20 All-time Best Salsa Songs to Add to Your Dance Playlists in 2023
They say that music is a universal language.
A catchy tune and a strong beat can unite us regardless of background.
In this post, I’ll show you the 20 best salsa songs to get you up and moving, whether you’re a newbie or a prolific dancer.
Note: you can click “closed captioning” (CC) to access the lyrics for some videos.
- 1. “Vivir Mi Vida” — Marc Anthony
- 2. “Fuego en el 23” — La Sonora Ponceña
- 3. “Llorar Es Una Locura” — Fanny Lu
- 4. “Todo o Nada” — Rubén Blades
- 5. “Lo Malo Se Va Bailando” — Alex Matos
- 6. “Salsa Pa’ Olvidar las Penas” — Víctor Manuelle ft. Gilberto Santa Rosa
- 7. “Micaela” — La Sonora Carruseles
- 8. “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” — Celia Cruz
- 9. “Rebelión” — Joe Arroyo y La Verdad
- 10. “La Quiero a Morir” — DLG (Dark Latin Groove)
- 11. “Trovador” — Africando
- 12. “El Preso” — Fruko y Sus Tesos
- 13. “Pedro Navaja” — Willie Colon and Rubén Blades
- 14. “Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso” — El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
- 15. “Quítate Tú” — Fania All Stars
- 16. “Conteo Regresivo” — Gilberto Santa Rosa
- 17. “Llorarás” — Oscar D’Leon
- 18. “Dile a Ella” — Víctor Manuelle
- 19. “Las Caras Lindas” — Ismael Rivera
- 20. “Cali Pachanguero” — Grupo Niche
- The Varieties of Salsa Music
- And One More Thing…
1. “Vivir Mi Vida” — Marc Anthony
“Vivir Mi Vida” (Live My Life) was released in 2013 and was a huge hit. The singer describes dancing through life’s difficulties with a beautiful yet philosophical view.
2. “Fuego en el 23” — La Sonora Ponceña
This legendary Puerto Rican salsa band brings the calor (heat) with this song featuring fire engine sirens.
Founded in 1954, the group has released more than 30 full-length albums.
3. “Llorar Es Una Locura” — Fanny Lu
Fanny Lu is known for being a pop singer, and the song “Llorar Es Una Locura” (Life Is Madness) is a bit of a pop-salsa blend.
It definitely features the strong horns and catchy rhythms you expect with salsa.
The song encourages you to live life to the fullest, to boldly be yourself and to persevere in the face of challenges. And the music video will give you all the feels.
4. “Todo o Nada” — Rubén Blades
Rubén Blades was born in Panama and has a career spanning decades.
In addition to his long career in music, he has acted in many TV shows and movies and even ran for the president of Panama in 1994.
He’s won numerous Grammys and Latin Grammys over the years, and his songs often include political or social themes.
The song “Todo o Nada” (All or Nothing) is all about believing in yourself and never losing hope.
5. “Lo Malo Se Va Bailando” — Alex Matos
Alex Matos is a singer from the Dominican Republic.
His song “Lo Malo Se Va Bailando” (The Bad Goes Away with Dancing) recommends dancing as the cure to life’s woes.
6. “Salsa Pa’ Olvidar las Penas” — Víctor Manuelle ft. Gilberto Santa Rosa
Víctor Manuelle hails from Puerto Rico and has a long career in the salsa industry.
The song “Salsa Pa’ Olvidar las Penas” (Salsa to Forget Your Woes) is an homage to the style and big names in the genre.
(You’ll hear the mention of our friends Rubén Blades and Celia Cruz).
It has a similar message to Matos’ tune.
7. “Micaela” — La Sonora Carruseles
If you haven’t heard of it, boogaloo is the American/Latin pop fusion from the 1960s before reggaetón came about.
It’s one of the funkiest/silliest things to ever befall ears.
8. “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” — Celia Cruz
Celia Cruz was born in Cuba but left after the Cuban Revolution.
She never returned to her home country—as she didn’t support the Castro regime—but her music expressed a love of her native land.
“La Vida Es Un Carnaval” (Life Is a Party) describes taking the long view on life and focusing on the good to get through the bad things that come your way.
9. “Rebelión” — Joe Arroyo y La Verdad
This classic from Columbia is one of those cases where the song’s lyrics seem to have nothing to do with the pura alegría (pure joy) on the dance floor.
