Maluma, Shakira

Ruven Afanador exclusively for Billboard Magazine

Maluma and Shakira are opening up for Billboard's 2018 Latin issue on everything from their lyrics to holding a sex-symbol status. 

Together they've broken records with "Chantaje" and "Trap," and now the Colombian superstars are explaining how it all started. 

"When I meet with a producer in the studio, it's a bit like a blind date. But what I found [with Maluma] was absolute chemistry. The moment the creative energy started to flow, it never stopped," Shakira explains. 

The mom of two also discusses the boundaries she's encountered as a Latin artist. 

"The path to success has been longer, steeper, with more obstacles than if I had been born in Florida or New York City. To be born in Barranquilla and start a career at a time when the pop music scene was almost nonexistent in Colombia. When I began with my ballads and my rock songs, it was a very hostile environment," she explains. "And there was no social media back then. I had to travel the entire length of Latin America to make my music known in the beginning, going from radio station to radio station. Sometimes we were in three countries in the same day."

Maluma, who just announced that this Friday he will release his first English-language song "Hands on Me," explains latest Latin music explosion. 

"As artists, if a door opens, it's our job to make sure it stays open. One of the most beautiful experiences I had was in Israel last year, where I played for 17,000 people," the 24-year-old singer says. "I couldn't believe it. I think the best is yet to come, and being part of this movement is an opportunity and an honor. What can be better for us than to sing in Spanish everywhere we go?"

Maluma, Shakira

Ruven Afanador exclusively for Billboard Magazine

The star also opens up about risqué lyrics which can be found throughout many of his songs, including "Trap" with Shakira.  

"I say what I think because that's the way I am. I don't like to do music thinking about what's working in radio at the moment. I don't like to deal with taboos. At a cultural level, Latin music hasn't developed like American music. If you listen to American radio, the top songs deal with all kinds of dirty stuff, and [my song] "Felices los 4" doesn't even come close," he says. "In Latin America, to see an artist who's not trap or underground do a song like "4 Babys" is a culture shock. But it also opened the door for other [Latin] artists to go further."

The 41-year-old star then gets real about what it's like to be held as a sex symbol and how some days she simply isn't feelin' it.

"I don't feel like a sex symbol. It's possible many people see me as a sex symbol and others do not. Other people see me as a person that has kept them company through their lives with music, someone who they're fond of. Some days I'll say, 'Wow, I'm hot.' And I have many sweatpants-and-bun days in my life," she says. "And I suppose all women have that chameleonic side to them. We're a little bit mothers, a little bit professionals, we're sex…all women have that balance at any age."

This latest issue drops just as Billboard heads into its Latin Music Week running in Las Vegas from April 23-25. 

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