meta-scriptOn 'Sayonara,' Álvaro Díaz Embraces The Sadness Of Love Lost | GRAMMY.com
Álvaro Díaz Embraces Love Lost On 'Sayonara'
Álvaro Díaz

Photo: Waiv

interview

On 'Sayonara,' Álvaro Díaz Embraces The Sadness Of Love Lost

Known for his vulnerable style of reggaeton, Álvaro Díaz’s sophomore album ‘Sayonara’ says "goodbye to the happiness you thought you found."

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 01:29 pm

Álvaro Díaz has a twinkle in his eye — he knows he’s onto something special.

"It’s crazy that it’s an alternative album, but also the most reggaeton I’ve ever made," Díaz says of his recently-released sophomore album, Sayonara. "It’s both worlds. I have my fingers crossed that people are going to love it."

Díaz, who is 28, has been making music since he was a teenager. A constant creative force, he grinded for years as an independent artist, building a solid fanbase in Puerto Rico before breaking into the wider Latin urbano scene with 2021 debut, Felicilandia, which layered fresh pop melodies onto playful reggaeton and trap beats, exploring the euphoria of love.

Notably darker and much more experimental than its predecessor, Sayonara marks the end of that "happyland" feeling. 

"My story with ‘Felicilandia’ ended in heartbreak," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I was just writing about my life. It’s like a nightmare when you can’t stop thinking of that person. The usual Puerto Rican [reaction] to a breakup is like,'Don’t worry, let’s go to the streets!'"

The first half of the record soundtracks this feeling of party and abandon. Perreo tracks like the Feid-featuring dancefloor banger "Gatas Sandungueras Vol.1" nod to old school reggaeton, while Diaz and guest Tainy twist into ravey house beats on "Fatal Fantassy."

With an assist from Spanish indie pop star Sen Senra, "1000Canciones" marks a turning point in the album’s mood. It’s slow, reflective and poignant, with unashamedly heartfelt lyrics. "I went to the streets, and played 1000 songs that reminded me of you / even though I knew it was late / I took my phone to call you," Diaz sings in Spanish.

Lovingly nicknamed "Sadvarito"by fans, Diáz’s vulnerability stands out amidst a reggaeton scene dominated by party hits and swag. Even the biggest hits on Felicilandia— "Lori Party" and "Babysita </3" — were tinged with heartbreak; and fans will be reassured to see his signature fragility thoroughly embedded in Sayonara.

"It’s just how I feel, sometimes I feel empty, sometimes there’s a lot to say," Díaz says of the album’s changing moods. 

At the end of the album, Díaz considers trying to get back with his former flame ("Quizás si, quizás no," featuring Quevedo). But, he soon realizes it won’t work: "You know it’s not the same — it’s just me saying 'Sayonara,'" he says. 

GRAMMY.com spoke with Díaz over Zoom about why reggaeton is the perfect heartbreak genre and how ‘Sayonara’ is his most experimental work yet.  

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Sayonara **comes three years after your debut, Felicilandia. There are some similarities in the two albums’ artwork, but we can see something’s gone a bit awry/**

There’s an explosion at the left of the Felicilandia artwork. We were predicting what was going to come. I’m a fan of when artists do these little things, merge album covers, or make songs that live in the same universe. 

Felicilandia is the way to find happiness, Sayonara is saying goodbye to the happiness you thought you found. 

When you’re with a person you create a world together. But, todo se fue a la mierda. That world has gone. On [the artwork for] Sayonara, I’m looking ahead, but you don’t know my intention. I could try to save everything, or I’m just taking the last look. 

The track ‘‘Gatitas Sandungueras Vol. 1’ feat. Feid, has dark undertones, even though it’s a song about partying.  How is the track related to the album’s main theme of overcoming heartbreak?

Me and Feid put everything into the song. It’s based on the story of missing her: you’re blind; you’re trying not to think about her.  

Feid is like my duo, we always talk about making projects together, and our fanbase likes it when we work together. He couldn’t be out of ‘=Sayonara —he was in Felicilandia singing a sad song, and now he’s singing a party song, so it’s a total contrast. 

Same with Rauw Alejandro, who is on the track "BYAK," and was also on Felicilandia single "Problemón."  It’s special to have Feid and Rauw on both albums. We didn’t want to repeat what we did before, we wanted to go in another direction. 

The album mixes a lot of different genres, but reggaeton is definitely at the foundation of Sayonara. What artists were your core inspirations?

The selection of the sounds, and the beats, reminds me of the golden era of reggaeton in the 2000s. We even used the old Fruity Loops software, and searched for inspiration in [LunyTunes & Tainy 2006 album] Mas Flow: Los Benjamins, or the [2003 compilation album], Blin Blin. All those albums that changed your life in Puerto Rico. That’s why the reggaeton tracks have 2000 vibes, it’s what I listen to. 

You’re known for making an emotional brand of reggaeton. When did you first explore reggaeton’s potential to be more vulnerable?

