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No Days Off: Tainy Talks Dua Lipa Collab, Contributing To The 'SpongeBob' Soundtrack & More

Tainy

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No Days Off: Tainy Talks Dua Lipa Collab, Contributing To The 'SpongeBob' Soundtrack & More

The super-busy Puerto Rican producer has had a huge year—and he wants you to know his music no matter what language you speak

GRAMMYs/Aug 18, 2020 - 05:05 am

Have you heard of him yet? Tainy, the producer behind Cardi B's massive Latin-inspired hit "I Like It" with reggaeton superstars J Balvin and Bad Bunny, is making sure you won't miss out on his tracks no matter what language you speak. The Puerto Rican has become today's most recognized reggaeton producer, and he's continuing to push (and expand) his sound with some of English-language pop's biggest stars. Currently, you'll hear him on Balvin's catchy pop track "One Day" featuring megastar Dua Lipa and Bad Bunny.

The song landed the "Don't Start Now" singer her first No. 1 on a Billboard Latin Chart, but the collab is one that is no doubt elevating the producer as well, earning him his fourth song on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and the second on the chart with a leading lady (the other was with Selena Gomez, J Blavin and Benny Blanco's "I Can't Get Enough").

Of the "One Day" collab, Tainy says the U.K. singer was the missing ingredient. "I'm so grateful for her, for her talent and how she just gave this amazing energy to the song which elevated it to where we thought it needed to go," he told GRAMMY.com via Zoom. 

The song is just one of the exciting projects the producer has been cooking up. Another? Making SpongeBob perrear (Spanish slang for getting down to reggaeton) in the happy-go-lucky character's forthcoming 2021 movie, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.

But Tainy has more to share. He has also made the time to launch HumanX, an initiative with music executive Tommy Mottola and MITH Media, that is giving back to those in need. 

We spoke to Tainy about the new project benefitting migrant laborers that launched with David Guetta's help, expanding his sound through reggaeton, his vision for the SpongeBob soundtrack, how the pandemic has taken him back to his roots and more.

You've got a lot of awesome things going on. One thing is that you've launched Human X, which will support migrant day laborers. Tell me more about this initiative.

It's this movement we're trying to start to see how we can help our communities, help these different causes and organizations. For me, it's sometimes difficult to know where to go, how to do stuff. This is a way for us to use our platform, our music to put the message out there, to bring information to whoever wants to help different causes and doesn't know where to go to or how to do it. It's something special. I'm so proud to be a part of this and to bring this to the forefront because we're dealing [with] a lot of different issues right now. Being able to help in whatever [way] you feel you want to help is something special.

You launched the initiative with "Pa' La Cultura," with David Guetta which features Sofia Reyes, Abraham Mateo, De La Ghetto, Zion & Lennox, Manuel Turizo, Lalo Ebratt, Thalia and Maejor. Can we expect more tracks like these with big collabs?

It could happen. It's not something that we're ruling out, but I mean, for now the whole focus was giving it that stamp and that opening to what we want to do. And it could be something that could be in the works later on. But for now there hasn't been any talks about something specific. So, I mean, who knows? But we want to continue to help and [I'm] so glad that this started it all off.

You've chosen proceeds to go to the National Day Labor Organizing Network ( NDLON). What made you want to help migrant workers?

It's something that we feel very connected to. Since we're Latinos, we have a real connection to [migrant laborers]. Also, seeing how the pandemic is affecting [their work] on top [of that]. It's something that needs more immediate help and we're all aware on the team, so we wanted to come up with something that would really be helpful. We wanted to start off with this and also be able to just bring [awareness to] different issues at the same time and [give] different organizations a platform to spread [their] message. 

You also have "One Day"/ "Un Dia" with Dua Lipa, J. Balvin and Bad Bunny out, which recently hit number one on the Billboard Hot Latin charts. Do you ever have a day off? 

[Laughs.] I don't really know. I'm always trying to see what's next, work on different projects, whether it's with a specific artist or something that we want to create [within] our team. I just enjoy it so much and I'm happy to be working on something that I really enjoy. I don't really feel that I'm working sometimes. I want to create music. I know it's a difficult moment, and what better thing than to give us that little escape sometimes from reality with music that just fills us and brings that positive energy? I'm super blessed to be a part of something like this. 

Dua Lipa is a huge name. How was working with her?

She's amazing. I've been a huge fan of her music before even being able to collaborate with her. So it made it even more special to be in the track that featured her and also these amazing artists that I've been blessed to work with in the past. To combine all three in one track, it just made it even better. I'm so grateful for her, for her talent, and how she just gave this amazing energy to the song which elevated it to where we thought it needed to go. [I was] so happy that she also enjoyed it and she feels happy about the song. Hopefully, it's not the last time that I work on a track [with her], but [I'm] so happy that it happened with "One Day."

A lot of people expect a reggaeton sound from you, but this is not full-on reggaeton. Can you tell me what inspired the beat?

I'm always trying different ideas, different approaches to music. I am a fan of different types of music. People know me mainly for doing reggaeton and I always want to see how I can merge different sounds, different genres within the same one. You can probably feel there's a bit of the pattern with the percussion on "One Day" but at the same time, it doesn't feel exactly like a typical reggaeton beat. It has a totally different sound. That's what I wanted to bring with it, a totally different approach to what reggaeton should be and it just opened up this door to a different vibe and different artists giving their input, without it necessarily being a strict reggaeton track. It gave it a whole different space to be able to create and bring Dua Lipa's flavor and her artistry to the table. 

During our 2020 GRAMMY week panel in January, you talked about not wanting to be boxed in. How have your fans received the song?

