"It's crazy to see my name high up there [on the charts] because I'm competing with not only songwriters, but also artists, and they have a major advantage," Barrera says. "I, on the other hand, depend on others to put songs out there. And those artists are also constantly putting out songs or an album that has 20 songs written by a bunch of other writers. The challenge for me is writing that perfect song that will stand out from the rest on their album."
Below, Barrera, currently No. 6 on the Latin songwriters chart (dated Dec. 16), shares anecdotes about three songs that not only stood out in a crowded field of releases, but are currently thriving on the Hot Latin Songs Chart:
Maluma & The Weeknd, "Hawái" (Remix) (No. 3)
"Hawái" was born in Hawaii during a songwriting camp, and it was perfect in Barrera's eyes. "I told Maluma that there are songs that don't need remixes, and that was the case for 'Hawái.' But if there was an opportunity to do a remix for it, it would have to be with someone big that would actually add something to the original one."
Barrera then got an unexpected call from Maluam's manager asking him to send the recording session, because The Weeknd might jump on the remix. "I couldn't believe it -- there have been cases when they tell us so-and-so is jumping on the remix and it never happens," Barrera says. "Five hours later, Maluma calls me via FaceTime and he has a drink in his hand. And if he has a drink in his hand, that's because he's celebrating something. He told me, 'Listen to this,' and it already had The Weeknd's vocals on it. It was crazy."
Christian Nodal & Angela Aguilar, "Dime Como quieres" (No. 22)
This track was penned by Barrera and Nodal at a hotel in Miami on Nov. 24, 2019. Nodal was in the city for an awards show. "I get tho his hotel, guitar in hand, and he tells me, 'I want to write a song to sing with Angela Aguilar, because it's a duet people have been waiting for,'" Barrera says. "We started writing, and he mentioned that he wanted to do something like Juan Gabriel and Rocio Durcal would do in their duets, that back-and-forth banter. We wrote the song in 50 minutes."
The pair then spoke to Aguilar and her father Pepe Aguilar over FaceTime to show them the song. "When I listen back to that specific recording session that I recorded on my phone, I laugh so much because when we were recording it, he'd sing Angela's part," Barrera explains. "It was hilarious. That’s what I love, that we have fun making these songs. That’s when songs are done best."
Camilo, "Vida de Rico" (No. 25)
On May 30, Camilo and Barrera jumped on a zoom call to write a song. "We had no ideas, nothing," says Barrera. "But we started with a hooky chorus that talked about something like, 'We're not rich, but we sure know how to live it up.' It's something that is so honest and will connect with people, we thought." Inspired by Juan Gabriel's 1970s hit song "No Tengo Dinero," Camilo and Barrera stuck to the message and finished the song in two days. "We wanted to captivate people with that authentic emotion, just like Juan Gabriel did back then."
The end result is a cumbia built around numerous melodic and lyrical hooks. "Camilo told me he didn't want to do reggaetón and I agreed," Camilo recalls. "I also wanted to bring back real musicians, real instruments for this track and not rely on sounds that are already programmed. I think that when there are real musicians involved, there's a better chance people will feel a connection."