My fans’ favorite songs are my most heartfelt songs. Maybe my most played song on Felicilandia is "Problemón," but on tour, the song people go crazy for is "Babysita." It’s a song I recorded in my house, but it’s bigger than all my other tracks. 

So, I know how the people who follow me connect with me. The way I talk about heartbreak speaks to a lot of people; it’s more relatable than how other people sing about it. They call me "Sadvarito," so it was always a challenge to find a way to bring that Sadvarito energy to reggaeton. 

What is your favorite reggaeton heartbreak song?

Damn, there’s a lot. It’s hard. 

My favorite reggaetoneros growing up were Zion & Lennox, they were my GOATS, and most of their songs are heartbreak songs. So, Zion & Lennox, "Solo Una Noche." 

There’s also a song on [Luny Tunes-produced 2005 compilation album] Mas Flow 2 which is my favorite ever: "Es Mejor Olvidarlo." That’s my jam. I used to blast that when I was little. I didn’t know heartbreak then, but I felt that.  

So you can cry to reggaeton?

You definitely can! Old school people may say you can’t, but, ey, reggaeton be having feeling. It will make you feel a type of way in a club. It could change your mood completely.

Connecting with fans is everything to you. On Sayonara, how are you hoping to reach people?

I have a really hard time saying goodbye. There’s a phrase: la esperanza es lo último que se pierde, I’m one of those types of guys; the last one who loses hope even if my world is going to pieces. I want to make her fall in love, like on the track "Quien te quiere como el nene." It’s saying I really love you, I want to fix things. 

The point of the album is for people to see what chapter they’re in. I’ve never been able to reach the last track, to finally be able to say Sayonara, but I know I will get there! 

One woman who listened to the album said it’s awesome to hear a man’s perspective — you go out and party, and then you miss her. She said, usually, for girls, it’s the other way around: you miss him at the beginning, then you go out to party. It gives it realism, boys really be like that. I love it when real life and music come together. I really hope people find themselves in the songs.

"Quien te quiere como el nene" is one of the more experimental tracks on the album, and unexpectedly goes into a drum and bass rhythm. How did that come about?

I did that whole beat with my mouth! I had it in my mind. I had the bass, but it needed a sound there. I don’t know why but I started making these sounds. I sent a demo to Tainy and asked, "Do you think you can do this?" Obviously, he can, he’s Tainy. Alongside Manuel Lara, my main producer, they took it to the next level. They are a dream team. 

You break from the reggaeton beat a lot in the album — "Fatal Fantassy" is very house. Tell us about these electro elements.

I like to experiment with different sounds. It’s harder for me to do reggaeton than do experimental things. Different tracks just come naturally. Tainy and I were listening to the album after we had 60 percent of it ready, and we felt like it was missing energy, it needed a bit more uptempo. So we did three sessions and came up with those ideas. 

I made a playlist with everything I want to do in the album, so I could say "I want a riff like this." I like to take a lot of ideas and work them little by little. My process is different to a lot of my friends who go to the studio and make three or four songs a day. I really like to feel like what I’m creating.  

You’re in Japan right now, and this album frequently mentions Japanese words, people and culture: from "Sayonara," "Kawa," "Majin Buu" and "Yoko." How did Japan influence you?

Japan is really important in this album, the names, the creation. I didn’t want it to be obvious, but it’s there, in the minimalism, the names, It’s magical for me to be now in Japan and listen to the album. I can say, damn this song feels like Toyko, this one feels like Osaka. Now I’m in Kyoto, and I feel "Quien te quiere como el nene" is definitely a song for this city. 

I’m a cinematographic guy, I create songs with movies on mute. I recreate the vibe, how I feel it would sound. Even movies filmed in Japan, like ‘Lost in Translation’—I watched that a lot and was inspired by that. That feeling of being lost, of not knowing what’s next. 

"Majin Buu" is one of the most heartfelt tracks on this album, and references a "Dragon Ball Z" villain. Why do you draw on that character?

It’s a 2024 alternative love poem! He’s a bad guy, but I flip and use it in a good way. 

I like to play with names, most of the time I have the name of the song. I knew I wanted to make a song with Majin Buu but I didn’t know how it was going to sound. The same day I made "Majin Buu," I made the track "Yoko."

Speaking of "Yoko," do you relate to the person who has been painted as the bad guy?

Definitely. When I watched the Get Back documentary about the Beatles on Disney+, I remember seeing Yoko every single moment beside John Lennon. They were inseparable until his last day. All the Beatles had a family, they all had wives, but it was Yoko who was next to John at every moment. 

It was a romantic way to say, I want you by my side like Yoko was with John Lennon. 

You're very close to your fanbase. Is there anything that artists can do to stay grounded with their fans? As you’re getting bigger, how do you manage the relationship with fans?

Fans made me. Especially during those years when my project didn’t have the light it deserved, my fans were there for me. It’s important for me to have a healthy relationship with them. 

