2016 No. 1s: How Bob Marley And 'A Few Beers' Set the Scene for Maná & Nicky Jam's Smash Collaboration

Ryan Young
Juan Calleros, Fher Olvera, Ulises ­Calleros [manager], Alex González, ­and Sergio Vallín photographed on Nov. 7 at The Intercontinental San Francisco.

“De Pies a Cabeza” -- Top Latin Airplay chart (1 week)


Latin rock’s most respected and successful band, Maná was steady news fodder in 2016 thanks to its vocal criticism of president-elect Donald Trump while on its sold-out arena tour. The timing proved serendipitous for the Guadalajara, Mexico-bred group, which took its 1992 fan favorite “De Pies a Cabeza” and revamped it with current hitmaker (and Maná fan) Nicky Jam. The group had been mulling the possibility of a collaboration for months but hadn’t taken any concrete steps until this year when lead singer Fher Olvera reached out to Jam, whom he had never met. “De Pies a Cabeza” (From Head to Toe), a sultry reggae track with a dancefloor-ready beat, was never a single in its original version, but the new mix, which received heavy airplay in Jam’s native Puerto Rico and on urban and tropical stations, climbed to No. 1. The song debuted at No. 47 on the chart in August, rising to the top on Oct. 1 to make Maná the group with the most No. 1s -- five -- in the chart’s history. “When you have such a big song, everybody knows what to do,” Warner Music Latin America & Iberia president Iñigo Zabala tells Billboard. “Our goal was to be No. 1 in every territory, and that’s what we did.”

OLVERA:
We had never worked with a reggaetón or rap act, but the band is very open. We’ve always like to extend parameters. The song has sexy, provocative lyrics and the music is still current.

ULISES CALLEROS (manager):
The pleasure of making music is what moves Fher. Yes, we wanted to release a single to complement the tour, but Fher’s main motivation is always “What is it going to sound like?”

SERGIO VALLÍN:
We like to experiment as long as we feel it flows naturally, and that’s what happened. We wanted to hear one of our tracks done with a reggaetón act, but at the end of the day, the new version of the song is influenced more by Bob Marley than anything else. We feel Nicky gave the song a current and very danceable vibe.

OLVERA:
Nicky sings with great swing. He has a great sense of rhythm and an energetic vocal timbre. And as a person, he’s big. Recording was a blast. We wanted a fusion: slower than reggaetón, faster than reggae. We put our two producers to work until we reached a point where we both felt comfortable. We had a few beers and got up and danced.

Maná talk collaborating with Nicky Jam on "De Pies a Cabeza" and experimenting with reggaeton.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17 issue of Billboard.

Billboard Year in Music 2016