It can actually be a weird clash of feelings when you understand them.
Early in the song, we hear the story of esclavitud perpetua (perpetual slavery) where an African couple finds themselves in America under a Spanish owner.
But this is a song of rebelión (rebellion), in which the male slave attains some unspecified vengeance. And to this day, the cry is still heard.
10. “La Quiero a Morir” — DLG (Dark Latin Groove)
This song from the hit New York-based salsa/bachata/reggeatón group is enormously overblown, but I must admit I enjoy it.
And the Spanish is perfect to know should you ever need to express your undying devotion to your Latin honey.
It also sounds rather close to being trapped in a toxic, semi-abusive relationship. But such is true passion, as expressed in many pop songs.
11. “Trovador” — Africando
This is from a beautiful band that was put together to combine New York Latin musicians with African pop singers.
The resulting salsa music is unique and otherworldly. Most of the other (equally wonderful) songs from this group are in Wolof, French and other languages spoken in Africa.
The lyrics recount being a troubadour wandering with a guitar, singing first-class songs.
¡Canta, trovador! is the mantra chanted by the chorus singers. It means “sing, troubadour!”
12. “El Preso” — Fruko y Sus Tesos
Fruko y Sus Tesos formed in 1969 in Colombia and have been crafting sad, passionate songs ever since.
This one eludes to the inevitability of death.
It translates as “The Prisoner” in English and tells the dark tale of one man’s sad existence in prison.
13. “Pedro Navaja” — Willie Colon and Rubén Blades
Called “Pedro Razor” in English (a tongue-in-cheek take on Ruben Blades’ surname), this 1978 salsa hit collaboration between Willie Colon and Ruben Blades features salsa music’s best-known chorus.
14. “Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso” — El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
This 2010 salsa hit by the well-known Puerto Rican band El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico features lyrics that equate salsa to paradise.
The song’s title (“Without Salsa, There Is No Paradise”) perfectly captures the group’s passionate take on salsa.
15. “Quítate Tú” — Fania All Stars
The Fania All Stars are legends in the New York salsa world.
This song—translated as “[You] Get Out of the Way” in English—describes the pleasure and joy they bring to salsa listeners and dancers.
16. “Conteo Regresivo” — Gilberto Santa Rosa
Known as the “Gentleman of Salsa,” Gilberto Santa Rosa’s signature suave style is evident in this “Countdown” song in English.
The song is a tragic tale of personal failure and redemption with beautiful lyrics.
17. “Llorarás” — Oscar D’Leon
This Cuban-influenced track by Venezuelan legend Oscar D’Leon features a passionately sad story of lost love.
“You Will Cry” is the song title in English and it’s undoubtedly true.
18. “Dile a Ella” — Víctor Manuelle
Víctor Manuelle has recently collaborated with urban pop acts such as Bad Bunny and Farruko.
But two decades before, he generated energetic salsa music like this “Tell Her” track in English. The song features heartbreaking lyrics.
19. “Las Caras Lindas” — Ismael Rivera
This politically and culturally charged salsa song by Ismael Riviera brings race into the world of salsa.
It’s called “The Pretty Faces” in English, which refers to the beautiful faces of his fellow Afro-Puerto Ricans.
20. “Cali Pachanguero” — Grupo Niche
The Varieties of Salsa Music
Salsa music originated in the melting pot of New York as a melding of various styles in immigrant communities, with a particular influence from Cuban music styles.
It contains complex rhythms, strong horn sections and beats that get you on your feet.
Once you start listening to salsa music, you’ll hear its evolution over decades and regional variations. Of course, artists put their flair into the music as well.
The style of dancing varies, too.
L.A. style has the first step on beat one.
On the other hand, the New York style has the first step on two.
Cuban-style salsa is danced in less of a linear style than the previous two types.
Some artists blend salsa with other musical styles, like reggaeton. You can even find salsa remixes of pop songs you may know.
Check out this version of Adele’s “Hello” for a rhythmic take on the original.
Salsa music may sound upbeat, but its songs run the gamut of emotions.
And of course, love is featured prominently—as is often the case in music. Whether it’s lost love, unrequited love or love in the fullness of its expression.
If you enjoy studying Spanish with music and videos, you can find more salsa and other types of videos on the FluentU language learning program.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
So now you have some ideas of where to start with salsa music.
Now it’s time to grab your dancing shoes and shake it to the best salsa songs out there!
And One More Thing…
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