Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: The Magnificent, Magnetic Maluma
The Maluma effect has taken over the world. The singer/songwriter began his career in his native Colombia as a teenager in the late 2000s, but now you'll find his name on the top of the charts as one of the most viewed/streamed artists on platforms like YouTube and Spotify where millions of people listen to his music.
Juan Luis Londoño, a.k.a Maluma, has wooed the globe with his sensual, romantic and at times risqué lyrics and music that encompasses an array of Latin sounds including salsa, pop and reggaeton. And it doesn't end there. The charming 25-year-old singer's on-stage energy is magnetic, drawing audiences in with his confidence, attractive looks and alluring dance moves. This all has caused him to become one of the most-followed people on Instagram, where he regularly flaunts his colorfully bold fashion sense.
Maluma's success is no doubt a result of this past decade's Latin Urban boom, which has also elevated other Colombian artists, such as J Balvin and Karol G. But you could also attribute his visibility to recent high-profile collabs with Ozuna, Madonna and most recently Steve Aoki. His staying power is thanks to his musical adaptability, Maluma exclusively tells the Recording Academy: "I love doing any kind of music."
Maluma's acclaim continues to grow with his first GRAMMY nomination. The "HP" singer is up for Best Latin Pop Album along with Luis Fonsi, Ricardo Montaner, Alejandro Sanz and one of his countrymen, Sebastian Yatra. His nominated album, 2019's 11:11, features Madonna, Latino trailblazer Ricky Martin and rising Latin urban star Sech, among others.
So what's next for Maluma? "I feel like these next five years [are] going to be important for me to grow in my personal life," he says. "It's amazing to having big songs, try and be the number one, it's nice to be a famous artist and all these things, but for me right now the most important thing is to keep growing as a human being." He also says that he wants to spend more time with his family, with whom he is quite close. This doesn't mean he'll slow down, however. "I'm going to keep touring and I'll keep making music, that's for sure. But the other thing is being good with myself," he says.
Below, the Colombian superstar goes deeper into what keeps him grounded, his dream of making an album with all Colombian artists, his fashion sense, what he's wearing to the GRAMMYs and what else he sees for his future.
Last year was quite a year for you. It ended it with a GRAMMY nomination. How was that for you?
Oh, it was beautiful. It was an amazing surprise. It was something I always dreamt about, an amazing thing. I hope I can go [to Los Angeles] and take a GRAMMY home with me.
In interviews, you've said that you've always known music was for you. How did you begin making it?
When I was super young, I used to perform in everything that happened at my school, so that's when I knew that I was gifted. Then I started writing my own songs and went to the studio. But in the beginning, I wanted to be a soccer player, that was my dream. And then I started writing my own songs and everything was bubbling. I decided to go to the studio, so I went to the studio. My first producers, Kevin and Chan [the Rude Boyz], were the first to believe in me. We went there and I just fell in love, that's when I decided that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I was 16, 15 years old the first time I went to the studio I knew that was going to be what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Your GRAMMY-nominated album is called 11:11, the magical master number. Why did you decide to name it that?
That number was following me everywhere. Not just when I set my watch, but also when I stayed in hotels and everything. So I decided to, every time I saw the number, make a wish and all these wishes come true. That was very special to me. The number for sure marked my life. I want to show the world that dreams come true, so I wanted to show this energy and show them that they can actually do whatever they want.
The album features many amazing artists, in and out of Spanish language music. What do you enjoy about collaborating with other artists?
Well, I love learning. I love learning different things from English-language artists like when I worked with Ty Dolla $ign on a couple of songs in the studio. [I also love learning from] Latin artists, we are always learning something about them so yeah, it's great, just putting your knowledge in the studio with them and creating good music.
How was it working with Madonna? How did that collaboration come about?
It was great. The first time that I met her .. I don't know, we got that connection since the beginning. After that, one month later, she told me that she wanted to work with me, so I went to London and was spending a lot of time there in the studio. We did this song, "Medellin" and "Soltera," for my album. We made that one in L.A. two months after we recorded "Medellin" so it was great. She has a lot of experience. We all know that she's been in the industry for a long time and I feel very grateful to her for making me part of her life, her projects.
