Home to 21 tracks — including the only previously released single “Sus Huellas,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Latin Airplay chart — the new set flaunts the ever-experimental Santos tapping into hip-hop, trap, tango, merengue and regional Mexican without losing touch of his bachata essence.
His collaborators include renowned pop star Justin Timberlake, Mexican artist Christian Nodal and Spanish songstress Rosalía, to name a few. He also teams up with a wave of Dominican talent, from the big dogs Toño Rosario and Luis Miguel del Amargue to newcomers like Chris Lebron. Even comedian and actor Katt Williams and Santos’ children make a cameo.
“I’ve taken this ‘King of Bachata’ title very personally,” Santos told Billboard for his recent cover story. “It’s a huge responsibility. It was very risky, very descarado to say, ‘We’re the kings of bachata!’ But you can say anything you want as long as you back it up, and I take pride in that. I want to make sure that all my albums, whether people like them or not, they can listen to and realize there was some production, there was work put in. I’m very meticulous when it comes to my music. When I do anything, even a salsa, it sounds like Romeo Santos.”
The album, which Santos began working on pre-pandemic, ends with “Nirvana,” a vulnerable track on which the King of Bachata has an open conversation with God about his loved ones, his colleagues, the Uvalde school shooting, and other social and personal issues. “I know I’m complaining, but I continue to pray,” he chants. “When I’m in doubt I just hope that you hear me, open up your arms and take me into Nirvana, into the clouds just so you could tell me that you’re around.”
Formula, Vol. 3 comes eight years since Santos released Vol. 2 in 2014, which is still on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart after 386 consecutive weeks — the most for any Latin album in history. Since the last Formula album in 2014, Santos has released Golden (2017) and Utopia (2019).
Below, check out all the collaborations on the set. ranked:
7. “La Ultima Vez” feat. Luis Miguel del Amargue
For this fast-paced, infectious bachata, Santos joined forces with veteran bachatero Luis Miguel del Amargue. The track tells the story of a man who decided to part ways with his girlfriend for being a gold digger and leaving him without money. A strong contender to become a fan favorite because of its traditional bachata beat and relatable lyrics, this collaboration takes up back to Santos’ conceptual Utopia album, where he collaborated with bachata’s biggest exponents including Raulin Rodriguez, Luis Vargas, and many more.
6. “El Pañuelo” feat. Rosalía
Rosalía has expressed her love for bachata and had already recorded one herself alongside The Weeknd. This time, she teams up with the K.O.B. on a more traditional-sounding bachata, which she and Romeo elevate with their distinctive and wide-ranging vocals. Both sound excellent like they were meant to sing bachata together, and I love that they stuck to a strict bachata sound (instead of an overly-produced fusion of sounds) to allow their vocals to take the spotlight.
5. “Culpable” feat. Lapiz Conciente
Just like Santos has songs about heartbreak, love, connecting with God, and even for his mother-in-law, he has a track for those who are locked up in prison. For this chill Hip-Hop track, which samples Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It,” Santos reeled in Dominican rapper Lapiz Conciente. Honoring his artistic name, Lapiz spits raw lyrics about street life, being in jail, and feeling guilty, but also reflecting on his life lessons and a hopeful future. “This song is dedicated to all those people who because of errors in life are serving a sentence,” Lapiz says at the end of the track.
4. “15,500 Noches” feat. Toño Rosaria, Rubby Perez, Fernando Villalona, and Ramon Orlando
This fast-paced merengue song is a journey to the depths of the genre’s roots, and what better way than recruiting four of the strongest exponents in the tropical genre? Its lyrics are nothing short of a romantic poem, in which he praises a divine way of seeing the beloved woman, almost like a divine creature. “I want to duplicate your existence, connect with God and ask him for his mold, maybe he lends me the brush, and I can clone you with other conditions, and so we will have love,” Santos sings in the chorus.
3. “Siri” feat. Chris Lebron
One of the most exciting collaborations on the set is this track with rising Dominican act Chris Lebron, further proving Santos’ bets on the new talents deriving from his country. Unlike all the other danceable tracks on the album, “Siri” is a downtempo, dancehall, where both Santos and Lebron’s smooth vocals come out to shine. The single reflects on a man who’s alone, heartbroken, and whose only companion is the virtual assistant, Siri. “Siri call her and tell her to come back/without here, this house is a jungle/Siri call her and ask her where she is/tell her I got back my virginity making love with loneliness,” sings Lebron.
2. “Sin Fin” feat. Justin Timberlake
Yeah. That’s Justin Timberlake singing a bachata and, truth be told, he sounds better than I expected. Not that I was expecting him to sound off but JT singing a bachata is something I never thought I’d hear. So, when Romeo Santos revealed that he was a collaborator on his new album, I was a bit nervous not knowing if it’d sound forced or inorganic. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally heard “Sin Ti.” Timberlake’s sweet vocals match perfectly with bachata’s delicate guitar notes. “You already know this love is all yours, baby, so take it. We’ve been here before and [it’s] strong enough to save us, oh baby,” Timberlake sings injecting pathos into his delivery.
1. “Me Extrano” feat. Christian Nodal
When Romeo decided to dip his toes in Regional Mexican, he made sure to reel in the top mariacheño artist of the moment, Christian Nodal. On this track, Santos’ high-pitched smooth vocals are a contrast to Nodal’s powerful tone. Nevertheless, this mariachi song carries melancholy through all its musical notes and lyrics as it narrates the story from the point of view of two men who have had the same woman. Romeo, the one who let her go and didn’t know how to treat her, accepts his mistakes and the irony of missing her. “I recognize the damage/before I was like you, and that’s why I’m shocked,” and Nodal is grateful for his mistakes “Cheers for what you have neglected,” he sings.