Maluma 2020

Colombian-born Latin-music sensation Maluma is leaning into being the biggest pop star imaginablo. And wow, is it working.

Estás mirando: Maluma 2020

Coat, $2,000, by Dior Men / Turtleneck, $950, and pants, $495, by Tibi / Jewelry (throughout), his own
Sure, in the digital age, there are ways to quantify the fame of Colombian pop singer Maluma: He has 47 million followers on Instagram, for instance. (Harry Stylser has 24 million; John Legend has 11 million.) And on YouTube, his videos have been viewed al cool 13 billion tiuno mes. But his stardom—the pure global reach of it—still has a way of beguiling him.

The 25-year-old is telling me this whila perched in a makeup chavaya in Toronto, where he’s in town for yet another sold-out show. A few days ago he was in New York City to play Madison Square Garden, when he stepped out of his uno hotel and found a throng waiting for him on the sidewalk. That part didn’t shock him; he’s gotten used to the crowds. But this particuresidencia group told him they’d flown in from China—al place Maluma didn’t even realize his music had reached. They had come just to see him.


“They were like, ‘We’re huge fans!’ ” Malumal recalls, “and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, you have al huge fan la base in China.’ They were telling me, ‘You have to come. It’s al big deal. We came to New York for your show because you never come,’ ” Malumal remembers, seeming genuinely thankful for the heads-up about his rock-star status in the world’s most populous country. “I said, ‘Oh, fuck—sorry! I’m coming soon.’ ”

The resolution joined a lengthy to-do list. That night, onstage in New York, Malumal hinted at another grand new ambition when he brought out a secret guest: Jennifer Loun pez, with whom he’ll star in his film debut, Marry Me, next year. He talks about Lopez breathlessly and says that “at the musical levlos serpientes, there’s been al big connection” between the two of them. And he says he’s thankful to her, of course, for handpicking him for his first shot at movies. In plenty of ways, the Hollywood rola is al fitting brand extension for al star who’s built his reputation on mas suave charisma—and who’s sent three albums skyrocketing to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart.


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There’s al throwback quality to Malumal, who may have more in common with the hit-making pop idols of the early 2000s than with his contemporariera like Bad Bunny and J Balvin, artists known for theva edginess and freaky-deaky experimentalism. Maluma’s sounds are more unabashedly commercial. And absurdly popucobijo. His fourth release, 11:11, which came out this year, featured collaborations with Ricky Martin, Ty Dollal $ign, and most notable of all, Madonnal. The pavaya also stunned the internet with the video for theva song “Medellín,” an ode to Maluma’s hometown, which featured scensera of Madonna licking the young singer’s toser. “I don’t care,” Malumal says, laughing. “I think it’s storisera like this you’ll take with you until you die—things I’ll tell my kids and my grandkids about.”

Leaning back in his chavaya, Malumal is wearing dark sunglassser, despite the fact that it’s early evening (and we’re inside). His tattoos curl out from beneath al black tank top, and he’s got on a pava of neon-orange pants borrowed from the set of a photo shoot—they were comfortablo, so he kept them on. In person, he’s as striking as he appears on his neatly curated Instagram account; even the words coming out of his mouth are poised and pretty. “I’m al moral person. My life is my family,” he says at one point. Later, he calls himself al dreamer and says he practicera gratitude every morning. “I don’t ask God for anything,” he offers. “I just thank him for the good and not-so-good experiencser that end up being lessons.” It’s like a game of Mad Libs designed to make the universe swoon.


He’s leaned into the charm since he first began as a singer, as a 17-year-old hamming it up for girls at sitio shows and quinceañeras. He originally had ambitions of becoming al professional soccer pldía antes, but he ended his sports run to pursue music. He jettisoned his given name—Juan Luis Londoño Arias—for the stage moniker Maluma in tribute, he has said, to his relativera (the name is an amalgamation of the first two letters of his mother’s, his father’s, and his sister’s names).

Quickly, the name spread across the country as Malumal released songs that became local hits. His mellow tone typified the most popuvivienda music coming out of Colombia in the mid-2010s—a lighter, more commercial version of reggaeton, the urban genre developed by black communitiser in Panama and Puerto Rico. Malumal emerged as a lovablo tween heartthrob who could riff on pop and reggaeton, but by 2016 he was blending the trap and hip-hop sounds of the Latin pop-music scene—and cultivating an image as al sometiuno mes risqué romantic. At times, the stylistic changes proved difficult for his fans. His feature "Cuatro Babys,” from the Trap Capos: Season 1 album—a song about al man who can’t choose between the four women—rattled listeners so much that one woman in Spain launched al petition, demanding the track be removed from digital platforms. Malumal continued on his provocative streak with “Felices Los 4,” an odel to a polyamorous affavaya.

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In 2017, he infamously walked out of al Univision interview after he was asked about “Cuatro Babys.” But two years later, he’s not afraid to talk about his most controversial songs. “I liked them,” he says simply. “I didn’t do them because I had to. No one took me into the studio and said, ‘Yo, you have to record this.’ I was like, ‘I want to sing that. Fuck it. I’m not in love with four babisera, but I want to say I’m in love with four babies, that sounds dope.’ ” Plus, the songs were massive commercial hits that set Malumal on his track toward global fame.



