Pedro Capó, Farruko and More on How 'Calma' Became A Sleeper Hit

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Courtesy Photo
Pedro Capó and Farruko "Calma"

At 39 years old, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Pedro Capó got his first-ever Billboard No. 1 when “Calma” -- a laid-back reggae-infused track celebrating his home country’s beaches and Medalla beer -- topped the Latin Airplay chart in April, nine months after its release.

Capó never intended it to be a single, but a series of fortunate events -- from a fortuitous product placement to star-studded remixes -- turned it into Latin music’s sleeper hit of the year.

Pedro Capó: It was so innocent. We were just jamming with all things tropical and that mental picture of Puerto Rican beer on the beach. I thought it was a very special song, but I didn’t think it was a hit. We took it to Sony, but no one felt it, and that was that.

Isabel De Jesús, director of A&R and premium content, Sony Music U.S. Latin: I’ve worked with Pedro 10 years, and when I heard the song, I thought it was the best thing he’d given me. But when we presented it, everyone thought it was cool but not a huge song. Things changed when [Capó’s friend, musician] Joy [Santiago] got Medalla involved. Then I got the green light.

Capó: Joy played the song for Medalla’s head of marketing in Puerto Rico. She said: “If you get me a meeting with Sony, I’ll stop my summer campaign and go with this instead.” They put up the money for the video and the song came out.

De Jesús: We began to see the metrics from the onset. The numbers were growing unusually fast for Pedro. Within a few weeks we started to rhapsodize about who would be a great artist to remix it. Literally the next day, Pedro sent me a screenshot of his conversation with Farruko.

Farruko: I was under house arrest [for not declaring transportation of over $10,000 into the United States], so I’d listen to music and write every afternoon. I was listening to a Puerto Rican ­playlist and the song came up. It brought up all these feelings. So I wrote Pedro on Instagram: “Brother, I love that song. It would be an honor for me to collaborate on a remix.”

Alex Gallardo, president, Sony Music U.S. Latin: In the urban world, Farruko has one of the best noses for hits. The song was this cool reggae [track], and Farruko saw the potential to make it more street and brought all his fans. Suddenly you had an island song, but with bite.

De Jesús: The U.S. Latin team felt it immediately. When Farruko got on the song, it became a priority. Then, Rafa [Arcaute, vp A&R for Sony Music U.S. Latin] had dinner with Swizz Beatz and he showed the track to Alicia [Keys, who hopped on another remix].

Gallardo: This is a great example of how no one has the absolute truth when it comes to spotting hits. We liked the song, but didn’t think it could be big. Then Farruko came along, and we were wowed. And then Alicia came along. It’s the beauty of the business; we’re always surprised.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 21 issue of Billboard.

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