I always try to put myself in the shoes of a 16-year-old and think what things could he say to me to make me fall in love with this project?, or what did this artist do that made me a superfan? I try to create experiences. In the run-up to releasing Sayonara, we did listening parties with 15 fans in different parts of the world, with exclusive merch. Seeing the reactions of the people is important for me. 

I’ve been making music since 2012. Some [artists] don’t know the hustle; they get big after two to three years. But [success] is not given, it’s earned. I get the rockstar mentality, but that’s not me. It’s impossible for me to lose touch with the fans. 

[Sayonara] is a celebration for me and for the fans. I want to do small shows in Puerto Rico, places I played when I was started. I love the shows where you can feel people’s emotions. When you get big, you kind of lose that. But to me, that connection is magical, I never want to lose that.

Kenia Os Unveils Her 'Pink Aura': How The Mexican Pop Star Let Her Feminine Energy Shine

Bellakath performs during Flow Fest 2023 in Mexico City
Bellakath performs during Flow Fest 2023 in Mexico City

Photo: Jaime Nogales

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7 Artists Bringing Reggaeton Mexa To The World: El Malilla, Bellakath & More

Pulling from the genre's underground roots in Puerto Rico, these fast-rising reggaeton Mexa artists infuse their own culture and grit into a globally-appealing sound.

GRAMMYs/Jul 22, 2024 - 01:21 pm

Música Mexicana isn't the only sound of Mexico that's blowing up; the country's artists are now starting to make their mark in reggaeton. Imbued with the essence, swagger, and lingo of Mexico, reggaeton Mexa is the next big Latin sound that's going global.

Originating in the Caribbean, reggaeton evolved from Panama’s reggae en español and Jamaican dancehall of the 1980s. Puerto Rican acts like DJ Playero and DJ Nelson shaped the sound of reggaeton in the island's underground scene during the '90s, while Daddy Yankee, Tego Calderón, Don Omar, and Ivy Queen pushed the genre into the mainstream at the dawn of the new millennium. 

Boricua acts Tainy, Bad Bunny, and Ozuna pushed reggaeton into the next decade, though Colombia also brought about the genre's second wind. J Balvin's success solidified Medellín as a reggaeton hotbed, spawning Maluma, Karol G, and Feid as global stars.

Learn more: The Sonic And Cultural Evolution Of Reggaeton In 10 Songs

In the 2020s, Mexico is becoming the next hub for reggaeton as artists who grew up listening to the Puerto Rican OGs  — as well as Mexican acts Ghetto Kids and Pablito Mix — are now putting their own stamp on the genre. In late 2022, Bellakath put a spotlight on reggaeton Mexa with her viral hit "Gatita"; the following year, Yng Lvcas took the sound to new heights with his "La Bebé" remix featuring Peso Pluma, which reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

Reggaeton Mexa pulls from the genre's underground roots in Puerto Rico, infusing its songs with Mexican culture and grit. Lyrics are full of Mexican slang that reflect life in the barrios.

"Reggaeton Mexa is reminiscent of the sounds of the '90s and 2000s from Puerto Rican DJs like Playero and Joe," El Mallila, one of the reggaeton Mexa leaders, tells GRAMMY.com. "The songs, the beats, and rhythms are more or less similar to that flow. The difference here is the Mexican jargon. Reggaeton Mexa is spicy. We play with Mexican profanities without being offensive."

The emerging genre has gained traction among the larger reggaeton community with Jowell y Randy, Maldy, and J Balvin recently featuring on their songs. Following the success of Yng Lvcas, Bellakath, and El Malilla, Mexican acts like Peso Pluma (who dedicated part of his Éxodo album to reggaeton) and pop star Kenia Os are embracing the wave. As the tide continues to rise for reggaeton Mexa, GRAMMY.com is highlighting seven of the sound's leading artists.

Yng Lvcas

Guadalajara, Jalisco native Yng Lvcas noted that no one around him could name a Mexican reggaeton artist, so he decided to fill that void.

An early encounter would make for auspicious beginnings. As he was signing a record contract with Warner early last year, Yng Lvcas crossed paths with Peso Pluma. The música Mexicana star's first foray in reggaeton was with Yng Lvcas and their global hit, a sensual remix of "La Bebé." Their collaboration became the first reggaeton song by Mexican artists to enter the Hot 100 chart.

Last October, Yng Lvcas released his album Super Estrellas to put a spotlight on more reggaeton Mexa acts. The LP included songs with El Malilla and El Bogueto. Puerto Rican OG Maldy later teamed up with Yng Lvcas for the hypnotic "Diviértete."

Bellakath

The first artist to get the global conversation started about reggaeton Mexa was Bellakath. After earning a law degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the Mexico City native became a social media personality. Bellakath leveraged her following to start her music career, which exploded in late 2022 with the frisky "Gatita." The song went viral on TikTok and the music video has over 144 million views on YouTube.

