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Five Burning Questions: Billboard Staffers Discuss J Balvin and the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘RITMO’ Hitting the Top 40

How much bigger can "RITMO" still get from here? And where does it rank in the 'Bad Boys' soundtrack canon? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below.

After spending nearly a decade on the pop sidelines, once-unavoidable pop-rap group The Black Eyed Peas are back in the Hot 100’s top 40 this week for the first time since 2011 — and it’s not with a song that anyone would’ve predicted any part of marking the group’s comeback when they first went on chart hiatus. 

“RITMO (Bad Boys For Life),” which moves 44-36 on the chart this week, is the group’s slow-burning crossover collab with reggaetón superstar J Balvin, which samples the massive chorus hook to Corona’s ’90s dancefloor-filler “The Rhythm of the Night.” And as its subtitle suggests, the song is the lead single from the third installment in the Bad Boys film series — an old-fashioned soundtrack hit which we don’t see so often these days, but which the franchise is already very familiar with. 

How much bigger can the song still get from here? And where does it rank in the Bad Boys soundtrack canon? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below. 


1. After a steady climb, “RITMO” cracks the Hot 100’s Top 40 for the first time this week — its 12th frame on the chart. Why do you think it’s been able to maintain this kind of momentum several months after its release?

Bianca Gracie: I think it’s a mixture of curiosity, star power and box office gold. The Black Eyed Peas’ last major hit was way back in 2011 with “Just Can Get Enough,” so ears perked just to hear what the heck the guys were planning to do with J Balvin — a.k.a. one of the most successful Latin stars of the past decade. “RITMO” also infuses a handful of genres — reggaeton, hip-hop, pop and dance — making it viable on to appear on nearly all of those individual charts. It was also smart to release the song a few months ahead of the Bad Boys For Life release in January 2020. The film’s recent premiere (becoming the franchise’s highest-grossing film with $370 million) and the accompanying soundtrack gave “RITMO” yet another kick that has BEP now celebrating its biggest hit in nearly a decade.

Jason Lipshutz: Here’s the thing about that interpolation of Corona’s “The Rhythm of the Night”: have you tried to resist it? Has anyone been successful in doing so? Everyone involved with the creation of “RITMO” understands the basic fact that “The Rhythm of the Night” is still potent enough to comprise the backbone of a modern dance-pop track, including one that takes a few months to catch on at top 40 radio. Aside from that, however, we’ve seen Latin pop singles take a few months to scale the Hot 100 chart, from “Bailando” to “Despacito.” While other parts of the world are already dancing, America is still prone to play catch-up, to some degree.

Andrew Unterberger: A mix of cross-format pollination — the song’s currently No. 1 on both Billboard‘s Hot Dance Songs and Hot Latin Songs charts, certainly a rare combo — and lack of similar competition is probably helping this one bubble up. It’s also generally a little more winning than it initially lets on: Even once you get past the can’t-miss sample, this song has hooks and charm to spare. 

Taylor Weatherby: Well for one, J Balvin is always a force to be reckoned with. But I think it helps that the song’s hype began two months before Bad Boys For Life even hit theaters, then people were reminded of the song upon the film’s arrival in January. There’s also not a whole lot of summery hits out right now, so people may be curing their winter blues with a Latin-flavored dance song like “RITMO.” 

Xander Zellner: It’s a bop! (or, dare I say, a BEP?). But really, it has to do with the fact that the song fits on multiple radio formats (Latin, urban, pop, dance), which helps extend its longevity. Also, it represents a new direction for the Black Eyed Peas, as the “RITMO” blends reggaetón with a familiar-sounding retro song (“Rhythm of the Night”). When you combine that with an artist like J Balvin, who’s becoming perhaps the biggest name in Latin music at the moment (and just came off a Super Bowl performance!), you have yourself a hit.

2. How far do you see the song continuing to climb on the Hot 100 from here — and how much can a teased new remix featuring Jennifer Lopez help?

Bianca Gracie: Once the J. Lo remix drops, the song will surely break into the Hot 100’s top 20 at the very least. Lopez is the ultimate addition to this formula, as she has a penchant for these throwback-leaning club tunes. They’re also some of her most successful on the chart as well: 2011’s “On The Floor” hit No. 3 on the Hot 100 and “Dance Again” peaked at No. 17 the following year. Plus, she’s still fresh in Mainstream America’s minds: Lopez is just under three weeks removed from her spectacular Super Bowl halftime performance, making it the perfect time for her to secure yet another smash.

Jason Lipshutz: “RITMO” could certainly crack the top 20 of the Hot 100, and maybe even shimmy into the top 10, especially as the weather heats up and song of the summer candidates start peaking their heads out of the snow. Could a new remix help it climb even higher, a la Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” boost? Jennifer Lopez is certainly on enough of a hot streak to do so, thanks to Hustlers and the Super Bowl halftime show. Sure, Laura Dern has the best supporting actress Oscar, but has she ever sung with Apl.De.Ap?

Andrew Unterberger: Depends a little. Whereas some remixes can provide a major bump on name recognition alone, I think the J. Lo remix will have to be a noted improvement on the original to really provide much of a spark. If it is, and she can really take the song to a different level, then a top 10 placement definitely isn’t out of the question. If it feels phoned-in, I think the song will probably peter out before even really threatening the top 20. 

Taylor Weatherby: I’m not sure it’ll crack the top 20, but Jennifer Lopez is certainly a genius addition, especially since she tore up that Super Bowl stage with Shakira just weeks ago. I do hope she has an actual verse, though, because otherwise I think her vocals on the “Rhythm of the Night” sample may be overlooked otherwise. Regardless of J. Lo’s help, I’ll take a firm stance in saying that it won’t go higher than No. 20 — in all honesty, I don’t think it’s a massive hit.