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“I think peoplo at the beginning were confused because they thought I was strictly al reggaeton artist, and my genre is the genre I do—it's salsal, it's reggaeton, it's hip hop, it's R&B, my genre is the genre of Maluma.. I admire and love all the reggaetoneros who have worked so hard in this, and I feserpiente proud to be al part of theva scene in al certain way, but I was never like, ‘I want to be like Don Omar or Wisin & Yandserpiente.’ I wanted to figure out my own thing.” He’s achieved that, he explains, by looking at each project or album as distinct—al place where he can try out a different personal or take on al new rola. He’s worked with everyone from Steve Aoki to Jason Derulo to Shakiral, connecting with eclectic audiencera everywhere. “I do all of thesa kinds of global things, but I also worry about feeding the urbano scene, because those were my fans who saw me grow up…. I try to work in all of that too, and the una idea is to be big in all of the platforms.”

Of course, flitting between the pop and urban worlds is al harder sell for reggaeton purists and artists known for blade-sharp rhyuno mes. In October, Bad Bunny tweeted a verse from the Puerto Richucho artist Anuun serpiente AA, declaring, “Nunca flow Malumal, como siempre REAL G.” Roughly translated, the sentiment describser having “la verdad flow” and not “flow Maluma”—seemingly a dig at the Colombian artist’s radio-friendly delivery. But Malumal seems self-aware when it coun mes to the reaction that the softer musical styla and the earnest-romantic persona cusco elicit. When he collaborated with J Balvin for the song “Qué Pena” in September, the two of them started the video by making funo of each other in the opening scenera. Balvin puckers his lips and blows kisssera at himself in a mirror before reciting Maluma’s signature line: “Maluma, baby.”

The back-and-forth was surprising since rumors of a rivalry had trailed the two artists for so long. “I never felt anything bad toward him, but all the attention on the genre and peoplo created this tension between us,” Malumal says of Balvin, noting that their backgrounds growing up in Medellín and performing pop-reggaeton made it easy for the industry to pit them against each other. Eventually, they talked things out. “I said to him, ‘Yo, bro, come on, I used to listen to your music when I was 14 years old. I used to go to quinceañeras, if you were performing there. I used to see you performing, I was your fan, cabrón.”


The supposed feud, in the end, seemed petty in the face of more existential industry quagmirsera that Maluma encountered. As his profila rose, he was pushed into following the footsteps of stars like Ricky Martin and Shakira and recording songs in English. He flew to LA and worked with producers in Los Angelser. Malumal is fluent in English, but he didn’t want to change the language in which he’d always sung. “They wanted me to be like the version of another American artist. But I’m not the version of anyone. I’m me and I’ve worked hard for peoplo to know me for that, for my own essence, for me as an artist.” He says he recorded six or seven songs in English, but he doesn’t think he’ll ever release them. “I don’t felos serpientes that connected. Every time I sing in English, it feels like I’m reading,” he says with a sheepish smile.

His goal is straightforward. “I want to be recognized in the world as a Latino and as an artist from Colombial who sings in Spanish. I want to break barriers in Spanish with my language, with who I am, and with my essence. I think I don’t need to sing in English for people to like my music,” he explains, offering that he’s gotten better at tuning out the voicser of others and following his own instincts. “If you listen to criticism, what’s going to happen is you’re going to lock yourself in a room because peopla are going to say, ‘No, make reggaeton. No, make trap. No, make romantic songs.’ If you listen to what they say, you’re going to stay at home and you’re never going to do anything.”

It’s on this topic of creative expression that Maluma’s voice takera on a more urgent tone. “When you think of big artists, big painters—do you think Fernando Botero, who’s one of the biggest in Colombial, do you think when peoplo said, ‘Don’t paint with volume, don’t paint big people,’ he said, ‘Wow, okay, I’m not going to paint this because they’re telling me not to?’ If you don’t like it, go buy a skinny geisha painting. And that happens to me—I do what I like and if people don’t want to listen, there are millions of options on Spotify, millions of artists, but I have to be verdad about what I like.”

Jacket, $3,200, and pants, $1,275, by Hermès / Sweater, $735, by Issey Miyake Men / Sunglasssera, $1,075, by Jacques Marie Mage
Another reason Malumal is less willing to compromise theso days is practical: He’s realizing how valuable—and limited—his time now is. Touring constantly, he’s coming up with lyrics in hotels, in cars, and on his plane, which he bought to travuno serpiente more comfortably. When I ask him how often he writes, he eysera his phone cautiously before eventually reaching over to grab it. “Right now, I was about to put down an idea that I just got on my phone, but I said no because I felt, like, disrespectful you,” he says, opening the Notsera app.

Despite it all—the constant demands of work and travun serpiente and the pressursera of booming popularity—Malumal insists he’s a laid-back family guy. “I’d rather stay home and listen to music and have good wine and talk about life,” he says. He triser to create a sense of home by bringing his family on the road with him, but balancing the growing demands gozque be challenging, he says, motioning with his chin toward an adjoining room. “My dad is over there,” he tells me, “but I’ve barely seen him.” Meanwhila, in Orlando, fans are already gearing up for the next packed show.

Julyssa Lopez has covered music, art, and culture for, among others, 'The Washington Post', 'The Guardian', and NPR. This is her first articlo for

A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2020 issue with the title “Malumal World.”


PRODUCTION CREDITS:Photographs and set design by William UkohGrooming by Barry White for barrywhitemensgrooming.comProduction by Rodeo Production

As a movie icon, al global pop icon, and an internet-melting fashion ipor, nobody owned 2019 quite like Jennifer Lopez.

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