Artists like Shakira, Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias sparked a Latin craze at the turn of the millennium. It hasn’t happened again since, but that could change with Maluma. After all, the 23-year-old has already carved out a massive global following without releasing a song in English. He is the only act (Latin or otherwise) to have six songs in YouTube’s top 100 most-watched videos and 22.5 million people follow his every move on Instagram. Everything is coming together for a spectacular crossover.
I caught up with Maluma the day after his sold-out show at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The Colombian hitmaker spoke enthusiastically about the frenzied response from fans and his plan to crack America. (The heartthrob is recording songs in English for his third album and taking notes from the aforementioned superstars). He also opened up about his astonishing social media following and dream US collaborators. Get to know the rising star a little better in our Q&A below.
The energy at your LA concert was incredible. Almost all my concerts are like that, but it also depends on the weather or the time of the concert. But this concert in LA was amazing, it was the final show of the tour. It had an amazing, amazing energy. I think that was huge because it was my first concert in LA. It was a great opportunity to be close to my fans.
Were you surprised to sell out the Microsoft Theater? I didn’t know that until I saw the theatre almost exploding, you know. It was amazing. I saw a lot of Spanish people, but also there were a lot of American people. People were flying around the world to go to my tour here in the States. It’s awesome that non-Spanish people are also enjoying my music. I’m really, really grateful for that.
How do American audiences compare? Maybe the Latin crowd is a little bit more hype. Every time I have the opportunity to go to Mexico, it’s awesome. Also Argentina. But when I came here to the States, I realized that the crowds were amazing too. I’m proud to be one of the artists who can sell out the Microsoft Theater. I can’t wait to do it again and see the American people, the non-Spanish public singing my songs. But this is only the first step, what’s coming is going to be very, very big.
Do you intend to release English-language songs in the future? Yes, of course. That’s the plan, that’s the future, that’s why I’m here promoting my music, my career. I don’t want leave out my Spanish or my Latin world, but I want to grow in this American world. And to do it, I have to do it in English, because if I don’t, they are not going to understand what I say. So yes, I want to release some music in English, but I will try to keep the balance — songs in Spanish and English.
Have you recorded anything yet? I’m working on it! I’ve been working in the studio with American producers. That’s something that’s happening right now. I think it’s going to be for my next album.
There were rumors that you recorded an English version of “Chantaje” with Shakira? I told to Shakira that we had to do it, because the song was huge in the Spanish world, and I told her that if we had opportunity to do it in English, it would change the rules completely. I don’t know, she said that she preferred the song in Spanish. That’s her song for her album, so I can’t do it, you know, because it’s her song. But, actually, I still think that “Chantaje” could be an even bigger song if we did it in English too.
The video has almost one billion views on YouTube. Did you have any idea the song was going to be so big? I didn’t realize until the moment I saw the numbers. Because Shakira, I know that she’s huge… everybody knows Shakira, she’s a huge artist. She’s a great person. I thought that the song was going to be big, but not like this. It’s almost one billion views on YouTube. Everybody’s talking about “Chantaje” and this wonderful, amazing future that I have the opportunity to be in. Maybe I felt the vibe, but I didn’t know that the numbers were going to be that crazy.
Are you inspired by crossover stars like Shakira and Ricky Martin? Yeah, for sure. One hundred percent. I think that they are big examples of how to build an amazing career, and do the cross-over. I think that Shakira and Ricky Martin, they are the biggest artists right now for me in the Latin world. They are the real examples of how to do it, and fortunately, I’ve worked with Ricky and Shakira. They can teach me a lot about crossing over.
Are there any American artists you would like to work with? Yeah, a lot of them. Justin Timberlake, I’m his biggest fan. At least, I think so. Justin Timberlake, Zayn Malik would be great to work with, Justin Bieber. I don’t know, there are a lot of artists that I have in mind right now. Doing a collaboration with any of them would be something huge for my career, but Justin Timberlake is number one on the wish-list.
Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy was so successful. Are you nervous or excited about the follow-up? I’m excited. I’m so excited because Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy was my second album. I did it two years ago and it’s the album that made me travel around the world, tour around the world. That’s crazy, but I’m even more excited for what’s coming. My next album is going to be global and that’s what I want, that’s what I’m working for. I’m really grateful because Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy was a great album, but I think that the best is yet to come with my next album. I’m going to have the opportunity to sing in English and do Spanglish songs. So I think that’s going to be the next step.
So a bilingual album? Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.
How far along are you? In Miami I had the opportunity to make a few songs in English, it sounds good. It’s incredible how a song can change with the language, you know. It sounds not that bad.
At one point you had six of the top one hundred videos on YouTube. It’s incredible. I was talking yesterday with management about that, and I’m the only artist, not Latin, I’m the only artist who has six videos in the top one hundred. That’s crazy.
What are you doing better than everyone else? I don’t know what I’m doing better, but the only thing that I know is that I do it with passion, with my heart. I work a lot, I wake up every morning trying to be a better person and a better artist. I’m doing things with passion and the only thing that I’m trying to do is be happy. I’m doing the kind of music that I like. I go to the studio, be with my family, that’s important. They are my balance and they keep my head in the right place. I’m just working with my heart and that’s all.
What’s your favorite video? Wow, that’s a great question. Well, maybe “Chantaje.” “Vente Pa’ Ca” with Ricky Martin is incredible too. The director Jessy Terrero has been working with me since I started my international career and he understands my vision. He knows how to make me feel happy with the final product, and he’s really, really good. Jessy Terrero is the one who made “Vente Pa’ Ca,” “El Perdedor,” “Borró Cassette”… almost 90 percent of my songs.
You’re the King of YouTube and the most-followed Latin artist on Instagram. I’m posting my life everyday, yeah that’s true.
Do you enjoy Instagram? Yeah, that’s why I’m doing it. If I don’t like it, I don’t do it. That’s my number one rule — if I like it, I do it. If I don’t like it, I won’t. It’s incredible because I have a really nice connection with my fans, an immediate connection with them. That’s something that I really appreciate, it’s a tool to connect me with my fans. Instagram and social media are important for my career too. Every time I release a song, the only thing that I have to do is post it on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. Social media is everything.
At the end of your LA concert, you said this is just the beginning. Can you elaborate? I think that this is just the beginning. I think that my future is incredible because I have a great team. I have passion for my work, for what I’m doing. I think that everything is happening right now, so I have to take advantage of that. Now I want to conquer this American world, and that’s what I’m here working for. I think that I have the right elements around me to make it happen, and I feel so grateful.
That’s what I was saying at the concert, that I feel so grateful because I never thought that… I’m 23 years old and everything is happening right now. It’s just the beginning of my career, and I think that if I keep doing it with passion and love, I think that the future is going to be great.
When are you coming back to America? I have to leave because I have another tour in Mexico, but when I have the chance, when I have the opportunity, I’m going to come back because I have a lot of things to do here. My American dream is just starting. I know that I’m doing the first steps, but I have to come back fast.