting albums: In Feburary, Los Tigres del Norte threw a big party onstage in California, invited everyone they knew and wound up recording a genre-jumping smash hit of a live album. And in March, young narcocorrido singer Gerardo Ortiz made news for not-so-happy reasons when his entourage was shot at outside of Colima, resulting in the deaths of his manager and his driver. Ortiz came back swinging from that tragedy with Entre Dios y el Diablo, an album that pinpoints the internal and external struggles he and many narco singers deal with.
Other new albums were just as notable. In the first half of the year, we got new efforts from a couple of Latin pop's grandest divas/divos: Gloria Trevi staged a rebirth for herself with a self-titled album that attempted to leave her public and personal controversies and difficulties behind for good. And after fabulously knocking down his own closet door last year, none other than Mr. Ricky Martin came out with his first album in six years. Then, in the second half of the year, Aventura devotees were finally blessed with the long-awaited solo debut of Romeo Santos, whose crossover-friendly, Usher-featuring Fórmula Vol. 1 is threatening to put bachata on the map like never before. (Seriously: We've heard it everywhere from Antwerp, Belgium, to Kona, Hawai'i in the last month).
Bachata may have put forth the biggest release in a year that also saw some pretty solid reggaeton albums, but 2011 truly belonged to regional Mexican music. Stellar albums from big stars (Lucero! Joan Sebastian!)? Pop- and R&B-friendly releases that threatened to finally break down some of Latin's musical borders once and for all (Los Tigres! Jenni Rivera!)? Up-and-comers poised to take their genres in exciting new directions (Noel Torres! Espinoza Paz!)? Hipsters who crafted stylish reworkings of norteño and ranchera (Lila Downs! 3BallMTY!)? All that and more happened in 2011--and it's all here in our top 25 albums of the year. (In fact, 2011 encompassed so many great musical happenings that we couldn't quite get ourselves to limit the top albums to 25. So you'll also find several ties and honorable mentions below. (Did we mention the year was eventful?! Yeah.) Dig in!