LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - When a Spanish-language version of Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” hit a Latino radio station in Phoenix a month and a half ago, listeners liked what they heard — even if they weren’t sure who was singing.
“People were calling and saying, ‘Who is that? It sounds like Beyonce,”‘ recalls Ruben S., the afternoon drive DJ at KVIB (95.1 Latino Vibe). “People were pretty surprised to hear it was Beyonce.”
Since then, the track, whose title translates as “Irreemplazable,” has consistently ranked among KVIB’s top five requested songs. Taken together, spins of the Spanish and English versions on Latin radio nationwide have placed the tune at No. 8 on Billboard’s latest Hot Latin Songs chart.
That is well in advance of simultaneous English and Spanish rereleases of “B’Day” scheduled for April, says Mathew Knowles, Beyonce’s father and manager. The Spanish version will have five bonus tracks, including duets with Shakira and Alejandro Fernandez.
A major platform for English, Spanish and Spanglish songs to coexist is Latin urban radio, a format that developed after the reggaeton explosion a few years ago. The latest Latin Rhythm chart features 10 songs released primarily in English.
Los Angeles’ bilingual KXOL (Latino 96.3) is playing a remix of Akon’s “I Wanna Love You” with Tego Calderon, as well as the English and Spanish versions of “Irreplaceable.”
“The people that Beyonce made that song for — we’re bilingual, and we don’t want to be put in a box,” says Pio Ferro, senior VP of programming at KXOL’s parent, Spanish Broadcasting System.
“When you see the people that go out to the clubs and show up at our events, it’s a very urban look: the way they dress, the way they act, the way they talk,” adds Jerry Pulles, KXOL’s music director/assistant program director. “It’s the hip-hop lifestyle.”
A reshot Spanish version of the “Irreplaceable” video premiered last week on “MiTRL,” the video countdown show on bilingual channel MTV Tr3s.
Pulles says, “It kind of comes off a little bit as a novelty, but I think the listeners take it as, ‘she’s validating us, and we speak Spanish, and we have a young urban movement and it’s cool to speak Spanish.”‘