Maluma’s manager, Walter Kolm, had a similar reaction upon meeting him in 2013, back when Maluma was an unknown teenager signed to Sony Colombia. “He was very charismatic, had tons of attitude,” remembers Kolm. “He sang, danced, rapped, wrote. Not since Ricky Martin had I seen an artist like that.”
Maluma had barely acted before Marry Me, but he didn’t have to formally audition for the film — a clear sign of Hollywood’s awareness of the value of courting Hispanic moviegoers, who bought 25% of tickets in the United States in 2019, according to market research firm Statista. The singer is part of a wave of Latin recording artists popping up onscreen these days: Earlier this year, J Balvin had a role as Tresillo in the animated film Trolls World Tour — a clip of his character performing his global smash “Mi Gente” was prominently featured in ads for the movie — and both Cardi B and Ozuna have joined the cast of next year’s F9, the latest installment of the Fast & Furious series. “Never in his wildest dreams did Maluma picture himself starring in a Hollywood film with Jennifer Lopez,” says Sony Music Latin Iberia chairman/CEO Afo Verde. “It’s a reflection of the moment we’re living.”
Streaming services are also recognizing the value of Latin artists’ stories, with music-driven scripted shows like Netflix’s bilingual Selena: The Series (premiering in December) and Amazon’s Spanish-language Súbete a Mi Moto, based on the story of boy band Menudo (out now). They are a “must-watch” for those acts’ “millions of fans,” says Daniel Eilemberg, president of Exile Content Studio, a Spanish- and English-language production company that has several music-themed projects set up for distribution. “That’s powerful [enough] to drive subscriptions.”
Lopez, of course, is no stranger to the ways film and music can cross-pollinate: She is the only woman to have had a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 and the No. 1 movie at the U.S. box office in the same week. (With J.Lo and The Wedding Planner, respectively, in 2001.) Now, following a year in which she stormed the Super Bowl halftime show stage with Shakira and garnered Academy Award buzz for her role in Hustlers, Marry Me offers a timely distillation of her brand — and a chance to funnel some of that awards-season adoration back toward her music career. “To be able to use all of her superpowers in one piece is the culmination of the last few years of work that everybody has seen,” says her longtime manager, Benny Medina.
Since her double-whammy No. 1s two decades ago, the ways film can help sell music have only become clearer and more potent. Last year, Lizzo’s 2-year-old song “Truth Hurts” blew up after it was prominently featured in the Netflix movie Someone Great; that same year, an Oscars performance helped Lady Gaga score what then was her first Hot 100 No. 1 in eight years with the A Star Is Born anthem “Shallow.” Coiro is hoping it works the other way, too. “One of my main priorities was showing full performances, and we have nine songs that play in their entirety,” she says. “Films usually have snippets of performances, but it would be a real shame to have Jennifer Lopez and Maluma and not showcase their talents.”
Lopez and Maluma have already been using new music to entice potential moviegoers. In the early stages of the pandemic, they recorded two collaborations: “Pa’ Ti” and “Lonely,” which Mike Knobloch, Universal Pictures’ president of global film music and music publishing, describes as a way to “warm up the marketplace and create an awareness of the mythology of the characters they play.” (“Pa’ Ti” has since been added to the film’s soundtrack.) “We got on FaceTime — this was during lockdown — and spoke,” says Lopez of the tracks’ origin. “[Maluma] said, ‘I have a couple of songs. I’m going to send you one.’ And I said, “I have a song too. I’m going to send you one.’ ”
Both tracks were released in late September in conjunction with a single nine-minute short film that premiered on TikTok — the platform’s first music video premiere. The film is bookended by a TikTok promo that stars Charli D’Amelio, TikTok’s most-followed influencer, inviting fans to take part in a dance challenge with the hashtag #PaTiChallenge. Dance challenges — essentially, calls for users to re-create popular choreography — often start organically but are increasingly engineered by labels to boost exposure on the app, for good reason: Videos featuring the #PaTiChallenge have drawn over 1.8 billion views, according to TikTok, and “Pa’ Ti” debuted at No. 9 on Hot Latin Songs — Lopez’s highest-charting single there since 2014. “We’re seeing a lot of engagement for Latin artists and music in the U.S. and abroad,” says Brandon Holman, TikTok’s manager for label partnerships. “That audience and community is a huge focus for the company.”