From the ones I've heard from, the response has been amazing. It's always something different when you're bringing a song like this. It doesn't typically say reggaeton, so you don't know exactly what to expect. You don't know how people are going to approach it or feel. [Maybe it] is too different. But you just feel it when you hear a song and you get a feeling just hearing [this song]. I felt that people, as soon as they heard it would probably get the same sense and that feeling I heard when I was working on it. So glad that it did for a lot of people. [It's] not just having an artist like Dua Lipa collaborate with Latin artists, but to have an amazing song as a whole and the message it brings and what it's about. It's super cool to see people appreciate what we were trying to do. What we were trying to do to elevate the music, elevate the genre, elevate everything that we're doing and give us a chance to do so.

You also worked on Kali Uchis and Rico Nasty's "Aqui Yo Mando." Amazing collaboration. How did that come about?

I've always wanted to work with Kali. She has such a specific, amazing sound that I've been a fan of and that's another one that people probably don't feel what I've been doing combines exactly with her sound. But we gave us the time, we came together, we decided that we want to go into a studio for a couple of weeks and just like, "Let's create music." She wanted to really bring in her Latin heritage and put it at the forefront. It was cool to see how she works, her process, and just her tone and her melodies, her everything. It's such a different approach to what I usually work with. So, [I'm] excited for that collaboration.

I think it's the second one because "Solita" already came out and now we've got "Aqui Yo Mando" with Rico Nasty. I mean, it's such an amazing track. I worked the production with Albert Hype, who's also an amazing producer. I can't wait for you guys to hear the rest of it. It's just mind-blowing. It's just a different vibe of than that's happening out there right now. I'm so excited and happy to be able to be a part of it and her trusting me. Can't wait.

You're also executive producing the forthcoming SpongeBob movie soundtrack. What does it mean for you to be doing that?

It's a dream come true. As a producer, you work on artists' albums and just strictly music per se, but you want to have those goals of achieving being on a soundtrack or working for a movie. That's the next step for me. I've seen people that I admire, like Pharrell Williams do it, and that's something that I've always had in mind that, "Wow, someday I would like to be in that position," because I'm a huge fan of cinematography and the film industry. So it's something that I always had in mind and got the opportunity rose [to start working] on this new film.

My team had the opportunity to sit down with them and see what they were looking for and see where we can come in and be of help. They gave us the chance and I started to go into the studio. I'm going to say it was intimidating at the beginning because you have such a big franchise and to merge it into what we're doing, how would that sound? But as soon as I sat down and I started doing my thing, I think everything just felt so easygoing because I just had fun working on it, having Bob be on the track and him have his input. It was just a fun process because we all grew up watching SpongeBob. So it just felt natural to go in and know what to talk about and how to do it and what energy to bring with the music. Excited that they gave us a chance and that people are connecting amazingly with it. At the beginning I thought it would just be for kids or something, but it's all ages. You just have fun when you listen to the song and you can see the TikToks and the Instagram posts and everything. 

Speaking of J Balvin and "Agua," you're from a tropical paradise. Did that influence the sound of that song?

I mean, probably. It's tropical, we're surrounded by water all the time. We have amazing beaches. I think you can get [the vibe] from our music. Reggaeton comes from happiness, dancing and  a tropical [place]. All these combinations come into play. I think it helped a lot to have that essence in me before going into working on it. I think it was a huge component of being able to do it successfully.

Can you tell us anything more about the approach you use for the soundtrack?

I wanted to stay true to the franchise. Who SpongeBob is. You have all of these specific theme songs in the opening and during the end. So you have a lot of special things to work with. If you have the tools and the studio gave us all the tools to work with. As soon as we started with the first one, which was, "Agua," the ball started rolling. Ideas and, "We can use this sound or this melody and combine it with these types of drums or this type of groove and basslines. And this artist will be perfect for this." So it was just an amazing, fun process of coming up with ideas. Knowing what the franchise is about and who could really deliver that message. 

Has it been tough getting used to the new normal as you continue making music?  

For me, the first couple two or three weeks were a bit difficult because we were dependent on our creativity and when you have your mind in so many different things on what is happening, what's going to happen, how long is this going to happen? It was just a sense of not knowing. I feel like the creativity wasn't there, and after a while, I just settled. I got a little bit, not used to, but I started understanding a bit more that we're going to be here for a while. We just need to make the most out of this. I think it brought me back a little bit to my beginnings when I started to produce music, it was just me and my room and my mom's house and having all these ideas and coming up with four or five beats in a single day. It's just you by yourself, you're not with the artists in the studio. You will probably focus on one song the whole day. It just felt cool to go back to that essence of trading ideas and having instrumentals to show to the artists or talking with them through texts and seeing where they're at, what they're looking for and being able to sit down, relax and just create. We're usually in the studio all the time anyways, so I think it's been easier for me than probably other people in their jobs or their careers. 

When you were a teen working with Luny Tunes, did you ever think you would get to this point where you are now?

No. Never, never in a million years. I sit back sometimes and try to watch where my mind was when I start working. I mean, most of the things that I've been able to achieve or do at this point, they didn't seem like a possible thing. My thing was to have Luny Tunes [be] what I'm doing and appreciate it. That, to me, was one of the goals. Having Wisin Y Yandel or Daddy Yankee say that what I'm doing is dope and give me an opportunity and being able to work in this and not just do it as a hobby—I think those were my goals. Then, learning about certain things, you start to get a little bit of more achievements. But I mean, there's a lot that didn't even seem possible to me. Being on the Hot 100 of Billboard, to me, that's something that, us as Latinos, weren't even able to be on. Our chart was the Hot Latin songs. It's an amazing accomplishment, but it's something that we didn't have in mind because I thought it wasn't possible. Thank God and thanks to the artists, I've been able to be there and have a number one song. It just goes to show you that when you just keep pushing and working and putting your heart into it, you can accomplish things that you didn't even think of. I'm super happy and grateful.