Xander Zellner: I could see it climbing as high as the top 10. It’s still gaining at radio and its sales and streaming totals haven’t dropped off yet. Plus, the track absolutely warrants itself to countless dance remixes (and we already have some, from Steve Aoki, SWACQ, Rosabel and DJLW), which will help boost its weekly streaming totals. The Jennifer Lopez remix will certainly help it gain momentum as well.

3. It’s the BEPs’ first Hot 100 hit in close to a decade — though in the decade before that, they were about as regular a presence on the chart as anyone. What’s a Black Eyed Peas hit you still enthusiastically rep for in 2020?

Bianca Gracie: I’m always here for a problematic bop, and 2005’s “My Humps” gets the most spins from me compared to the group’s other tunes. It’s a completely silly song about Fergie’s lady parts (it blows my mind that it actually managed to win a Grammy, for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals), but that’s where the charm lies. “My Humps” is undeniably catchy for all the wrong reasons and I wish more current pop stars would teeter on the politically correct line like the Black Eyed Peas during this era.

Jason Lipshutz: I wasn’t really a big Black Eyed Peas guy during their era of dominance — no offense to any or all of the Peas, but their brand of radio-ready pop-rap never profoundly phunked with my heart, even if my opposition to hearing “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling” at wedding receptions has lessened over time. “Pump It” was always my guilty pleasure, though, with that “Misirlou” sample and dumb-fun call-and-response hook (“Pump it?” “LOUDER!”). And if any of the Fergie solo singles count in the “enthusiastically still repped by me” category, then you know where my heart lies.

Andrew Unterberger: “Meet Me Halfway”! If not for the contributions of the non-Fergie members who seem to have no clue why they’re even there, it’d be one of the most resonant pop songs of the late ’00s. Shoulda saved it for Double Dutchess, perhaps. 

Taylor Weatherby: While “My Humps” is certainly fun to bust out every now and then, no BEP song gets me going the way “I Gotta Feeling” does. How can you not love a song that has you dancing while saying “Tonight’s gonna be a good night”? WOOHOOOOOO!

Xander ZellnerElephunk had some truly great hits on it; I’ll still rep for “Where Is the Love?,” “Let’s Get It Started” and “Hey Mama.”

4. As a hit single from a Bad Boys soundtrack, “RITMO” is part of a fairly proud legacy. Which do you think is best of the biggest from each — Diana King’s “Shy Guy,” Diddy, Nelly and Murphy Lee’s “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” or “RITMO”?
Bianca Gracie: “Shake Ya Tailfeather” is the clear winner here! That song came out nearly 17 years ago and it still gets heavy rotation in my playlist. It always reminds me of the early ‘00s glory days, where the BBQ or middle school prom immediately transformed into a chickenhead dance contest once the DJ dropped it. And Nelly hasn’t really given us a better lyric than this gem: “Is that your ass or your mama half reindeer?”

Jason Lipshutz: “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” and it’s not particularly close. That epic, a cappella intro? Diddy’s In Living Color simile? “Is that your ass, or your mama half-reindeer”?? “RITMO” is great but will always be a bridesmaid in the wedding between me and a Bad Boys soundtrack single.

Andrew Unterberger: “Shake Ya Tailfeather” is great and all, but I don’t want three fly guys, I just want a “Shy Guy.” 

Taylor Weatherby: I’m probably biased because “Shake Ya Tailfeather” is nostalgic for middle school Taylor, but even listening to all three songs in a row, I still think it stands out. Its punchy beat and chanty chorus create the perfect soundtrack for a dance-floor throwdown, one that I think still holds up nearly 20 years later. Plus, any song that can make a siren noise actually catchy deserves an A+ in my book. 

Xander Zellner: With respect to Diana King, I gotta go with “Shake Ya Tailfeather.”

5. Now that “RITMO” has resuscitated Corona’s classic 1994 smash “The Rhythm of the Night”… are there any ’90s dance-pop jams left that have yet to be interpolated by 21st-century hits? Which would you still like to see get a new life? 

Bianca Gracie: Some may consider it sacrilegious to touch this track, but it’s a wonder that La Bouche’s 1995 single “Be My Lover” hasn’t been sampled or interpolated by a big artist yet. It is one of the most defining moments of the ‘90s Eurodance era and still gets people moving on the dancefloor once that hypnotic “La da da dee da da da da” intro kicks in. Dua Lipa has currently been ruling the nostalgic dance-pop circuit in my opinion, so I’d be curious to see how she’d transform this into a modernized groove.

Jason Lipshutz: My favorite of those Jock Jams-ready 90’s dance-pop tracks was always Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody,” which is so enjoyable and supremely silly that it seems impossible that it hasn’t been rediscovered yet. Hey, Black Eyed Peas: looking to keep the new hit streak alive? Pull some Italian house music out of the crates and go forth.

Andrew Unterberger: I’ll get wild here and say gimme an update of Sagat’s “Funk Dat” to address all the minor and insignifcant irritations of modern Internet living. “QUESTION… why is it that every time I go on Twitter and see my favorite rapper trending… it has nothing to do with anything but some bad take… by some dude with 175 followers. C’mon, man, FUNK DAT!!” 

Taylor Weatherby: Vengaboys’ “We Like to Party!” There’s so many elements of it that could make an awesome sample in a dance track, particularly that staccato techno melody. I could even see the titular line sneakily being sampled in a hip-hop song, or something similar to what J Balvin and Black Eyed Peas did with “RITMO.” Maybe they should team up again for “FIESTA”?

Xander Zellner: Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” has been sampled many, many times (but never on a big hit!) and is already perfect as is, but I’d love to see it get a new life in the 21st century.