Frankie Valli earns his first entry on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Songs chart as “Te Quiero Baby,” with Chesca and Pitbull, bows at No. 40 on the Oct. 31-dated list. The nearly all-Spanish-language tune interpolates Valli’s classic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” which hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967, and starts with Valli’s original “I love you, baby” vocals.
“It’s always great to be on the charts,” Valli tells Billboard from his home in Los Angeles. “When I heard the record, I thought they’d done such a great job. It’s amazing how this song has had so much light throughout the years.”
“Te Quiero Baby” is also Valli’s first new song to debut on a Billboard chart with a solo billing in more than 39 years, since “Heaven Above Me/Soul/Let It Be Whatever It Is” peaked at No. 11 on the Dance Club Songs chart in February 1981. In between, he had a notable presence on the hit remix of The 4 Seasons’ “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” which rose to No. 8 on the Pop Songs airplay chart and No. 14 on the Hot 100 in 1994. (Valli, the famed group’s lead singer dating to 1960, sings the bridge and background vocals on the song, which originally topped the Hot 100 for three weeks in 1976, with drummer Gerry Polci instead on lead vocals.)
“‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ was my first [top 10] solo hit,” Valli remembers. “It’s an amazing situation because it was written and produced specifically for me by my partner Bob Gaudio [and Bob Crewe], so it was a tailored song. At that time, the record company was Philips Records and they wouldn’t put the song out. It sat on the shelves for about two years, so we decided to go in and force them to release it; thus, it became a hit [on Warner Curb]. You need to always believe in the things that you are doing.”
“Te Quiero Baby” arrives on Hot Latin Songs, which blends airplay, digital sales and streaming data, as it lifts 5-4 on Latin Pop Airplay and 20-18 on Latin Airplay, up 9 percent to 5.1 million audience impressions in the week ending Oct 25, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data.
So how did “Te Quiero Baby” come to be? “I was in the studio with DJ Chino, Pitbull’s DJ, when Pitbull was singing Lauryn Hill’s version of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’,” Chesca tells Billboard. “So, I said it would be sick if we could do the song in Spanish! Pitbull was singing the song; DJ Chino had a beat that was perfect for it and we all agreed it would fit perfect in Spanish.”
Valli continues: “Our publishing company was approached by Saban Music Group. My partner who lives in Nashville is the one who arranged everything, and here we are. They did the song and sent us the finished track, but we liked the idea right from the beginning. Latin influences have been very big ever since I started recording, all through the ’60s even, especially in arrangements and the way they use drums and congas, so I was already a fan of Latin music even before I started.”
Chesca echoes, “Saban Music reached out to Valli and he loved the idea. He actually wanted to be on the song, so we took his original vocals of ‘I love you, baby‘ and altered them, as they’re in different keys. Once we had the final mix, we sent it in for his blessing. He loved the elements of reggaetón and the Latin vibe. The original song talks about his daughter — it’s a love song. For the Spanish version, we wanted to cater to the young audience. Pitbull comes in with his swag and that’s what makes it so special.”
Complimenting her right back, Pitbull says, “What I admire most about Chesca is how she hustles her way through the music industry. It’s exciting to see ‘Te Quiero Baby’ go up the charts.”
Praises Gustavo Lopez, Saban Music CEO, “Chesca’s versatility when doing a love song, a trap song or a dance club banger is simply second to none. We are happy that she is quickly becoming a breakthrough act.”
“Te Quiero Baby” marks one of two current hits that bring back “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You“: Surf Mesa’s “ily,” featuring Emilee, spends a third week at No. 1 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs and hits new highs of No. 3 on Pop Songs and No. 27 on the Hot 100.
Shares Chesca, “Actually, when ‘ily’ came out, I was bummed out. We recorded this song a while ago; it took us a while to get the clearance.” After Surf Mesa heard “Te Quiero Baby,” he commented on Chesca’s Instagram with a “nice.” Her interpretation: Surf Mesa was “hinting we had copied his intention, but I thought it was OK; our version has such a different vibe. Actually, I wanted to put out a remix with him, to collaborate with him.”
Chesca, originally from Puerto Rico, adds that a remix of “Te Quero Baby” is on the way, but not with the Seattle-born Surf Mesa, but another American artist. “My version will remain in Spanish, and Pitbull and the other featured artist will sing in English. All I can say is that it’s an urban act,” she teases.
Chesca and Pitbull performed “Te Quiero Baby” live for the first time at the Billboard Latin Music Awards on Oct. 21. “It was such an amazing experience. I have been waiting for that moment my whole life,” Chesca marvels. “I wanted to honor the original song, so I started with an a cappella of the original.”
“The production and energy was all there,” Pitbull agrees.
“It’s always great to have a new audience,” Valli, 86 and forever a Jersey boy, muses. “I’ve had my day in the sun and it has certainly been sensational. We always talked about the possibility of getting someone to do this song in Spanish. To see that some of the work that we did in the ’60s is still very viable and people still love it feels terrific.”