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 Playlist: Featuring Shakira, Peso Pluma, Karol G, Bad Bunny, Feid, & More
(Top row) J Balvin, Romeo Santos, Christian Nodal, Kali Uchis, Anitta (Bottom row) Grupo Firme, Yahritza y Su Esencia

Photos: (Top row) Jaime Nogales Medios y Media/Getty Images; Latin GRAMMYs/Getty; Erika Goldring/Getty Images; Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Coachella; Mike Coppola/Getty Images (Bottom row) David Livingston/Getty Images; JOSE ALAVEZ

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 Playlist: Featuring Shakira, Peso Pluma, Karol G, Bad Bunny, Feid, & More

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, listen to 50 songs by groundbreaking artists from the U.S., Latin America, and Spain.

GRAMMYs/Sep 22, 2023 - 01:50 pm

Latin music continues to make incredible strides, as language barriers between the world and music in Spanish and Portuguese become a thing of the past. 

After going through a difficult chapter in her life, Shakira found healing and empowerment through her anthems, including her surprise collaboration with Argentine producer Bizarrap. Karol G made history in March when her album Mañana Será Bonito debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. She became the first woman to top the chart with an all-Spanish LP.

Regional Mexican music became a global force this year thanks to the success of acts like Peso Pluma, Eslabon Armado, Grupo Frontera, Fuerza Regida, and Yahritza y Su Esencia. Many of them argue that Mexican music is no longer regional. Also, Feid, Myke Towers, and Young Miko have become breakthrough stars with their music being streamed on the same level as heavy-hitters in English. 

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, GRAMMY.com is celebrating Latin music through the biggest and most impactful songs of 2023.  Below, take a listen to 50 songs by Latin artists from the U.S., Latin America, and Spain —- including "BZRP Music Sessions, Vol. 53" and "Ella Baila Sola" — on Amazon, Apple Music, Pandora and the Spotify playlist below.

Teddy Swims Is Letting Himself Be Brutally Honest On 'I've Tried Everything But Therapy'
Teddy Swims

Photo: Aaron Marsh

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Teddy Swims Is Letting Himself Be Brutally Honest On 'I've Tried Everything But Therapy'

As the world continues to discover the magnitude of Teddy Swims' soulful voice, he realized the power of opening up and letting go with his debut album, 'I've Tried Everything But Therapy.'

GRAMMYs/Sep 21, 2023 - 04:38 pm

Four years into his career, Teddy Swims made a promise to himself to be more honest. With that in mind, he decided to be unflinchingly real with his debut album title: I've Tried Everything But Therapy.

While the title may be true for now, Swims is incredibly vulnerable. Across 10 tracks, he divulges the raw emotions of heartbreak, from reeling over what could've been in opener "Some Things I'll Never Know" to leaning into new love — while still in repair — on closer "Evergreen."

"It's the most honest I've ever let myself be," Swims, born Jaten Dimsdale, says of the album. "I'm proud of it, and I'm proud of myself. And it's a f—ing relief to just get it off my shoulders."

For someone who bares his soul in his music, both lyrically and vocally, it's rather surprising to think that he wouldn't be the type for therapy. But now that the album is out, his next step is seeking professional help — another promise he made to himself upon choosing the candid title.

In the meantime, Swims is already seeing the impact of being more and more open in his music. "Lose Control," the album's lead single, has earned Swims his first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 and first solo radio hit (in 2022, his Meghan Trainor collab "Bad For Me" reached No. 15 on Billboard's Adult Pop Airplay chart). But perhaps more notably, his powerful vocal runs on the song's dynamic chorus are stopping listeners in their tracks. As one YouTube commenter put it, "Man has a voice that speaks to the core of your soul."

Just before the album's arrival, Swims talked with GRAMMY.com about how I've Tried Everything But Therapy has helped him understand the impact of wearing his insecurities on his sleeve — and how his bewitchingly soulful voice ties it all together. 

How does this album feel different from what you've put out before this, whether it's lyrically or sonically, or even how you feel mentally based around the process?

I feel like this is maturity. I can listen to these songs and I feel proud of them. 

Everybody kinda doesn't like their own voice, you know? But I feel like I belong on those songs, and nobody could say what I needed to say the way I could say it. I feel like I'm saying something that I need to say and get off my chest in an entirely different way than I ever have. 

I'm kind of an emotional toddler. I'm getting more of a grasp on what I want to say and how to say it, how to talk about my feelings more. I feel like the more I do it, the longer I do it, the more honest I become, the more I get out of the way of things. I'm learning to get out of the way and let the creative flow just be what it is now.

Going into writing this album, like, what were you going through? And did you have a goal in mind about what you wanted the album to be?

I really didn't know at the time. In the last four years, I've written maybe four or five hundred songs. I didn't write it knowing that it was an album, or write it knowing that this was going to be the album; but more so, when it started coming together, it just felt like things fell into place. 

I realized that I've been circling around the same feelings and emotions for a very long time. It's always about — I was in a very toxic relationship, and I have been a lot in my life. This is me kind of learning that I can be loved, and that I am beautiful, and I deserve love. That's kind of what the struggle is and always has been.

The album title is interesting to me, because so many artists compare songwriting to therapy. But has songwriting always felt like therapy for you? 

Songwriting can be therapeutic if you have a feeling that you need to get out, and you write that feeling down, and you get it out. But what I tend to do a lot in my life, I'll write it down into a song, and then I'll write it into another song from a different perspective. And I'll write it down 100 different ways, in 100 different perspectives, to the point that it ends up that that small problem has now turned into the biggest problem in my life, because I've thought about so many different ways. 

