On a muggy Florida afternoon, a summer storm pelts the pristine white Rolls-Royce SUV that pulls up to an empty street corner just outside downtown Miami. The window rolls down, and an immediately recognizable voice, soft and sultry, calls from the driver’s seat: “Come on in,” he says, leaning over to push open the passenger door. I clamber into the front seat, mortified as water splatters on the red leather.
The car may be flashy, but the man inside looks much less so. Romeo Santos — the artist who took bachata global and became one of Latin music’s biggest stars — is wearing plaid pants, an oversize yellow T-shirt and a baseball cap. His only jewelry is his Rolex and a small gold chain. The car is empty except for his 22-year-old nephew, who doubles as his assistant and is sprawled across the back seat.
Santos drove from his new home north of Miami all the way to my Key Biscayne neighborhood to play me music from his upcoming album, Formula, Vol. 3, his first since 2019’s Utopia and the first in his Formula series since 2014’s record-breaking Vol. 2, which is still on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart after 386 consecutive weeks — the most for any Latin album in history.
Notoriously secretive about his creative process and production, Santos has played Vol. 3 for only a handful of people. Other than the single “Sus Huellas” (Her Prints) — released, no coincidence, on Valentine’s Day — he intends to keep it away from outside ears until its Sept. 1 release, another symbolically charged date: It coincides with his eldest son’s birthday.
Read the full Billboard cover story here.