In the male-dominated reggaeton Mexa scene, Bellakath is continuing to keep women on top. Last year, she released her debut album Kittyponeo with the hit "Reggaeton Champagne" featuring Dani Flow. After signing with Warner in May, Bellakath dropped "Sandunguea," which sampled the reggaeton classic "Mayor Que Yo" by Luny Tunes. On July 15, Bellakath released her second album, Sata 42, where she ventured into dembow music with artists from the Dominican Republic. 

Learn more: 5 Women Essential To Reggaeton: Ivy Queen, Natti Natasha, Karol G, Ms Nina & Mariah Angeliq

El Malilla

El Malilla proudly represents the chakalones (Mexican slang for "bad boys") in reggaeton Mexa. Hailing from Valle de Chalco, El Malilla remembers his first encounter with reggaeton as a teen came from the pirated CDs that were sold at the tianguis, or open-air markets.

Now, El Malilla is bringing Mexico's version of reggaeton to the forefront. He recently released his debut album ÑEROSTARS, which includes his viral hit "B de Bellako" with Yeyo. Back in May, Puerto Rican OGs Jowell y Randy jumped on a remix of the quirky banger. 

El Malilla also wants to make reggaeton Mexa more inclusive. Reggaeton has historically excluded LGBTQIA+ folks, though queer artists such as Young Miko, Villano Antillano, and La Cruz are changing that tune. On the Mexican front, El Malilla wanted to be an ally to his queer fans with the 2000-inspired "Rebote" music video, which was shot at the gay club Spartacus with Mexican drag queens. 

Within his album, El Malilla is also stretching the bounds of his artistry by exploring merengue in "Coronada" and experimenting with house music in "Todo Tiene Su Final." "ÑEROSTARS is a call to all the reggaeton Mexa artists to dare themselves to make new music and try different sounds," he says. "Don’t stay in your comfort zone just making perreo."

Yeri Mua

Veracruz native Yeri Mua is keeping a high heel firmly planted on the neck of the genre, holding it down for the women in reggaeton Mexa.

Mua started out doing makeup tutorials on YouTube and later grew a massive social media following. Last year, she launched her music career on Uzielito Mix's reggaeton romp "Línea del Perreo," which has over 103 million streams on Spotify. In songs like "Chupon," Mua brings a fierce femininity to reggaeton Mexa while flipping the genre's explicit lyrics from a woman's perspective. In April, Kenia Os tapped Mua and Ghetto Kids for her reggaeton Mexa banger "Mamita Rica." With a laugh, Os told GRAMMY.com at the time, "[Mua] sounds very sexy and makes noises like meowing. It felt very great to work with her." Last month, Mua signed a record contract with Sony Music México.

El Bogueto

Alongside El Malilla, El Bogueto is one of the OGs of reggaeton Mexa. The Nezahualcóyotl native has scored a number of hits since 2021, including "Tu Favo" and "G Low Kitty," which has nearly 60 million streams on Spotify.

The title of El Bogueto's 2023 debut album Reggaetoñerito is an amalgamation of the words reggaetonero and ñero, which is Mexican slang for a person from the hood. El Bogueto has continued to rack up millions of streams with his LP, which include hits like the freaky reggaeton romp "Piripituchy" and "Dale Bogueto." In May, J Balvin gave his co-sign to El Bogueto and the reggaeton Mexa scene when he jumped on an all-star remix of "G Low Kitty."

Yeyo

Among the artists on this list, Yeyo is the freshest one on the reggaeton Mexa scene, but he's fast becoming one of the genre's brightest stars and the go-to artist for a hit collaboration. The Zacatepec, Morelos native is a protege of Ghetto Kids' Luis Díaz, who also serves as his manager.

Yeyo's playful and infectious flow as a Mexican reggaetonero has translated into million of streams in songs like "B de Bellako" with El Malilla and "Mami Chakalosa" alongside Bellakath. He has also flexed a romantic side to his distinct voice in Ghetto Kids' recent hit "En El Ghetto #5 (La Discoteca)." Yeyo has also shined on the electronica-leaning reggaeton of "Maldad" and the sensual "Tentación."

Uzielito Mix

Many of the songs mentioned in this list wouldn't have been possible without Uzielito Mix. Following in the footsteps of Ghetto Kids and Pablito Mix, the Mexico City-based producer has become the backbone of the sound of reggaeton Mexa. Uzielito Mix produced Yeri Mua's hits like "Línea del Perreo" and "Brattiputy." He also co-produced El Bogueto and El Mallila's "G Low Kitty" with DJ Rockwell, which J Balvin later hopped on. 

In his stellar collaborations, Uzielito Mix is known for uniting many of the reggaeton Mexa stars. He continues to push the sound of the genre into the future like in the spooky "Espantan" remix with El Bogueto, Alnz G, Dani Flow, and Tensec. In 2022, Bad Bunny tapped Uzielito Mix to open his World's Hottest Tour stops in Mexico City. 