Instead of being more therapeutic, [songwriting has] been more of a way of highlighting what I'm going through, sometimes way too much.

The title itself was kind of a promise to myself that I would go to therapy when the album comes out. I think it's something that everyone can benefit from, especially me. But there's still something about me — maybe it's a generational mindset, like, I'm not crazy, I don't need that, or maybe there's answers to questions I don't really want to ask that I'm gonna get. 

I like my coping mechanisms. I like how I am and who I am when I do cope. So there's a part of me that's afraid that I'll have to change.

But I made a promise to myself, put a deadline on myself where I'll go and I'll seek help, and I'll try. It's also me being honest and open about that, to you and to everyone, that I'm like, "I need help, that's okay." I'm gonna ask for help, and that's a liberating and equally terrifying thing.

The nice thing is, there has been a lot more public acceptance of mental health in recent years. How have you felt that change since you started releasing music, and how has it impacted your songwriting?

I think what's so great about our industry these days is that I'm not held to the same standard as, like, Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson, where I have to be such a star, and you don't know anything about me. These days, as an artist, I get to be absolutely insecure and absolutely terrified, and it's what makes my artistry beautiful. And people that feel the way I feel can look at me and say, "That guy's so insecure, and he's so scared. But he's doing it, and we want him to win." 

I don't want to swallow my insecurities. I don't have to wait until I feel like I'm worthy of love to put myself out there. Every bit of insecurity, and everything that's going on in my life, I'm allowed to just wear it and put it on for everybody to see. That has helped me in more ways than me trying to be anything I'm not.

You've said that for a long time, you worried about giving too much of yourself in your music, but seeing people connect to the music has made you realize it's actually making a difference. When did you start realizing that? 

I am very lucky — every show we do, I have a meet and greet where I can talk to 100 people, and they tell me things that have changed their life, ways that I've affected them, and the ways that I've touched their lives. 

I also want them to know that I'm just that fat kid from Rockdale County, Georgia, and still feels like that. And they make me be able to be honest and have an outlet to turn my trauma into something positive in me. 

I feel like I learn it more and more every day that I am in a safe space, and I've created a safe space for people, and I become safer in that all the time. And I'm becoming more honest with myself, with them, in the safe space. It's just sacred, you know?

Was there a song of yours that kind of opened that up for you, because of the way that people connected to it? 

I've had a few like that, but "Simple Things" that I released on one of my EPs is still a song I sing all the time. I thought the verses were only specific to my life and what I was going through — that was the first time I was honest, and I wrote from only what I was going through specifically to my life, and that connected and did more for people than anything I did [previously]. 

You've said that you're insecure, but would you consider yourself an introvert?

I think the more that I do this, the more I become one. I used to be the biggest extrovert in the world, but the more I do this job, the more I have to be social, I feel myself becoming more of an introvert. 

Well, I brought that up because so many artists consider themselves introverts, when you are pouring your heart out in music that is then heard by thousands, if not millions, of people. Has that dichotomy ever crossed your mind? 

Yeah, but that's kind of why I think I've become more introverted, because I gotta figure out what's still mine or if there should be anything that I should hold to myself. That is the question: What is still for me, or should there still be anything just for me?

That's so interesting to think about — I've never really thought about the battle that an artist can have when they share so much. Because it's like, at that point, you're so exposed, how are you even supposed to function as a private person in any regard? 

Yeah. You figure it out, you let me know. [Laughs.]

It's cool that you're feeling so proud of this album, though, because I'd say that means that you haven't gone too far. 

It's the most honest I've ever let myself be. And I don't feel exposed — I just feel like I said what I needed to say.

I've heard that I've Tried Everything But Therapy is coming in multiple parts and this is just part one. Is that true?

Yeah, we're planning on part two, but I don't know what that looks like yet. But I want to put out more music. And I think I want to come from a different place of what I've learned from how I've healed. I just don't feel like this story's done yet. 

But you said you're going to start therapy after this album releases — so you're going to release a part two of I've Tried Everything But Therapy after you've been in therapy?

Yeah, I guess that doesn't make sense. But it will!

It would be kind of interesting to have part two be the response to therapy after you have done it.

Yeah, exactly. That's the vibe. Maybe we just go straight to part three and skip part two altogether. 

Before you even released part one, people were going crazy over "Lose Control" because of how soulful you sound on it. When did you realize you had such a captivating voice?

It wasn't really a realization — I was bad for a long time. But I love this, and I wanted this, so I worked hard to become good at it. I wanted to be the best I could at it, because using my voice means everything to me, and I want to know how to do everything I can with it. 

Well, you're doing something right, because people are exclaiming about it left and right. I saw a comment on one of your Instagram posts that said, "I just threw my shoe across my damn office, you better sing!" Do you feel the power of your own music?

I know, technically and dynamically, I am a good singer. When I listen to myself, I can't say I can't sing, because it's all there. Any singer or vocal coach could tell "That kid knows what he's doing. He can sing his ass off." 

But also, there's part of me that still doesn't like my voice, too, just like anyone else. And I think that might be why I became so good at it. Because I want to hear it and be like, "Well, you can't tell yourself you ain't good, 'cause that was f—ing — that takes skill." I've learned enough to know that I can't tell myself I'm bad. [Laughs.]

And I have to say, I've been impressed with all of the people you've posted singing their own versions of "Lose Control."

People can sing! And people have been writing verses to it too. The love on it has been so rewarding.

I feel very justified [that the music] is connecting. I feel like it's already helping. I feel very humbled, appreciated and loved.

