Rewinding the Latin Charts: 20 Years Ago, Jennifer Lopez & Marc Anthony First Bonded With 'No Me Ames'

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Marc Anthony performs onstage with Jennifer Lopez at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sept. 26, 1998.

The song became their first musical connection & crowned the Hot Latin Songs chart for seven weeks.

While a collection of significant events impacted the music industry in 1999, June especially left its mark: Napster debuted that month and forever changed how we consume music, and Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony’s “No Me Ames” landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart dated June 26 -- just a few months after the two met for the very first time.

The encounter took place at the Sony Music offices in New York City. Given Anthony’s popularity at the time and looking to capitalize on both their artistic abilities, Corey Rooney -- the songwriter and producer who became Lopez’s writing partner -- sought to create the duet. “Cory had just worked with Marc, and Marc and I had just met,” Lopez told Billboard in May. “Cory said, ‘You and Marc should do a record together; let's call him and see if he wants to do it.’”

Marc Anthony met them at the studio. “I was such a huge fan of his music in Spanish,” Lopez adds. She remembers telling him: “Maybe we should do something in Spanish, I just love your music.” It took less than 10 minutes after Anthony had left the studio to find the song. “He called and said, ‘I have the song for us. It's an Italian song called 'Non Amarmi' -- and we can translate it into Spanish, do it as a ballad and do it as a salsa record,’” Lopez recalls of their conversation.

The Spanish version, written by Ignacio Ballestros, covers “Non Amarmi” by Giancarlo Bigazzi, Marco Falagiani and Aleandro Baldi. It was recorded for Baldi’s album Il Sole alongside Francesca Alotta in 1993, which won them the Newcomers award (Nuove Proposte) at the Sanremo Music Festival in 1992. “For us, it was a big surprise,” Falagiani tells Billboard. “We knew that Marc Anthony was in love with Giancarlo Bigazzi’s songs, and I think that was how Marc introduced the song to J.Lo. It was an honor to have such big artists cover a song that took us two years and a half of hard work.”

“Marc had heard the Italian version, which was very popular,” Dan Shea, producer of the Spanish ballad version, tells Billboard. “It has that real conversation: where it starts with the male vocal (just one line) and immediately jumps to the female. This is something that hit Jennifer.”

When Shea heard the original Italian song, he instantly fell in love with it, as it reminded him of Frankie Valli’s 1967 smash “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” “Even though the original Italian version was recorded in the early '90s, it had a classic vibe from the '50s and '60s, and Frankie Valli popped into my head immediately. I essentially wanted to produce something that would remain fresh through the years.”

Breaking down the borders and connecting their cultural and social backgrounds, the recording process of “No Me Ames” began, approached as a pop tune with a Latin overtone that was reflected through the use of nylon-string guitars. “There is a unique tone in Latin music, especially in traditional classical and flamenco music,” Shea says. “In pop and rock, the sound is sweet and rich and sometimes really high notes come into play, and I definitely wanted more of that same sound in this song. There was no need for gimmicks.” Falagiani adds that on “No Me Ames,” the guitar substituted for the piano from the original Italian version.

About the connection of both acts in the studio, Shea recalls: “There was definitely a strong creative connection. When Jennifer was singing her part, Marc would stand next to her. He would throw ideas. Because it was in Spanish, there was an immediate personal bond that came into play. I mean, this was a love song.” Of course, the pair would end up getting married five years later, in June 2004, and having two children together (twins Max and Emme) before divorcing in April 2012.

The recording process was fairly quick, given the camaraderie that Shea had already established with both acts. “With Marc, we had done a lot of writing together,” Shea laughs. “I will show up at his house at about 4 p.m., and we will write and record pretty late into the night; we were pretty prolific. With Jennifer, it was less writing together, as most of her songs came from other writers, lyricists, but I had been working with her for about a year on her first record.”

The fanbases of the artists was part of the structure, as Shea envisioned connecting with Lopez’s and Marc Anthony’s listeners with the very first verse, so the conversational tone of “No Me Ames” became an important element. “That very first line is crucial: It will pull the listener in or it will not,” Shea adds. “If it’s a ballad, I picture the singers onstage and see the spotlight on the singer. I always visualize that, because it gives you a connection with the listeners.”

The song was recorded between Sony Music Studios and Hit Factory Studios in New York. It took just a few intimate sessions consisting of Shea, the engineer, Lopez and Marc Anthony. “Marc’s vocals were done in about 20 minutes, very quickly," he says. “With Jennifer, it was fairly quickly as well, although we did go back and re-record the more difficult lines for her. On the outro, they go back and forth, both singing high lines, which would have to be perfect.”

“No Me Ames” -- which was the B-side of Lopez’s debut single “If You Had My Love” -- hit No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart in its seventh week on the tally, where it remained for a total of seven nonconsecutive weeks. On the Tropical Songs airplay chart, it also remained at the summit for seven consecutive weeks.

The tune became the second single from Lopez’s debut album On the 6, which debuted and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 chart (June 19, 1999) and remained on the tally for a total of 53 weeks. “If You Had My Love” became Lopez’s first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, leading for five consecutive weeks.

On the 6 included two versions of “No Me Ames”: the ballad produced by Shea and a salsa version arranged by Juan Vicente Zambrano and produced by Zambrano and Emilio Estefan. The song received a Billboard Latin Music Award for Hot Latin Track of the Year by a Vocal Duo and two nominations for Tropical/Salsa Track of the Year and Hot Latin Track of the Year in 2000.

While it earned Lopez her first No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs list, for Marc, “No Me Ames” was his second chart leader. With seven weeks at No. 1, the song became his longest-charting title at No. 1 until almost 13 years later, when “Vivir Mi Vida” peaked at No. 1 on the May 18, 2013-dated chart where it remained for 17 weeks. Lopez didn’t score another No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart until almost eight years later, when “Qué Hiciste” reached the top of the chart (May 5, 2007).

“No Me Ames” was the very first thing that I produced on my own,” Shea adds. “Some of the other things I had produced for Jennifer involved other people, so I’m thrilled that it did quite good.” Falagiani also praises his work with Bigazzi. “’No Me Ames’… is one of the best musical works that I have made in my life.”

“I remember wanting to listen to it again after I received the news of its anniversary because it sounded so classic,” Shea concludes. “The sound of the song continues to be timeless.”

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