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Kenia Os performs in 2024
Kenia Os performs during the Axe Ceremonia music festival 2024 in Mexico

Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/LightRocket via Getty Images

interview

Kenia Os Unveils Her 'Pink Aura': How The Mexican Pop Star Let Her Feminine Energy Shine

On her new album, Kenia Os leaned into a variety of influences — from reggaeton Mexa to trap. The Latin GRAMMY nominee discusses collaborating with Álvaro Díaz, Villano Antillano and others, and letting her inner self shine.

GRAMMYs/Apr 29, 2024 - 05:31 pm

Contemporary music is filled with artists who have transitioned from social media stardom to serious streams and even Music's Biggest Night. Kenia Os is proof of this trajectory: After building a massive following on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, she established as one of Mexico's top pop stars. 

Kenia Os' ability to pivot successfully is also apparent in her music. Her 2022 debut album Cambios de Luna leaned into trap and reggaeton, while follow-up K23 fully embraced Latin pop with elements of EDM. Her "Universo K23" netted Kenia Os her first Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best Long Form Music Video. 

On her latest album, Pink Aura, the 24-year-old seamlessly blends her worlds of Latin pop and urbano music. "I feel very comfortable making pop," Kenia Os tells GRAMMY.com.  I also love Latin urban music and reggaeton, especially reggaeton Mexa that's blowing up…I wanted to make music in that style as well." 

Pink Aura sees Kenia pushing pop into new territory — with the help of some friends. Puerto Rican singer Álvaro Díaz is featured on the futuristic, drum 'n' bass-infused "Bobo," while Puerto Rican trans rapper Villano Antillano appears on the euphoric "VIP." Argentina's La Joaqui helps Kenia Os meld reggaeton with cumbia on the freaky bop "Kitty." Reggaeton Mexa, or Mexican reggaeton, artists Yeri Mua and Ghetto Kids join Kenia for the sensual banger "Mamita Rica." Elsewhere, Os also links up with another influencer-turned-singer Bella Poarch for the fierce "F* OFF."

In an interview with GRAMMY.com, Kenia Os opens up about overcoming the stigma against artists coming from social media and the empowering meaning behind her Pink Aura album. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

How would you describe the experience of making the jump from YouTube and social media to becoming a pop star?

It's been incredible. It's been an adventure that I've been on for three or more years. 

At the start, and even now, it's still been a bit difficult to get respect from the music industry. Since day one when I started making music, I've always taken this very seriously, making great music with good producers and my record label. I feel very confident about this new album that we've put out and I feel fulfilled as an artist.  

As someone who did come from social media, what did your Latin GRAMMY nomination mean to you last year?

That day I cried all day. I couldn't believe it. I was very happy. It made me think about all the effort I’ve put in these past few years, and those times I was tired in the studio and thought about quitting. There were times I told myself, I don’t want to keep doing this because it’s very tiring to prove [to people] the artist that I am. I felt like everything was worth it. The hard work that me and my team have put into this over the years has been worth it.  

An artist that has a similar career trajectory to you concerning social media is Bella Poarch. I can imagine that you probably bonded well with her while collaborating on the song "F* OFF."

Working with Bella was an incredible experience. Sometimes when you do collaborations, there's artists that are very much artists. You know what I mean? They love music, but they don't know a lot about navigating social media or what works in that space. 

With Bella, what happened was that we could record TikTok videos and create content for social media. It was very natural and genuine. We shared ideas with each other like, "We'll make TikTok videos this way or you go here and I go there." [Laughs.] It was very genuine how we developed the content for marketing our collaboration. It was very beautiful. It's a very different experience to work with someone who also understands social media.

Tell me about the title of this new album — is there a story behind it?

My fans have asked me, "Kenia, why do you have everything pink? You have said before that you hated the color pink." It's not that I hated pink, but I had always said I didn't want pink in the background of my interviews, in my outfits, or anything. 

The other day I was with my mom, looking at photos from when I was a little girl, and I saw everything in my room was pink. I was thinking about when I started fighting this color. I realized I started to hold back that feminine energy to be able to face the industry, to be the person in charge of my family, and keep up that livelihood. For me, this album was forgiving that feminine energy, embracing it, and healing myself, and above all, letting it shine. 

You’re bridging the gap between Latin urban sounds and pure Latin pop on this album. Was that what you hoped to accomplish with that kind of fusion?

I feel very comfortable making pop. I love pop and it's the genre I enjoy the most. Every time I'm in the studio, I'm writing with my co-writers and producers, and we always make pop. 

I also love Latin urban music and reggaeton, especially reggaeton Mexa that's blowing up. We have artists in that scene who are becoming very big. I feel very proud and I wanted to make music in that style as well because I like going to the clubs and I like to hear myself within that genre. 

You collaborated with one of the top female artists in reggaeton Mexa, Yeri Mua, in "Mamita Rica." How would you describe the experience of working with her?

That was very beautiful. We went to the studio together and there was her whole team. There were her co-writers. 

We were all surprised because you would think that she puts effects on her voice, but no, that's how she really sounds. As we say, she sounds very sexy and makes noises like meowing. [Laughs]. It was very fun! It felt very great to work with her. 

