Gloria Estefan's 10 greatest songs, ranked

27 March 2024, 15:43

Gloria Estefan in 1990
Gloria Estefan in 1990. Picture: Alamy

By Tom Eames

Gloria Estefan, the iconic Cuban-American singer, songwriter, and performer, has left a lasting mark on the music industry.

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With her infectious rhythms, powerful vocals, and captivating stage presence, she has become a global sensation.

From her early days with the Miami Sound Machine to her solo career, Gloria Estefan has delivered hit after hit, earning her the title of the Queen of Latin Pop.

So grab your dancing shoes, turn up the volume, and let’s explore the unforgettable sounds of Gloria Estefan:

  1. Con Los Años Que Me Quedan

    Gloria Estefan - Con los Años Que Me Quedan (Official Video)

    Translated as 'With the Years That I Have Left', is a poignant ballad, featured on her third studio album, Mi Tierra, released in 1993.

    The song, a pop bolero, was penned by Gloria and her husband Emilio Estefan. It expresses a melancholic lament, a promise of enduring love and redemption, and is considered one of the standout tracks from the album.

    The lyrics reflect a deep personal commitment, as Gloria sings of dedicating the years she has left to loving and healing past wounds with passion-filled kisses, as if it were the first time.

    The song’s emotional depth is further enriched by the accompaniment of Los Tres Caballeros, featuring Chamín Correa on the requinto, Cachao on the double bass, Luis Enrique on percussion, and the London Symphony Orchestra providing the string arrangements.

    It topped the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart in the United States, and its music video, directed by Alberto Tolot, showcases Gloria reminiscing about a past love.

  2. Hoy

    Gloria Estefan - Hoy (Official Video)

    'Hoy' (known as 'Wrapped' in English) is a testament to Gloria's enduring influence in the Latin pop music scene. Released as part of her tenth studio album Unwrapped in 2003, 'Hoy' quickly resonated with audiences for its heartfelt lyrics and Estefan’s emotive delivery.

    The Spanish version of the song, in particular, became a significant hit, showcasing Estefan’s ability to captivate both English and Spanish-speaking listeners.

    The lyrics of 'Hoy' express a deep admiration and unwavering commitment to a beloved, with a poetic description of love’s power to transcend time and distance.

    'Hoy' achieved remarkable success, particularly in Switzerland, where it reached the Top 3 on the charts and was certified Gold.

  3. Coming Out of the Dark

    Gloria Estefan - Coming out of the Dark

    This is a powerful ballad, released as the lead single from her album Into the Light in 1991.

    The song holds a deep personal significance for Estefan, as it was inspired by her recovery from a near-fatal accident in 1990, when an 18-wheeler collided with her tour bus. Estefan suffered a critical injury with a broken vertebra, leading to a delicate surgery and a year-long recovery process.

    The title of the song was conceived from a phrase her husband, Emilio Estefan, wrote down during a particularly dark moment as he travelled in a helicopter, moving between hospitals following the accident.

    He experienced a ray of light that struck him, sparking the idea of 'Coming Out of the Dark' as a symbol of hope and resilience. Gloria Estefan co-wrote the song with her husband and Jon Secada.

    The song became Estefan’s third number one hit in the United States and marked her triumphant return to the stage. She debuted the song at the American Music Awards in 1991, in an emotional performance that celebrated her perseverance and strength.

  4. Conga

    Gloria Estefan, Miami Sound Machine - Conga

    'Conga' is the energetic hit single that catapulted Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine into the international spotlight.

    Released in 1985 as part of their album Primitive Love, the song is an exuberant celebration of dance and Latin culture. Written by the band’s drummer and lead songwriter Enrique Garcia, 'Conga' became the first record to chart across the US Pop, Dance, Black, and Latin charts simultaneously.

    The song’s infectious rhythm is inspired by the Cuban conga drum, and its lyrics invite listeners to join in the dance, embodying the spirit of a carnival. Estefan herself has highlighted 'Conga' as a pivotal track in her career, noting its role in paving the way for her top-selling Spanish album Mi Tierra and its reflection of the Latino immigrant experience in America.