That's amazing that she asked you to collab. Why do you think now is the time that people are paying more attention to Latin artists like yourself?
Well, I think because we, Latin artists, we're working very hard. I think, of course, we're talented and we have a gift, but more than that, we love working hard. And there is a generational gap, but now I feel like the global industry or the whole world is paying attention to our songs or our culture because we love working hard. So this moment that we're living right now, It's not only me. As I told you before, there is a big generation behind us that were doing it too. Ricky Martin, Shakira, Juanes, Carlos Vives. They've been doing it for a long time and they really opened the doors for this new generation, I feel actually honored to be part of it and show the world the Latin culture, and for sure the Colombian culture. Around the world, they have another way of seeing Colombia now. We're changing that because while they were talking about Pablo Escobar, they talk about Maluma, they talk about J Balvin, they talk about all these new artists that are trying to take the genre or the whole culture around the world, so I feel very proud.
Colombia definitely is leading a lot of the Latin movement now. Is it particularly special to you when you collaborate with another Colombian artist, like J Balvin, for example?
Yeah, there's this whole new generation going like crazy. There are a lot of artists, a lot of urban artists, but they're achieving it. Maybe my dream is doing an album with all of them. That would be something nice and that was something I had on my mind, working with all of them, and doing a whole Colombian collaboration album, I would love that.
On 11:11, there's salsa, there's a little bit of urban, there's pop. Do you feel like your adaptability helps your success?
Yeah, I think that's the key to my success, actually. I love doing any kind of music. I love good music, I don't have just one genre that I really like. I love salsa. I grew up listening to salsa music because of my grandparents, so that's the first genre that I listened to. Then I started listening to a lot of hip hop, then reggaeton, pop, ballad music, romantic music. I feel like that's for sure key to my career. Being versatile.
You're on magazine covers with the most amazing men's fashion. If you weren't in music, do you think you would do something in fashion?
I love it. [Laughs.] I've loved [fashion] since I was a child. My mom, she has a bunch of stories about it. I used to pick my own clothing [when I was little] and now that I'm an adult people can tell that I [love fashion]. I feel like it's a way to communicate my feelings, just how I feel. It's like the same thing with music. When I go to the studio, sometimes I decide I want to do a very heavy reggaeton song, and a sexy song. Then next day I want to do a romantic song. That's the way I feel with the way I dress myself.
With that said, is there anything you can tell us about what you're going to wear to the GRAMMYs?
[Laughs.] Oh, no, I can't. It will be a surprise. I hope you guys like it. It will be original.
I also know that you love animals. Your dog was sick not so long ago. How is she? Can you tell us one of your favorite things about your dogs?
Well, she's good. She's here in front of me. She's looking at me right now with her beautiful blue eyes, saying hello. And she's better right now. Actually she went to the vet this morning, and they told me that she was going to be amazing, so we're very happy. I think we're going to change her name. We're not going to call her Bonnie anymore. We're going to call her Miracle or something. She ate venom and she almost died, but now she's good.
What I like the most about [dogs] is they don't judge. They're there next to me every time I wake up, they're very grateful, and they're very loyal too.
Besides your dogs, is there anything else or anyone else that helps you stay grounded among all your success?
Oh, of course, my family, yeah. My family. They're my thing. We had an amazing holiday. That's how I keep grounded, every time. I'm going out and doing these crazy tours and everything but before I go on stage I have a phone call with my mom and she's everything to me, she gives me the motivation, she gives me the strength I need to keep doing this because we know this is not an easy career. Also my dad and my sister, they're always there for me. That's what matters, we're a team.
What do you see for yourself in the next five years?
Wow, that's a good question. I mean, I want to keep making music. But for sure I want to keep doing the things that I love: spending time with my family. I want to keep touring, and I want to keep singing and everything. But I feel like these next five years are going to be important for me to grow in my personal life. Because it's amazing to having big songs, try and be the number one, it's nice to be a famous artist and all these things, but for me right now the most important thing is to keep growing as a human being. I'm going to keep touring and I'll keep making music, that's for sure. But the other thing is being good with myself.