All the reggaeton Mexa that's coming up in Mexico makes me so happy. I believe it was time with Mexico making more noise globally through música mexicana, reggaeton, and pop, and above all, with a sound that's very unique to us. 

You’ve always supported the LGBTQIA+ community throughout your career. On this album, you collaborated with Villano Antillano, who is breaking down barriers for queer artists in Latin music. How did the song "VIP" with Antillano come together?

It's very beautiful to know that I have a lot of fans in the LGBTQIA+ community and that they identify with my music and feel supported by me. It's very important for me to be someone who can speak up for them; it's important for me to support them as well and spread their message through my music, what I say, and with what I do. I stand with them and I'll support them in any way that I can.

Villana is one of my favorite artists. I love everything that she does. When she jumped on this track and we heard it, I almost wanted to cry. The song was perfect for her. When I met her, it was incredible because we connected a lot as friends. We were laughing the whole time while making the music video. We have the same ways of saying things. I love her so much. I loved getting to know her and I got a great friendship out of this collaboration.  

What do you want people to take away from the 'Pink Aura'?

I was telling my girlfriends the other day that this album is perfect for when you're getting ready [for a night out]. When you're in your room getting ready and putting on creams, perfume, and makeup. Then you have a little drink before going out to party. 

This was made so people can enjoy it and connect with it in their room, in their cars, and in the clubs. It was made with a lot of love and the most pink side of myself and feminine energy that I hope resonates with girls and boys too. I want to heal that part of us that we sometimes hide or put to the side in order to face certain situations in life. 

What do you want to accomplish next with your music?

I want to go global. I love my country and I love that my concerts in Mexico are always very full. The people of Mexico love me a lot, but I want to take my music to other countries. I want to be an artist that is internationally known. 

I love pop and I see myself doing pop all my life, but I want to experiment with more genres. I would love to do another reggaeton song and then a corrido tumbado song with guitars. Above all, I want to hold the flag of my country high up wherever I go.

10 Women Artists Leading A Latin Pop Revolution: Kenia Os, Belinda & More

Residente
Residente

Photo: 5020 Records

interview

Inside Residente's 'Las Letras Ya No Importan': How His New Album Shows The Rapper In Transition

"It’s an album that marks a musical transition for what’s coming for me," Residente says about his sophomore record, 'Las Letras Ya No Importan.'

GRAMMYs/Feb 26, 2024 - 08:07 pm

Puerto Rican rapper Residente wants to embark on new adventures.  

The artist born René Pérez Joglar has dreams of directing movies and acting, writing books, and making for pleasure — not to pay the bills. These goals reflect a new attitude, one resulting from time spent reflecting on the passage of time and the presence of death.

Residente's sophomore album, Las Letras Ya No Importan (Lyrics No Longer Matter), echoes this transitory period. An extensive body of work, featuring 23 tracks, with several songs surpassing the five-minute mark. Las Letras is an act of deeply intimate rebellion.

"It’s a very personal album, and I sought to connect with myself in many moments throughout," Residente tells GRAMMY.com. 

While Las Letras explores topics already a hallmark of his music — the music industry, political systems, Puerto Rico — it's also exceedingly vulnerable. The 28-time Latin GRAMMY and four-time GRAMMY winner opens up about depression and personal relationships, and confronts mortality.

Lead single "313" is inspired by Residente's late friend Valentina, whose voice appears in the first interlude. As Residente recounted to El País of Spain and GQ Spain, Valentina was a violist, and the last messages they exchanged on WhatsApp were at 3:13.

The song begins with a French verse, fulfilling Valentina’s wish, expressed in the first interlude, to do something in that language. "Les paroles n'ont pas d'importance," (words no longer matter), a female voice whispers, followed by a spectacular string arrangement.

Residente revisited older works during this period of creative transition, and the record features previously released tracks  "René," "This Is America," and "Quiero Ser Baladista."

 Las Letras Ya No Importan features many collaborations, with actress Penélope Cruz, Spanish singer Silvia Pérez Cruz, Rauw Alejandro, Ricky Martin, Christian Nodal, Arcángel, Jessie Reyez and others making appearances. Hip-hop icon Busta Rhymes is featured on "Cerebro," while Big Daddy Kane makes an appearance on "Estilo Libre" with Vico C.

GRAMMY.com spoke with Residente via Zoom about the process that led him to his second album, the symbolism behind "313" and the artistic connection to Spain.  

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What inspired you to create Las Letras Ya No Importan?

It’s an album that marks a musical transition for what’s coming for me. It feels diverse; it also has songs with which I may not feel as connected [to] now because several years have passed since I made them. There are newer songs with which I do connect, which have a bit more to do with the way I want to start working on my music in the future.

"René" is part of this album, even though it came out four years ago. This is an album I was going to release during the pandemic. 

