Community and connectivity remained at the core of the Billboard and Burger King “La Próxima Generación” Songwriter’s Academy, and there was plenty of star power to back it up.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the two-day experience honed in on the power of staying true to identity and ruling your beat through the guidance of chart-topper Camilo and production and songwriting titans Edgar Barerra and Elena Rose, hosted in Miami, the hometown of the Burger King brand. During the mentorship sessions, the trio led five rising artists, including one of the franchise’s own team members, through a creative huddle, where they spoke about the pillars of musicianship, listened to demo recordings and worked through intimate breakout sessions. For the first installment, Barerra and Rose guided local Miami acts Ana Mancebo, AUDIOIKO, Jahzel Dotel and Paola Guanche to the town’s reknowned Criteria Recording Studios.
“For us, [at] Billboard, it all starts with the song, so [here we] have the next generation of singers [and] producers,” host Leila Cobo, VP of Billboard Latin, told the acts during introductions to the Songwriter’s Academy.
Throughout “La Próxima Generación,” Barera, who has worked with Camilo on all of his albums, admitted that he always strives for achieving greatness whether it’s working in collaboration with an artist or composing on his own, while Rose chimed in on her own tactic for inspiration. “We are in continuous growth and I think that makes the path more excellent,” she told the acts during their group session, to which Guanche agreed. “Sure, and art is about inspiration, too. One always gets inspiration from anything,” she replied.
The Songwriter’s Academy continued to serve as an open space for the acts to candidly discuss components of their career like their sonic evolution. “I’m at a point where I somewhat know my sound but I’m not attached to it because it’s something that keeps developing,” Dotel explained. Paired with Barerra for her breakout session, the Dominican singer was also quick to share her appreciation for having the opportunity to sit down with the super-producer and hear his take on her artistry. Meanwhile, AUDIOIKO, who was also matched with Barerra, dedicated his time to speak on storytelling.
“Writing songs is like telling a story, part of yourself that you leave in each song,” the Paraguayan producer/DJ explained, a POV that Barerra was all too familiar with. “When I listen to music, I see things and I see it all the time as a movie. For me, the protagonist obviously has to be the voice and the voice always has to be there, like, in the forefront,” he told AUDIOIKO.
Sharing their unique perspectives as writers was a strong component to the experience, particularly during episode two when Camilo led a reunion amongst the four, who were joined by a new act by the name of CAELO. The budding Cuban rapper also happens to be an employee of the Burger King family. “My grandfather was a saxophonist. I chose the music path, and now… I love what I do. I’m following a dream,” he said at Studio 5020 Miami.
After sharing a few bars from one of his songs, CAELO’s cited his day-to-day lifestyle as the continued source of inspiration for his music. “Enjoyment is the first thing, enjoyment and consistency. If I don’t sit for at least three hours to write, I’m failing my commitment,” Camilo told the rising act in their breakout session. Guanche also had the opportunity to play the superstar a track called “Prohibido” and, much like CAELO’s moment, his response to the cut was well worth it. “It gave me a lot of emotion seeing his face,” she explained after their session. “I mean, he felt what I was saying and that for me is something very important, that people feel what I’m saying.”
While Camilo brought a sense of assurance to the breakout sessions, there were also elements of surprise. Just ask Mancebo, who received some moving advice from the star. “Camilo said something that shocked me: ‘You can try to be relatable but…sometimes the most specific things can become the most general ones,’” she reflected on her time with the star.
After spending time with each of the acts, Camilo had his own takeaway from the experience. “It’s, like, it’s a negative thing to be an apprentice. When, in fact, I think the greatest treasure is to have the spirit of being an apprentice in the spirit of having everything to learn more than everything to teach, right?” he said. “So, I learned that from them and that fresh look at new ideas, I take it with me, too.”
At the end of the experience, each member of the Class of 2022 signed and received a celebratory, framed vinyl commemorating their participation in the inaugural Billboard and Burger King “La Próxima Generación” Songwriter’s Academy.