With roles in Hamilton, A Star Is Born, In the Heights and, up next, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, there’s no doubt that Anthony Ramos has forged an impressive career in film and theater. At the same time, he’s cementing his place in the music industry, releasing his sophomore album Love and Lies, out Friday (June 25) via Republic Records.
Home to 12 tracks, including his previously released “Blessings,” “Say Less” and “Échale,” the set spotlights Ramos’ ability to fuse genres from retro electro-pop and soulful R&B to Latin urban.
“I want to listen to music that makes you want to stay up late, music that makes you want to love, and music that ultimately makes you feel connected,” he expresses.
Love and Lies was helmed by Ramos’ longtime friend and executive producer Will Wells and co-writer Castle, who’s also his childhood friend. On this set, Ramos also joined forces with select new producers, including Latin hitmakers Andres Torres and Mauricio Rengifo, who brought to life his single “Right Now.”
Below, the New York-based Puerto Rican actor and singer-songwriter tells Billboard all about his new album and what having a lead role in In the Heights has represented in his career.
Love and Lies kicks off with these uptempo tracks, such as “Blessings,” but toward the end, we hear the slower jams like “Satisfy You.” What can you share about the album’s concept?
I called it Love and Lies because the songs started telling that story. After writing the title track, it felt like that story was the line for the rest of the album. Sometimes we don’t know the difference between what love is and what the lie is, and vice versa. Sometimes what feels like love is a lie and sometimes we tell ourselves lies to stop ourselves from falling in love. We self-sabotage and actually lie to ourselves that we can’t experience love because it’s too good to be true. And this song is about that, late nights, I’m going out. I want to experience and feel love but I’m also very selfish, living the fast life. It’s just a person who’s constantly living in the middle of what love and lies are.
That’s what this album shaped itself as. The title came after the tracks were picked. The uptempo joints came at the beginning to hit them with all the energy, but then the songs do become sentimental towards the end, especially with “Nobody Else” and “I Can’t Get By” to end the album. Underneath the party, there’s always something very vulnerable that we need to get to the bottom of.
Compared to your debut album, The Good & The Bad, which was more R&B-inclined, on Love and Lies we hear a more experimental side. Was it a challenge to step out of your comfort zone or did it all come naturally to you?
Honestly, I think this is the music I always wanted to make and the first album was actually more experimental than this one in a lot of ways. I didn’t really know what it was to make a full body of work. In the first album, I was working with so many different producers and writing with different people to kind of discover myself as a songwriter. In the second one, I worked with a smaller group of people. If you really look at the credits, you’ll see a lot of these songs have the same people on these tracks. I think that working with the same group of people and collection of folks really helped me hone in the kind of sound that I wanted for the album.
On this album, you teamed up with Andres Torres and Mauricio Rengifo, who are behind some of Latin music’s biggest hits, including “Despacito.” How was your experience working with them?
The first time I worked with them was when we did “Right Now.” As soon as we wrote this song, they immediately said it was one of their favorites and that I had to get the song out. We wrote that song so quickly over Zoom. It was Andres, Mauricio, Will, and myself. The song came out in two and a half hours, it was crazy. It was created so fast. I’m happy to say that we plan on doing a Spanish remix for that song. I’ve been wanting to put out a Spanish record for so long and finally, I’m getting to do it.
We know that you are a proud Puerto Rican. Can you share with us some of the Latin artists who have inspired your career and which ones you’re currently listening to?
It’s so many! It’s a mixed bag. Marc Anthony, Luis Enrique, Zion & Lennox, Wisin & Yandel, Daddy Yankee, Ivy Queen, all of them are still banging right now. I’m currently listening to Sech, Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Myke Towers, Ozuna, Karol G, I love Becky G, she’s incredible, Danna Paola. There are lots of amazing Latin music to listen to right now and I’m hoping to be a part of this wave. I’m kind of sneaking my way in.
I wanted to congratulate you on everything that’s happening in your career, not only within music, but also onscreen. Not sure if you are aware, but In the Heights hit No. 1 on Billboard‘s Soundtracks chart this week. What has this entire production represented in your career?
It has meant a lot. It’s the first show I saw on Broadway that made me feel like there was a space for me in musical theater. Before that, I just didn’t know where to fit in or I wasn’t right for a role. So, when I saw “In The Heights,” I thought it was crazy that the cast looked like me, sounded like me, they talked about the food I ate, the bodega, the music, it was wow. Fast forward to being part of the movie, 10 years after I saw it on Broadway, is a gift for me. I didn’t have a movie like this as a kid and I wish I did. I’m grateful that it exists because hopefully, this film will spark many more Latino stories to be told in Hollywood on a grand scale. I’m proud of this movie and I’m so grateful that it’s out.