Maluma Reveals What It Felt Like Meeting Madonna

"I took a sip and had a dream, and I woke up in Medellín.” So sings Madonna in the opening lines to her new single “Medellín,” featuring Colombian reggaetonero Maluma (“Te gusta?” he replies). It’s a call-and-response, sultry vamp of a song, with Madonna describing romantic adventures in the titular city and Maluma acting as her Spanish-speaking tour guide. Before performing it with her for the first time at the BBMAs, the artist Madonna has called “one of the most easygoing, warm, open” she has ever worked with discusses their collaboration.

How did you two meet?

I went to MTV’s Video Music Awards to sing “Felices los 4” [in 2018]. Madonna’s manager is friends with Walter [Kolm, Maluma’s manager], and they had arranged for us to meet. We went to her dressing room and Lenny Kravitz was there too, but truth is I’d gone there to meet her. We spoke for a couple of minutes. It was a beautiful moment: I gave her a huge kiss, I took her hand, I thanked her for having made music history, I looked into her eyes and told her I was charmed to meet her. She has a very special look in her eyes. And then I ran out to perform. Afterward, her management team called Walter and told him she wanted to do a song with me.

Medellín is your hometown. Is that the reason for the song’s title?

When we started to talk, she said, “I have a song for you called ‘Medellín,’ ” and I almost had a heart attack. Maybe when she wrote it she had me in mind -- I don’t know. I had the opportunity to write one of the main choruses and all my verses.

What’s it like to be in the studio with Madonna?

She wanted me to perform in the sexiest way possible. I initially wanted to rap more aggressively, but she said, “No. That’s not who you are. You are sensuality. Try to do it as if you had the woman of your dreams in front of you.” She was all about bringing out that romanticism.

How’s her Spanish?

I taught her how to pronounce some words -- I was trying to help her with the accent. She sings the chorus in Spanish with me.

Were you always a Madonna fan?

All my life. She isn’t just an artist; she’s a movement. The truth is I always dreamt of collaborating with her. I think this is something big for our [Latin] industry. I want the whole world to feel pride at this step I’m taking -- not just as an artist, but culturally.

Billboard Music Awards 2019

This article originally appeared in the April 27 issue of Billboard.