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Latin GRAMMYs 2023: Song Of The Year Nominees — Read Them Here
Art for the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs

Graphic Courtesy of the Latin Recording Academy

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Latin GRAMMYs 2023: Song Of The Year Nominees — Read Them Here

Here are the nominees for Song Of The Year at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, which will air Thursday, Nov. 16 from Sevilla, Spain.

GRAMMYs/Sep 19, 2023 - 01:25 pm

The Latin Recording Academy has announced the complete list of nominees for the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, and the race for Song Of The Year is on.

The prestigious Category features this year’s most-nominated artist, Mexican American songwriter and producer Edgar Barrera, who earned an impressive 13 nods. It also includes three Colombian singers who have collaborated with Barrera Karol G, Camilo, Shakira — the latter of whom set a record as the first artist to have three entries in Latin GRAMMYs' Song Of The Year Category.

The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs show will also make history, as the Thursday, Nov. 16, ceremony will be the first-ever international telecast in the history of the organization and awards, broadcasting from the Conference and Exhibition Centre (FIBES) in Sevilla, Spain.

Read on to learn more about the 10 bops nominated for Song Of The Year, and the artists and songwriters that penned them. (All lyrics noted below are translated from Spanish.)

Read More: 2023 Latin GRAMMYs: See The Complete Nominations List

"Acróstico" — Kevyn Mauricio Cruz Moreno, L.E.X.U.Z, Luis Fernando Ochoa & Shakira, songwriters (Shakira)

"Acróstico," the third lead single from Shakira's upcoming 12th studio album, is a heartfelt love letter to her young sons Milan and Sasha, in the wake of her split from their father Gerard Piqué. The tear-jerking ballad features her sons' vocals.

The track's Spanish title translates to acrostic, which is a poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word — and in Shakira's song, the opening lyrics spell out Milan. "This year Milan has written songs that have made me tear up, and Sasha has dedicated hours playing the piano and discovering his voice. Both have spent some time with me in the studio, and upon hearing this song, they've asked to be part of it," she wrote in Spanish in an Instagram post about the song.

Shakira co-wrote the song with a powerhouse team of Colombian gold:Keityn and L.e.x.u.z, of La Crème collective, and longtime collaborator Luis Fernando Ochoa, who first linked with Shakira back in 1995 on Pies Descalzos. (Keityn, born Kevyn Mauricio Cruz Moreno, also worked on two of Shakira's other big 2023 hits and Song Of The Year contenders: the record-breaking "Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53" with Bizarrap and "TQG" with Karol G.)

"Amigos" – Pablo Alborán & María Becerra, songwriters (Pablo Alborán Featuring María Becerra)

Spanish singer/songwriter Pablo Alborán linked up with Argentian reggaetónera María Becerra on "Amigos," a platonic love song to the friend that always has your back — and makes life a party. They wrote the sweet, vibey song together for his late-2022 album, La cuarto hoja.

"Amigos" opens with a chilled guitar instrumental, building up to an anthemic shout-it-with-your-bestie chorus: "I can see life in color/ the whole neighborhood looks at us/ We drink the hours as if it were liquor."

"De Todas Las Flores" – Natalia Lafourcade, songwriter (Natalia Lafourcade)

On "De Todas Las Flores," the title track of Natalia Lafourcade's first album of all original music in seven years, she beautifully paints the picture of a lost love. "Of all the flowers we plant/ There are only a few left/ Every morning they wonder/ When you will arrive to sing to them," she sings over sparse, tenderly melancholic instrumentation.

The backing vocals offer ethereal ooohs and ahhhs, like the fading memories shared with the lover no longer there. The Latin GRAMMY- and GRAMMY-winning Mexican singer/songwriter has always been a compelling storyteller, and it's a joy to hear her rich voice share new sonic poems on the project she's called an "extremely personal musical diary."

"Ella Baila Sola" – Pedro Julian Tovar Oceguera, songwriter (Eslabon Armado, Peso Pluma)

"Ella Baila Sola" (or, she dances alone) was written by 20-year-old Pedro Tovar, lead singer of Mexican regional band Eslabon Armado. It's about two friends noticing a pretty girl at a party, and one of them winning her affection.

The song features rapidly rising Mexican singer/rapper Peso Pluma, who is bringing Mexican corridos worldwide, fused with reggaetón and Latin trap. The dynamo pairing has helped "Ella Baila Sola" have a massive, record-breaking run; after it went viral on TikTok, it became the first regional Mexican song to reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 (reaching No. 4) and the first performed on late-night TV. It was also the most-streamed song globally on Spotify this summer, and second-most streamed song in the U.S.

"NASA" – Édgar Barrera, Camilo & Alejandro Sanz, songwriters (Camilo & Alejandro Sanz)

On "NASA," Latin GRAMMY-winning Colombian singer/songwriter Camilo teams up with Latin GRAMMY- and GRAMMY-winning Spanish star Alejandro Sanz to ask his lover for forgiveness for what he admits is unwarranted jealousy.

"I know/ That NASA has cameras rotating in space/ They spend day and night looking up and down/ And I'm about to call and ask for a job/ To see if I relax." It's a tender, vulnerable love song with playful lyrics exchanged back-and-forth by the two Spanish-language crooners, who also co-wrote the song together.

"Ojos Marrones" – Luis Jiménez, Lasso & Agustín Zubillaga, songwriters (Lasso)

"It's the first time/ I invited someone/ Since you left/ And I'm fine," Lasso opens on "Ojos Marrones," before revealing he's only kinda sorta fine. "Nothing is the same / Nothing is the same/ Nothing/ without your brown eyes," Lasso repeats empathetically in the chorus.

