Interview: Anuel AA Talks ‘Emmanuel’ & Superstar Collaborations
After conquering the reggaeton scene with a steady stream of hits, Anuel AA is poised for a massive crossover in 2020. The Puerto Rican star cracked the top 10 of the Billboard 200 with Emmanuel, his star-studded sophomore LP, and just released two massive collaborations. He teams up with Bad Bunny on “Hasta Que Dios Diga,” which is a phenomenon on YouTube (135 million views and climbing), and joins forces with Enrique Iglesias for the pop-friendly “Fútbol Y Rumba.” The latter song is exploding at radio and delivering huge streaming numbers.
I recently gave the breakout star a call to talk about his breakthrough album. Anuel revealed that it was originally going to be released in April, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead of taking it easy during quarantine, the 27-year-old kept recording new music and tweaking the album until he was completely satisfied. Other topics of conversation were his epic collaboration with Shakira, “Me Gusta,” and his post-lockdown plans. Get to know the rising hitmaker a little better in our Q&A below.
How did you manage to put together a double album in the middle of a pandemic?
I already had the album set up to come out in April, but when quarantine started, I delayed it. I kept recording songs and we just kept adding. By the time we was about to start cutting out songs, it was too many good songs. I wanted to show the fans that I do all types of music. Basically, this is the first album that I could give all my time to it and have part in the producing, the beats, everything. That’s why I went with 22 songs. I only cut out two or three songs, because it was just too much.
It has 22 songs, just because I wanted to show that I could sing in any type of style or over any type of beat. Being locked up with all this happening, nobody could come out of their house, so it boosted my creativity a lot. I didn’t have no distractions or other responsibilities, so I could put all my focus into this album. I’m grateful I could put all my focus to the album. That’s why I think it came out so perfect with all different styles and just the way I wanted.
What’s it like promoting an album in lockdown?
Whatever happens, I’m going to adapt to it. I always been like that all my life. I know how to market a lot through social media. My social media, the numbers is crazy. I just focus a lot on that. I’ll be posting about anything — serious things or dumb things — and they’ll be getting numbers. Over time, I just learned how to promote things online. Now I use Instagram a lot. So it’s a lot of social media, a lot of digital.
I didn’t even drop physical copies of the album yet, because I handed it in too late and with all this coronavirus and protests, nobody on that right now. It wasn’t hard to adapt to. I like interviews in person, like this interview would normally be in person, but now everything is through the phone and FaceTime. That’s how it is right now.
How did you decide what songs to put on the album? Some huge hits like “Medusa” with J Balvin and “Me Gusta” with Shakira were left off.
I don’t pick it strategically. I have way too many songs, like mainstream, commercial songs — and basically, that isn’t me. I love trap music and street music. I represent the streets of Puerto Rico around the world. I wanted “Medusa” for my album, but it came to a point that I said, “No, let’s just drop it now.” It’s a Jhay Cortez record. I just felt it was the moment to drop “Medusa,” because “Medusa” is a big song in the streets. For each song I drop, I know what kind of fan base it’s for.
I just felt like the streets needed love at that time. That’s why we dropped “Medusa” before the album, because I really got a few street songs in the album. “Me Gusta” was supposed to be for my album, but Shakira fell in love with it, so I was like, “Yes, just drop it.” We both in Sony, so it stays in the family. Like I’m going to say no to Shakira? No, that would be a straight-up joke. You’re the boss. Do whatever you want with it! [Laughs].
How did that collaboration come about? It’s such a great song.
I got a really good relationship with everybody in Sony. They love me, they all love Shakira. They came up with that idea. They was like, “What do you think? Your records are for the street — the reggaeton, the trap music — but what if we do something commercial with you and Shakira? That will be legend, because it will be Shakira coming out of her comfort zone, and you too. The both of you would be making something different, because Shakira isn’t used to recording with somebody like you, and nobody is used to seeing you recording with somebody like Shakira.”