  5. Rhythm is Gonna Get You

    Gloria Estefan - Rhythm Is Gonna Get You (Official Video)

    This vibrant track that encapsulates the essence of 1980s dance-pop. Released in 1987 as the lead single from the album Let It Loose, the song was penned by Estefan and Enrique 'Kiki' Garcia.

    It stands out as a hallmark of Estefan’s collaboration with Miami Sound Machine, showcasing their signature blend of electrifying rhythms and catchy melodies.

    The song achieved considerable success, peaking at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 and earning a spot in the top 20 in the UK after a re-release in December 1988. Its infectious beat made it a dance floor favourite, further cemented by its inclusion in the film Stakeout, which helped propel its popularity.

  6. Here We Are

    Gloria Estefan - Here We Are (Official Video)

    'Here We Are' is a touching ballad released as the third single from her debut solo album Cuts Both Ways.

    The song showcases Estefan’s emotive vocal delivery, set against the backdrop of beautifully etched acoustic guitar strumming. It reflects on the power of love and the inevitability of attraction, despite the challenges that may arise.

    The track achieved significant success, becoming Estefan’s ninth Top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number six.

  7. Turn the Beat Around

    Gloria Estefan - Turn The Beat Around (Original Version)

    Originally a disco classic by Vicki Sue Robinson in 1976, Estefan’s rendition was released as a single from her album Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me in 1994.

    Estefan’s version became a hit, reaching number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the Hot Dance Club Play chart, marking her first number-one song on that chart in English.

  8. Get On Your Feet

    Gloria Estefan - Get On Your Feet

    This is an uplifting anthem, released as the second single from her debut solo album Cuts Both Ways in 1989.

    The song was crafted by John DeFaria, Jorge Casas, and Clay Ostwald, who were integral members of the Miami Sound Machine. Notably, Estefan did not pen this track herself, a departure from her usual songwriting.

    The song resonates with themes of encouragement and resilience, urging listeners to rise above adversity. It gained profound personal significance for Estefan after she suffered a severe back injury in a tour bus accident in March 1990. The accident led to a hiatus from her tour, during which 'Get On Your Feet' became a beacon of hope and determination as she underwent a gruelling recovery process.

    It became a signature song for Estefan, embodying her spirit and tenacity. It also inspired a Broadway musical titled On Your Feet!, which narrates the story of Gloria and her husband Emilio Estefan, showcasing their journey and the song’s enduring legacy.

  9. Dr Beat

    Gloria Estefan - Dr. Beat

    'Dr. Beat' is a brilliant dance-pop track that marked the first international single released by Miami Sound Machine. It debuted in 1984 as part of their album Eyes of Innocence, which was their first English language album but eighth overall.

    Despite only reaching number 17 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart in the US, 'Dr. Beat' enjoyed significant international success. It became a top 10 hit in Spain and peaked at number six in the UK.

    The song’s enduring appeal is evident in its inclusion in numerous 1980s retrospective collections and its resurgence in popularity in 2005 when Mylo mashed it up with 'Drop the Pressure' to create 'Doctor Pressure'.

    The music video for 'Dr. Beat' features Estefan calling for help to cure her incessant desire to dance. It shows Dr. Beat, portrayed by Garcia, taking Estefan from a rooftop to a hospital, culminating in a quirky ‘surgery’ scene.

  10. Don't Wanna Lose You

    Gloria Estefan - Don't Wanna Lose You (Official Video)

    This heartfelt ballad stands as a testament to Gloria's songwriting prowess and emotive vocal delivery.

    Released in summer 1989, as the lead single from her album Cuts Both Ways, it marked a significant moment in Estefan’s career as her first solo #1 single on the US Billboard Hot 100.

    Her transition from the Miami Sound Machine to a solo artist was seamless, showcasing her ability to captivate listeners with her individual talent. Notably, she penned the song herself, further solidifying her status as a skilled songwriter.