It's a sunset-hued pop rock heater with dreamy guitar licks reminiscent of those in Chris Issak's classic "Wicked Game." The Venezuelan singer/songwriter paired up Luis Jiménez and Agustín Zubillaga to pen the impactful track about trying — and failing — to get over an ex with a new lover, which is featured on his latest album, Eva. The track went viral on TikTok after a user compared its narrative to Justin Bieber's relationships, and its success spawned a remix with Sebastian Yatra.

"Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53" – Santiago Alvarado, Bizarrap, Kevyn Mauricio Cruz & Shakira, songwriters (Bizarrap Featuring Shakira)

It's an understatement to say that Shakira has had a momentous year. As she went through a very public separation — and tabloids across the globe zeroed in on her every move and social media post — she proved yet again she's a global pop superstar at the top of her game.

She started the year off with the viral "Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53," a sassy, synth-pop clap back at her ex. In just 24 hours, it garnered over 15 million streams on Spotify to top the platform's Top 50 global list, and the video saw over 55 million views on YouTube, the record for a Spanish-language track.

On it, she asserts herself and reclaims her power — who needs trashy gossip rags when Shakira is here to tell it like it is? "A she-wolf like me/ isn't for guys like you," the Colombian queen declares. "I was out of your league/ That's why you're/ With someone just like you," also coming for her ex's new girlfriend (the Casio he traded in for a Rolex, as Shaki put it). The fiery diss track came out of a session with forever-sunglassed Argentinan DJ and producer Bizarrap. They co-wrote the song with Keityn and Santiago Alvarado.

"Si Tú Me Quieres" – Fonseca, Yadam González & Yoel Henríquez, songwriters (Fonseca & Juan Luis Guerra)

It was a dream of Latin GRAMMY-winning Colombian singer/songwriter Fonseca to collab with Latin GRAMMY- and GRAMMY-winning Dominican superstar Juan Luis Guerra. "Si Tú Me Quieres" is a sweet tropical pop love song, a gorgeous result of Fonseca's dream brought to life.

It was co-produced by Colombian pop/rock king Juanes, and was co-written by Fonseca with two Latin GRAMMY-winning songwriter/producers: Puerto Rican Yoel Henríquez and Cuban Yadam González. When Fonseca finished the initial demo, he imagined Luis Guerra's distinctive voice on it, who quickly agreed to join in on it. They bring their voices, styles and homelands together for a joyful fiesta, with delightful touches of Colombian vallenato and Dominican bachata.

"Tqg" – Kevyn Mauricio Cruz, Karol G, Ovy On The Drums & Shakira, songwriters (Karol G Featuring Shakira)

Shakira and Keityn strike again — this time alongside Colombian reggaetónera Karol G, and her regular collaborator Ovy On The Drums.

On "TQG," Karol G and Shakira link up for the first time and come for their exes, reminding them who's on top. "You left and I went triple 'M'/ Much hotter, much tougher, much more class," Shakira sings defiantly.

"TQG" stands for te quedó grande, which roughly means too much for you to handle, and is featured on Karol's fourth album, MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO. When Karol saw the gossip fodder about Shakira, she knew she was the perfect collaborator to add fire to the reggaetón diss track,which she wrote with Keityn and Ovy during the same session of "Mamiii," her collab with Becky G.

"Un X100to" – Bad Bunny, Édgar Barrera, Marco Daniel Borrero & Andrés Jael Correa Ríos, songwriters (Grupo Frontera Featuring Bad Bunny)

With "un x100to," Grupo Frontera, a Texas-based regional Mexican band specializing in norteños, struck gold and brought regional Mexican music to the top of the charts. The song peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Hot 100 — the fifth regional Mexican song ever to chart on it — with a little help from Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny.

Frontera lead singer Adelaido "Payo" Solis II and Bad Bunny sing passionately about trying to reconnect with an ex with a harrowing 1 percent battery left on their phone, on a playful romp that mixes norteño and cumbia. What makes the track even more remarkable is that Grupo Frontera didn't know Bad Bunny would be on the track until he appeared at the music video shoot — proving that sometimes the most impactful collabs can come from an unexpected pairing.

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Justin Timberlake's Biggest Songs, From His Best *NSYNC Moments To The Solo Smashes
Justin Timberlake performs during the 2022 Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Gala in October 2022.

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Justin Timberlake's Biggest Songs, From His Best *NSYNC Moments To The Solo Smashes

As rumors swirl about a new Justin Timberlake album and *NSYNC fans pray for a reunion tour, revisit the defining songs that have made JT one of pop's greats.

GRAMMYs/Sep 18, 2023 - 08:23 pm

From the moment Justin Timberlake first stepped into the spotlight at just 11 years old, his star power was strikingly apparent. Initially dabbling in country music on Star Search, he further displayed his knack for performing on The Mickey Mouse Club in 1993 and 1994 before being  recruited for the boy band *NSYNC in 1995 — and soon, he was on his way to pop domination.

As the group's popularity soared and they sold over 70 million records worldwide, so did Timberlake's solo appeal. With his curly blond hair and falsetto that would make Michael Jackson proud, he became a defining figure in the late '90s/early 2000s zeitgeist. He took the lead in several *NSYNC songs and progressively developed his songwriting skills, hinting to the world that he was a star of his own right. 

By the time <em>NSYNC halted in early 2002, Timberlake's solo career was not a mere possibility, but an undeniable next step. A few months later, he released his debut album, Justified*, which set the stage for one of the most innovative, defining artists of his time. In the two decades since, Timberlake has released five studio albums (with a sixth reportedly on the way), sold more than 88 million records, collaborated with the likes of Jay-Z and Madonna, and won 10 GRAMMYs. It's hard to imagine pop music today without his contributions.