They called Shakira in front of me and was like, “Yo, I got this big idea. I know it’s going to be big. This new artist, Anuel, he just signed with us. He’s super big,” and Shakira was with it. She liked my music, and we just did it.
That video is amazing. What was it like making it?
Yes, the video was legend. Shakira is super smart. She’s really intelligent, has been at the top for all those years in the industry. Shakira sent the video back seven times. She wanted edits. She’s really… I don’t know how to say that in English. She likes everything really perfect. She won’t stop until everything’s perfect. It was nice working with Shakira. It’s always nice to collaborate with somebody out of the reggaeton circle. With legends like Shakira, you can learn a lot from each one of them.
There are so many big names on the album. I love the song with Enrique Iglesias.
Enrique, he’s a pop artist, but he be switching. He’s doing whatever. That was one of the songs that I did when I was in Spain. I love the culture in Spain. I’ve been all around the world, thank God, but, yo, in Spain, I’m super legend. It’s something I can’t even explain. I did the tour over there and it was all sold out. The smallest was for 18,000 people. All the other ones was in between 30,000 and 40,000. They gave me so much love. I fell in love with that country. I was like, “I got to do something for them.”
When I was in Madrid, Sergio Ramos took me to a football game. I fell in love with the football too. If you’ve been to Spain, you know they be partying from Monday until Sunday. They don’t rest. They party a lot. Football is super legend there too. That’s how I came up with “Fútbol y Rumba.” “Rumba” means party. I was thinking, “Who can I do this?” because this ain’t my zone of comfort. I’ve got to bring somebody in like Shakira. That’s when I came up with the idea. I was like, “Enrique’s from Spain, he would be perfect!”
I sent it to him. I knew him already. We had a few collaborations that didn’t get released. I felt like this was the perfect one. He heard it. He killed it and it’s legend. Thank God, it’s out. It’s making a lot of numbers, and not just the numbers, it’s getting a lot of respect. People love it, the beat, the style. We both changed style to do the song, and thank God, it’s doing great.
Did you film the video before or during lockdown?
During. We took a big risk… but it’s not even that big. If you watch the video, we salute each other by touching elbows. We wasn’t even close to each other. There was nobody on set. If you pay attention, it’s just one set. That’s why we had famous people like Leo Messi, Sergio Ramos, Shaquille O’Neal and Jamie Foxx do videos too. All the football players did videos too. Then we added them to our video. Everyone kept their distance. We ain’t trying to risk it like that. Then for that Bad Bunny video, he’s in his house in Puerto Rico with a green screen and I’m over here in Miami with a green screen. That video was all VFX.
You have two songs with Bad Bunny on the album. Are you good friends?
We are good friends, but we really competitive with each other. Music is like basketball, like sports. There’s a lot of respect and a lot of love for each other. How we ain’t going to have a good relationship? We both represent Puerto Rico. We’re doing big things for Puerto Rico. Look at this song we just dropped, I think it has 120 million views in five days. That’s just crazy. It’s so big, everything that’s happening with the album. The song with Enrique has 78 million. That’s super crazy numbers in a week. I’m super happy with how everything’s coming out.
Thank God people are liking all the songs. I spent a lot of time working on this album, a lot of work, stress, tears, everything. People don’t know. People see us famous and think everything’s easy, man. Everything ain’t easy. We work a lot to have everything we got, and we’ve got to keep working, because just how we got it, we can lose it too. It’s a lot of pressure. I thank God everything’s going good with the album.
What are your plans after lockdown?
I’ve got a lot of tours right now. We ain’t canceling the tours until there’s no other option. It’ll be tight, though. This ain’t going to stop now. You know, God willing, all this gets fixed tomorrow and I can go back on tour right now. Right now, I’m supposed to be finishing the Latin America tour and starting Spain. If Coronavirus disappeared, there’s no other place that I wouldn’t rather start the tour. Spain, with my new album, would be legend. God willing, we’ll see if it happens.
Good luck with everything. I love the album.