At noon Thursday (Nov. 5), Maluma and The Weeknd dropped a surprise new bilingual version of “Hawái,” featuring the latter singing the opening verses in English and the chorus in Spanish. In other words, this wasn’t a last-minute, let’s-slap-this-together remix, but a let-me-write-a-new-verse-and-work-on-my-Spanish collaboration.
Still, recording of the song, filming the video and releasing it Thursday jointly between Sony Music Latin and RCA took only a month’s time.
Originally, Maluma didn’t want to do a remix, says Miguel Lua, who oversees Maluma’s music career and strategy in partnership with WK president Walter Kolm. As it turns out, Maluma doesn’t have any bilingual remixes, and in this particular case, he wasn’t looking for one. “But we did discuss that if we ever did a remix, regardless of who it was, it had to be someone big,” says Lua. “He had a short list of artists he wanted to work on in general.”
When “Hawái” became a big hit in August, topping Billboard’s U.S. global charts, multiple artists — including mainstream stars — called asking to participate in a remix, shares Sony Music U.S. Latin president Alex Gallardo. “A song with those kinds of numbers, it generates interest,” explains Gallardo.
But nothing was even discussed until Lua got a call from Sal Slaiby, The Weeknd’s manager. Slaiby and Maluma’s team already had a working relationship because they collaborated with French Montana, and at one point, there were conversations to include Doja Cat in Maluma’s current album, Papi Juancho.
“On Oct. 5, I got a call from Sal, thinking it was about Doja Cat, and he said The Weeknd was considering doing something for the Latin market and did Maluma have five song options to send him.”
Lua had a better idea. “I said we were considering a remix of ‘Hawai,’ and The Weeknd is on our list.”
Literally minutes later, Slaiby called back and said The Weeknd loved “Hawái” and was already thinking up ideas for the song.
“I was in Miami catching up with my close friend Yovanna Ventura [the model in the music video] and she played me the song and I absolutely loved it,” The Weekend tells Billboard. “I was inspired so I reached out and it was an easy answer from me when I was asked to get on the track.”
“He asked me for the stems and the [vocal] reference,” says Lua. “We started a group chat with Juan Luis [Maluma] and Abel [The Weeknd], and that same evening, Juan Luis told me Abel had sent him some rough vocals.”
Lua and Kolm then called Gallardo and Sony Music Latin Iberia Chairman Afo Verde and said they had news.
“We had a Zoom call, and we were floored,” says Gallardo. “The Weeknd is the most listened to artist on Spotify. Juan Luis’ dream of recording literally with the top artist in the world was a reality.”
[Editor’s note: This week, The Weeknd is No. 2 following Ariana Grande’s album release]
Verde and Gallardo called Peter Edge at RCA to see if he would be interested in releasing the track with Sony Music Latin. Meantime, Lua asked Slaiby for availability for the video shoot, and two weeks later, assembled the original video crew, including director Jessy Terrero and model Yoanna Ventura, and shot the video in Los Angeles.
It was delivered to Sony the night before release.
The release time — noon — was strategically decided upon to take into account Maluma and The Weeknd’s global appeal.
“We want the West Coast to be up, and for it not to be too late for the Middle Eastern and Asian fans,” explains Lua. Everything, he admits, was fast. “But, it’s a game changer. These are game-changing moments.”
For The Weekend, there was a plus:
“Big shout out to Maluma for allowing me to try out my Spanish on the song!” he says.