Although Timberlake has periodically taken some time off music to focus on his family, acting and producing, a comeback was always around the corner. Last week, for example, he reunited with *NSYNC at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards and confirmed the release of their first new song in 20 years, "Better Place," out Sept. 29. 

He also recently reunited with Nelly Furtado and Timbaland for "Keep Going Up," the long-awaited follow-up to their 2007 smash "Give It To Me." Timbaland — a longtime collaborator of Timberlake's — further teased what's to come for JT, telling Variety that Timberlake's next album is "finished up" and sounds like "FutureSex/LoveSounds part two."

To celebrate these upcoming chapters, as well as Timberlake's boundless creativity, GRAMMY.com looks back at the most defining songs in his trailblazing career.

"Pop," Celebrity (2001)

A response to all the animosity surrounding the success of late 90s' boy bands, "Pop" gave us *NSYNC at their most "no strings attached." Composed by Timberlake in partnership with choreographer, director, and songwriter Wade Robson, it blended electropop, metal riffs and Timberlake's signature beatboxing into a thrilling, limitless portrait of what being a pop star really means.

"It doesn't matter/ 'Bout the clothes I wear, and where I go, and why/ All that matters/ Is that you get hyped, and we'll do it to you every time," Timberlake sings in the pre-chorus. As the first single off <em>NSYNC's last album, 2001's Celebrity*, "Pop" foreshadowed key elements of Timberlake's burgeoning success — setting sights on his impending, hit-filled solo career.

"Gone," Celebrity (2001)

Another collaboration between Timberlake and Robson for Celebrity, "Gone" remains one of the most stirring ballads of the new millennium. Originally written for Michael Jackson, who passed on the offer — but later regretted it, as Timberlake told Oprah's Master Class Podcast in 2014 — "Gone" was the first and only *NSYNC single where Timberlake sings all the lead vocals and plays the music video protagonist.

Although its success led to a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 2002's GRAMMY Awards, the song unveiled uncomfortable feelings about the future of the group. If *NSYNC were to halt activities, it laid bare the fact that Timberlake could survive — and thrive — as a soloist just as well.

"Like I Love You," Justified (2002)

As many suspected, <em>NSYNC did go into a hiatus after the release of Celebrity, and Timberlake's much-anticipated solo debut came shortly after. In November 2002, he released the studio album Justified*, spearheaded by lead single "Like I Love You."

Pairing his penmanship with producer duo the Neptunes, Timberlake found an exquisite recipe to express himself. "Like I Love You" posed a sleek introduction to a fully-developed star, mixing funk drums, pop beats, Spanish guitars, sultry falsettos, and a participation by hip-hop duo Clipse. Coincidentally landing the same spot on the Billboard Hot 100 as "Gone" at No. 11, "Like I Love You" showed that Timberlake was able — and ready — to hold his own.

"Cry Me a River," Justified (2002)

If "Like I Love You" was an introduction to Justin Timberlake the soloist, follow-up single "Cry Me a River" cemented him as 2002's main character. A vengeful opera inspired by his former (and very high-profile) relationship with Britney Spears, Timberlake showed his spiteful side — one that would later resurface on his second album, FutureSex/LoveSounds.

The poignancy of his feelings is aided by producers Timbaland and Scott Storch, who crafted a haunting synthscape filled with wails and warnings. In the music video, Timberlake finally sheds his good-boy image, breaking into a Spears look-alike's mansion to film steamy moments of himself with another woman. 

On top of giving the audience much to think about, "Cry Me a River" gave Timberlake one his first two solo GRAMMY Awards in 2003: the song won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, and Justified won Best Pop Vocal Album.

"Señorita," Justified (2002)

Justified offered hit after hit, and although "Señorita" wasn't the biggest (it peaked at No. 27 on the Hot 100), it's still a Timberlake staple. The song highlighted Timberlake's commitment to go beyond expectations, as he created his own deconstructed salsa, pushing and pulling vocals around the Neptunes' unmistakable drum beats and Stevie Wonder influences.

While singles like "Rock Your Body" may have found more popularity, "Señorita" and its odd little strutting intro is instantly recognizable — and remains one of Timberlake's best displays of the fun he has in the studio . The call-and-response section at the end, where Timberlake directs "the fellas and the ladies" to sing in different vocal tones, is the cherry on top of it all.

"SexyBack," FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

Four years after Justified, Timberlake returned raunchier than ever: "I'm bringing sexy back," he sings in the opening line of "SexyBack," unknowingly birthing 2006's ultimate catchphrase. The first single off his highly-acclaimed sophomore album, FutureSex/LoveSounds, "SexyBack" became Timberlake's first No.1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, and further solidified the finesse of his collaborations with Timbaland.

Scurrying through a suffocating dance floor, "SexyBack" distorts everything it touches, creating a cybernetic atmosphere where Timberlake will both "let you whip me, if I misbehave" and make you "watch how I attack." Timbaland's low vocals bounce off Timberlake's high-pitched lines and make for a breathless, sweaty run.

"My Love," FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

Timberlake achieved his second consecutive Hot 100 No.1 with "My Love,"  a song that has been defined by many as the sequel to "Cry Me a River." Although borrowing from the same insistent staccato beats, "My Love" is rather a happier, snappier version of it. Gone is the desire for retaliation — Timberlake is now focused on the sweet highs of a promising relationship.

"All I want you to do is be my love," he sings over masterful production by Nate "Danja" Hills and Timbaland, who infuse the track with quirky distortions, beatboxing and a slow beat juxtaposed to Timberlake's frenzy. Atlanta rapper T.I. also adds contrast to the track, delivering a stack of verses that contrast Timberlake's lyrics and add to the multifaceted perceptions of love. If Timberlake's lines represent one's heart soaring with possibility, the other elements of the song keep it grounded, reminding us that true love runs steady.