We have "René," which is very personal; we have "313," which I also feel is personal; then "Ron en el piso," [a song about the passage] of time, the collaboration with Nodal ("Pólvora de Ayer") also touches on the theme of time, of enjoying everything.

You confront death in several songs. In "René," you sang about losing a friend; in "Ron en el piso," you see your funeral; and in "313," you draw inspiration from your late friend Valentina. What is it about death that inspires you?

It’s something I’ve been going through in recent years. I lost many people I love, and it made me much more reflective when it comes to understanding time, the things I want to do, and the things I’ve stopped doing.

That’s why I’m also transitioning to cinema. I’ve always wanted to make films, directing, being behind the scenes, not being on stage.  I’m crazy about dedicating myself entirely to that.

I discovered acting now in a movie I starred in [In the Summers] that won the Jury Award at Sundance. When I saw it, I didn’t know I was the protagonist until I watched it. [The film] encouraged me to follow that too, and I’m going to want to act, direct; I want to dedicate myself to that for a while fully.

The album has a lot of life, and even though the lyrics no longer matter, you still have much to tell. You already said the album is very personal, but how would you describe it?

I can describe it in two years, not right now. It’s transitional. That’s what happened with Calle 13; everything was a musical and lyrical change from the second album onwards.

Residente represented a fusion of world music and rap. Now, in this one, I’m using a lot of strings, cellos, and double bass. I’m going to experiment a lot with different instruments in different ways. I’m going to be creative without the need to balance the album.

What’s coming next doesn’t have that artistic pressure. The only artistic pressure I want to have is to do the highest I can, which happens organically, not feeling pressured but naturally.

I want to do art as I did in college [at Savannah College of Art and Design]. I was never thinking about people or trying to convince anyone, and I was completely free, and that’s what happened with "313." I had the freedom I always wanted to have.

There’s substantial symbolism in "313," from the faceless dancers, the color pink. What was your vision with the visuals?

The dancers represent time. Penélope [Cruz] can represent many things, from life to Valentina, my friend, who inspired me to make the song. Penélope controls me, holds me, flies me, brings me back, and then I decide to control my life and time. That’s why I raise my hands, and everyone raises them, and time is running out, and then you see a sunset.

Sunset marks the end of something. The colors of the costumes also have some dusk elements. You can see at the end when I’m disappearing; it fades and blends with the end of the sunset.

These are decisions I make that are both aesthetic and technical. I put masks on the dancers because I liked it aesthetically. It also helped me speed up the process with makeup. I had to find creative ways to maintain the video’s aesthetics and make everything more agile because in filming, everything is time, and I had little of it.

What’s the idea behind the song "Las Letras Ya No Importan?"The arrangement is magical, with a numerical sequence from one to eight in different languages and a voice spelling of the alphabet.

That was the initial track. Before "313," I had this idea that I dreamed of with some basic notes, and it turned into something big.

There’s a voiceover of Penélope [Cruz] that says that we were eight [people in the studio], we are on an 8th street in New York, in studio B, which, if you look at it, it resembles the number 8. Everything connected with eight and [that number] also at a time level can mark infinity. So, I connected all that with the immensity of letters and languages. That piece’s runtime is five minutes. I think it’s pleasurable. I like that music, which resembles what I want to do.

Leo Genovese, an excellent musician and musical genius, made the arrangements. I greatly respect him.

In "Cerebro," you showcase your skill and vocal speed; what was it like collaborating with Busta Rhymes, whose own flow is iconic?

We met, and he loved the concept of what I was working on. He was a very humble, good person to me. After we met in person and talked for a while, he went to write after I sent him everything I had written in English.

I created ["Cerebro"] a while ago…. That’s why I tell you that the album has several concepts that I had to let go of because it was too much, and a lot of time had passed. I had a previous concept when I released the song "René" [in 2020], which is why it’s on the album. [At that time] I was working with the brain waves of different animals and people, and I made music with those brain waves.

This song ["Cerebro"] is part of that, and that’s why it’s called "Cerebro." The album was originally going to go that route. Then I didn’t do it; maybe I’ll connect to it in the future because I loved that idea.

What has Spain meant to you? The country has been so prominent in the trailers you’ve released and in the collaborations in your latest songs.

I've been making frequent trips to Madrid. This past year, I was there a lot; I was more in Madrid than at home. I traveled, wrote, and filmed videos like "Problema cabrón" and "313."

 I grew up with Spanish cinema by Almodovar and a bunch of directors I admire, and I wanted to collaborate with the actors I grew up watching in movies.

This album has many personal elements, and cinema is very intimate for me. I saw [Penelope Cruz] in [the movie] Abre los ojos when I was a kid; working with her now is a dream. The same goes with Javier Cámara and Najwa (Nimri) [who is in the film] Lovers of the Arctic Circle by Julio Medem. I saw all these people, and now being able to collaborate with them, be friends with them, talk to them is a dream. Everything is very connected to my life.

