Since their formation on the Spanish-language singing competition La Banda in 2015, CNCO have reigned as the biggest boy band in Latin music. But why conquer Latin music alone when they can take on the whole world?
That’s where their latest single “Pretend” comes in. They’ve dabbled in English-language releases before — most notably with their Meghan Trainor and Sean Paul collaboration “Hey DJ” — but the party-starting single is the quintet’s first Spanglish release on their own.
“We’ve always wanted to do music in English,” Joel Pimentel De León tells Billboard‘s Pop Shop Podcast (full interview embedded below). “We feel like after three years, we wanted to give our fans, our non-Spanish-speaking fans, something that they actually hear every day: their language. And we just like it too. Richard and I, we grew up listening to music in English, we sang music in English.”
Three of the five members were born in the U.S. — Joel (California), Richard Camacho (New York) and Christopher Vélez (New Jersey, but raised in Ecuador) — while Erick Brian Colón is from Cuba and Zabdiel De Jesús is from Puerto Rico, so the song’s half-Spanish, half-English lyrics represent the band’s diverse upbringings. Another piece of the song that speaks to their childhoods is its interpolation of the 1985 DeBarge smash “Rhythm of the Night,” written by previous Pop Shop guest Diane Warren.
“When we first heard it, I was like, ‘This is a throwback,'” Richard says of the track, which has already gone top 40 on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Songs chart and is bubbling under the Pop Songs airplay chart. “Because we remember the times our moms or aunts or even us were cleaning the house with that song on. It was always a jam. When we heard the song, we were like, ‘Yo, this song is going to throw everybody back.’ And it’s a feel-good song.”
“I noticed when you listen to the song, you have to move one part of your body,” Christopher laughs. “There’s no way you can be still.”
The song is only adding to the group’s already-global appeal. In addition to just wrapping up their first U.S. headlining tour in March in Miami (“It was a lot of people,” Erick says of selling out Miami’s massive American Airlines Arena), they also did some dates in Europe and South America — and their music has taken off in Asia too.
“When we went to Japan, the fans were telling us they were learning Spanish from our songs,” Joel marvels. “And learning how to say ‘Can I give you a hug?’ in Spanish, so that was really cool.”
On April 25, they’ll return to the Billboard Latin Music Awards in Las Vegas, where they are set to perform and are up for three prizes: Latin pop artist of the year, duo or group; Latin pop album of the year for their self-titled 2018 album; and Latin rhythm artist of the year, duo or group. They’re no strangers to the show, winning three prizes at their very first ceremony in 2017, including new artist of the year, and taking home Latin pop artist of the year, duo or group, last year. So what’s in store this year?
“Hopefully getting something — at least one,” Richard laughs.
“Only one?” Zabdiel shoots back.
This also marks the first time a few of the members will be able to experience all Sin City has to offer. “This is the first year where three of us are legal,” Richard points out. “We’re old enough to go out and try to adventure around Vegas. But let’s just leave it in Vegas.”
Following “Pretend,” do CNCO plan to release any more English-language songs? “After seeing the outcome and response by the public, seeing how much they liked it, we’re definitely going to do it,” Joel says. “Not only that, but also because we liked it too. We felt really good recording music in English. You’ll have to stay tuned, because we actually have a whole bunch of songs recorded, a lot of surprises.”
What the group isn’t sure about just yet is whether a new album is in their near future, but there is plenty of new material on the way.
“We’re not planning on an album, we’re just recording songs,” Richard says. “This year, there’s a lot of new music coming out — we have a lot of singles, we have a lot of features coming. We can’t talk [about it yet], but we have a lot of things coming. We’re not planning on an album … just releasing songs and seeing where it takes us. Right now, we’re writing as well, so there is a lot of work being done. We’re constantly working, constantly creating. Maybe we will put out an EP or album — who knows?”
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard‘s weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard‘s senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)