"What Goes Around... Comes Around," FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

The true "Cry Me a River" sequel lays on the grandiose "What Goes Around... Comes Around." Despite the single's lofty arrangements and a cinematic music video starring Scarlett Johansson, Timberlake is still heartbroken.

However, instead of seeking revenge by his own hands, he now trusts karma to take care of his lover's wrongdoings. The circular, haunting motifs of the lyrics are repeated through synth loops and Turkish strings.

"What Goes Around... Comes Around" is one of FutureSex/LoveSounds' standouts, bridging the catchy sounds of Justified with more experimental nuances. It also seemed to resonate with listeners, as it landed the singer his third consecutive chart-topper.

"LoveStoned," FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

While violins surely can provide a sultry mood, it's not often that they will be paired with beatboxing and funky bass — which makes "LoveStoned" a peculiar feat.

One of Timberlake's most provocative tracks off FutureSex/LoveSounds, it could also be defined as a bolder cousin to 2002's "Rock Your Body" due to its rushing, disco-esque energy. Along an easygoing progression, it carries Timbaland's trademark vibes and fiery lyrics about what the internet would call a "baddie" nowadays ("She's bad, and she knows," Timberlake sings).

Originally named "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows (Interlude)," the track swiftly slows down in the last two minutes, where an Interpol-inspired guitar solo flourishes, offering a hazy conclusion to an innovative pop expedition.

"Suit & Tie (feat. Jay-Z)" The 20/20 Experience, (2013)

After wrapping up his highly successful FutureSex/LoveShow world tour in 2007, Timberlake took some time off to focus on acting and producing for other musicians. Following a six-year musical hiatus, he released his third studio album in 2013, The 20/20 Experience, led by the steamy "Suit & Tie," featuring rapper Jay-Z.

The single is anchored by samples of Sly, Slick and Wicked's 1972 song "Sho' Nuff" and swirls around a matured, glistening R&B production by Timberlake, Timbaland and J-Roc. It's the most sophisticated that Timberlake has sounded, accompanied by a fittingly classy, black-and-white music video — which won a GRAMMY for Best Music Video in 2014.

"Mirrors," The 20/20 Experience, (2013)

The second single off The 20/20 Experience, "Mirrors" was written back in 2009 and inspired by Timberlake's relationship with wife Jessica Biel, as well as his grandparents' six-decade marriage. Although the sounds harken back to "Cry Me a River" at times, the lyrics reveal that Timberlake is no longer bitter, but instead very much in love: "Now, you're the inspiration of this precious song/ And I just wanna see your face light up since you put me on/ So now I say goodbye to the old me, it's already gone."

Paired with an emotional music video, "Mirrors" is a defining landmark in Timberlake's discography, showing how personal growth impacted his music for the better. Alongside trusty producers Timbaland and J-Roc, he proved that it's possible to turn an eight-minute prog-soul aria into a timeless, effortlessly catchy love song.

"Drink You Away," The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 (2013)

Six months after the release of The 20/20 Experience, in September 2013, Timberlake dropped the second half of the album, The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2. Out of its four singles (which also included "Take Back the Night," "TKO," and "Not a Bad Thing"), "Drink You Away" stands out for its adventurous streak.

Here, Timberlake recalls his Southern roots, spinning a pop twist on Memphis soul and country rock riffs. "I've tried Jack, I've tried Jim/ I've tried all of their friends/ But I can't drink you away," he sings, matching love pains to alcoholism. Once again working with producers Timbaland and J-Roc, he daringly explores new scenarios, ultimately proving that his talents can't be restrained. (The track also teased Timberlake's later collab with country crooner Chris Stapleton, as the pair mashed "Drink You Away" with Stapleton's "Tennessee Whiskey" at the 2015 CMA Awards.) 

"CAN'T STOP THE FEELING!," Trolls (2016)

Timberlake's career may have firm pillars in experimentation, but 2016's "CAN'T STOP THE FEELING!" showed that he is also a master in well-rounded bubblegum pop. In 2016, after voicing the character Branch and serving as the executive music producer for the movie Trolls, Timberlake worked with Max Martin and Shellback for the soundtrack's lead single.

The result was a simple, yet contagiously happy disco track that quickly hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100, followed by several other countries' charts. "CAN'T STOP THE FEELING!" was also the top-selling song in the U.S. that year according to Nielsen Music's Year-End Report, and quickly achieved an omnipresent status; the song remains a global staple today.

"Young Man," Man of the Woods (2018)

After another long break between albums, Timberlake released his fifth LP, Man of the Woods, in 2018. The title references the meaning behind his firstborn son's name, Silas, and features some of his most experimental trials to date, despite enlisting the same longtime producers like the Neptunes and Timbaland.

As Timberlake's personal life changed with marriage and parenthood, so did his music. He plunged even deeper into his Tennessee origins and the country music of his childhood, as evidenced in singles "Filthy," "Supplies," and the Stapleton-featuring "Say Something."

However, the most essential song to understand Timberlake's current moment is the sweet, deeply personal "Young Man." It closes the album on a vulnerable note, showing the singer not as a superstar, but as a devoted father passing on his teachings. Vocal snippets from both Silas and Jessica Biel make it even more special, framing a fleeting moment into eternity.

After seeing Timberlake grow from a teenager himself to raising his own family, there's a full-circle element coloring his next steps with much expectation. What will be his next reinvention? If Timbaland's words are true, luckily we won't have to wait too long to find out.

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