“I was like, ‘Oh man.’ I mean, we don’t mind, but it’s Bad Bunny,” Tovar remembers thinking at the time.
It’s safe to say that, in spite of the Bad Bunny album, the group’s new set, Nostalgia, has fared quite well. Eslabon’s 14-track album, released via DEL Records on May 5, makes history as the first top 10-charting regional Mexican album ever on the Billboard 200. Furthermore, with Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti at No. 1 and Nostalgia scoring a No. 9 debut, it’s the first time two all-Spanish-language albums have placed in the top 10 simultaneously.
Nostalgia is a continuation of the teenage Mexican-American group’s winning streak. Over the past two years, Eslabon released four consecutive chart-topping albums — all of which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Albums chart. But they approached their new heartbreak album differently. After releasing Tu Veneno Mortal, Vol. 2 last summer, Tovar felt “fried” and took a break from writing. He eventually started writing again in November, hoping to have an album ready by February this year.
“But I didn’t have time to write all the songs that I wanted to write, so we had to wait to release it,” Tovar tells Billboard. “Being able to take longer writing these songs definitely helped me. We hadn’t released an album in a year and three months, so I was able to get inspiration from the music I was listening to, which was a lot of indie,” adding that he was listening to The Marías and Billie Eilish.
In Nostalgia, Eslabon — composed of Pedro, Brian Tovar, Ulises Gonzalez and Damian Fidel Pacheco — stays true to its sierreño essence but is as experimental as ever, incorporating new instruments such as the piano and ukulele. “Of all the albums we’ve released, this is the most confident I’ve felt. I love all the songs because every song is different. I’ve never enjoyed making an album this much,” Tovar says. “I’ve enjoyed all my albums, but there were songs that I would half-ass; I would write and produce them fast. But these songs, I took my time with.”
Marking their fifth studio album, Tovar is still processing being No. 9 on the Billboard 200. “At first when they told me, I thought it was the [chart] for regional Mexican and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty sick.’ But then they explained it was a chart with all the genres and I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it.”
Seeing their album make history and sit in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart not only gives Eslabon a boost of confidence, but makes co-existing with Bad Bunny less intimidating. “I hope this helps other artists in regional Mexican — newcomers and veterans — believe in their music and in themselves. To have two Spanish albums up there, it just shows that Latin culture and music is stronger than ever.”