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Arcángel

Photo: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

interview

On New Album 'Sentimiento, Elegancia y Más Maldad,' Arcángel Proves He's One Of Reggaetón’s Wittiest Innovators

"You become dexterous at building a reality with words," the reggaetón star says of his inventive flow. Those skills are on full display on Arcángel's brand new album, 'Sentimiento, Elegancia y Más Maldad.'

GRAMMYs/Nov 17, 2023 - 08:19 pm

Earlier this year, rapper and reggaetón star Arcángel collaborated with Bizarrap on one of the Argentine producer’s infamous sessions. A huge global hit, the track  — "Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 54" — reminded us all of Arcángel’s devilish sense of humor and the brilliant specificity of his flow: languid, sweetly melodic, loaded with inventive wordplay.

At 37, Austin Agustín Santos is a revered veteran of the urbano genre. Born in New York City, he eventually moved to Puerto Rico and experienced his first brush with fame as part of the reggaetón duo Arcángel & De la Ghetto. His first solo effort, 2008’s El Fenómeno, included the smash "Pa’Que La Pases Bien," heralding his affinity for cutting-edge EDM soundscapes. 

Arcángel never lost his Midas touch for generating memorable songs. Last year’s Sr. Santos included "La Jumpa," a kinetic duet with Bad Bunny, and the slick majesty of "PortoBello." Released Nov. 17, his new album, Sentimiento, Elegancia y Más Maldad, boasts high-profile collaborations with Peso Pluma (lead single "La Chamba"), Rauw Alejandro (the EDM-heavy “FP”), Grupo Frontera, Spanish rapper Quevedo, and Feid, among others.

At the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, Arcángel's "La Jumpa" received nods in the Best Urban Fusion/Performance and Best Urban Song categories; his Bizarrap session and their collaboration, "Bottas" were submitted were submitted as part of BZRP's Producer Of The Year nomination package.

Ahead of the release of his new album, Arcángel spoke with GRAMMY.com about his sophisticated rhymes, the trappings of fame, and the occasional bouts of self-doubt.

The rhymes on your Bizarrap session reference the Tower of Pisa, the shields of the gladiators in the Roman empire, Argentine soccer and luxury cars. How do you come up with this stuff?

It’s something that I’ve been developing since I was a kid. Here in Puerto Rico, we’re big fans of what we call palabreo (non-stop talk.) It’s also my Dominican blood, because people in the Dominican Republic are always making up things. 

When I was growing up, my mother fostered a love for reading in me, so I have a lot of information in my head that I can draw from. For instance, no one had referenced the Tower of Pisa in reggaetón before. I’d say a good 80 percent of reggaetoneros may not even know what the Tower of Pisa is. My mother worked hard so that I could get a good education.

Would you say the uniqueness of your style stems from those early years?

I grew up in a highly competitive environment. In the barrio, it was normal for us to improvise and mock each other in a friendly way. If you showed up with dirty sneakers, someone would rap about it. With so many years of practicing, it became a skill. There was a time when I wouldn’t come up to the barrio if I wasn’t well dressed, because I knew what I had to face. 

You become dexterous at building a reality with words — like an architect. I like everything to make sense in my rhymes. I become obsessive about it. The words don’t necessarily have to rhyme — as long as they have flow, style, and they make sense.

On the video of the Bizarrap session, we also get to witness your hilarious sense of humor. How did that part of your artistic identity develop?

I was raised in an environment marked by poverty, but there was also a lot of joy. We had nothing except for each other. Incredibly, I was happier then. I grew up feeling comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and that’s where my sense of humor comes from. I saw my Mom working two or three jobs so that she could put some food on the table. The only recourse I had to escape that reality was to make jokes and try to have a good time. 

When fortune and fame arrived, they provided a better lifestyle. But they also took away many things that I now miss — things that will never come back.

The last two albums contain some of your best material yet. Would it be fair to say that you’re enjoying a creative high?

The process of making music has become extremely hard for me during the past couple of years. I’m experiencing great success, but it also works as a kind of emotional torture, because my mental health is not the best. My own mind is the most formidable rival. I’m overwhelmed by the fear of not fulfilling the expectations that my fans may have. I’ve felt self-doubt, something that is entirely new to me. 

With all the experience I’ve amassed, I’m now at my most vulnerable. The act of creating felt so easy to me. Now, when the muse departs, it’s difficult to bring her back. Also, I’ve always preferred quality over quantity. Some of my peers are releasing three albums per year. I need to do some living in order to write new songs.

On the new album, the track with Rauw Alejandro (“FP”) is incredibly lush, seeped in atmosphere and EDM texture.

I sing about love because I’m a romantic. And I sing about partying because I definitely did a lot of that — too much, perhaps. [Laughs.] I used to be the kind of person who couldn’t stay home more than three hours. I harbor fond memories of that time — spending days away from home, the ambiance of it all, having a great time. 

When I write songs, I can definitely convince people that I’ve enjoyed all of that. In reality, these days I’m even a bit boring when it comes to partying.

2023 Latin GRAMMYs: See The Complete Nominations List