LOS ANGELES (AP) — On New Year’s Eve 2022, Colombian superstar Maluma bid farewell to his musical alter ego Papi Juancho, created during the coronavirus pandemic. “Fue un placer,” he wrote on Instagram. “It was a pleasure.” Then he teased a new era: Don Juan, coming 2023.
The wait is over. On Friday, Maluma will release his highly anticipated album, “Don Juan.”
The choice of title is both a clever reference to the infamous 17th century literary Lothario and a reference to Maluma’s birth name, Juan Luis Londoño Arias.
It’s a rich place to pull from, and that matches the listening experience: “Don Juan” may very well be Maluma’s most dynamic album to date, a collection of familiar sounds and new collaborations spanning different genres — a more expansive listen than 2020’s “Papi Juancho,” and just as enjoyable.
“’Don Juan’ is a part of me,” Maluma, 29, said. “Of course, ‘Don Juan’ is a character that I’ve been building for the last two years … for this whole new music era.”
Maluma was a composer on the album, which he describes as “very personal” — a reflection of his musical roots, like reggaeton, the sounds from his earliest records — and “more mature.”
The singer has long-considered himself a genre-eclecticist, pulling from various styles of music across Latin America and beyond. On the pop-norteño track “Según Quién,” he teams up with música mexicana hero Carin León — directly reflective of the mainstream success regional Mexican music acts like Peso Pluma, Eslabon Armado, and Grupo Frontera are currently experiencing.
Before the pandemic, Maluma says, he sensed that corridos and banda music were going to enter the global music market. So, he called up songwriter Édgar Barrera in 2018 and said: “I need different instrumentals because I want to start writing Mexican songs, like, regional music. He said, ‘Why? Let’s keep doing reggaeton,’ and I was like, ‘You’ll see!’”
Then the sound was everywhere.
“I’m so glad that it happened because we really needed it in the industry,” he smiles. “That Mexican sauce, we were missing it in the global view of Latin music.”
In many ways, “Don Juan” mirrors Maluma’s take on global Latin music — he tackles salsa on “La Fórmula,” with Marc Anthony in one moment, and reggaeton and house music on “Diablo, Qué Chimba,” a collaboration with Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA.
The latter is particularly noteworthy because the pair appeared to have a short-lived rivalry a few years back when Anuel AA sang, “Nunca flow Maluma, siempre Real G,” on the 2019 Bryant Myers’ “Gan-Ga” remix. Translated to English, it implies that Anuel AA has “real flow,” and not “Maluma flow” — a dig at the singer’s accessible, glossy style. Bad Bunny even tweeted the lyric.
“He’s a good human being,” Maluma says of Anuel AA. “And I never expected that, to be honest. The first time I met him, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this douchebag.’”
But once they started talking about music and realized they had more in common, he realized Anuel “has a big heart, come on!”
“That’s how the collaboration started,” he added. “He’s an interesting character that we have in Latin music, and he really can’t stop what he’s doing because we need that kind of characters in our industry.”
And between Papi Juancho and his new Don Juan persona, Maluma knows something about characters.