Shakira and Maluma’s chemistry is real. Here’s how we know.

Shakira and Maluma’s chemistry is real. Here’s how we know.

Two years ago, when Shakira was looking for songs for her 2017 Spanish-language album, El Dorado, Sony Music Latin chief Afo Verde had a suggestion: How about going into the studio for a writing session with a fellow Colombian, the red-hot up-and-comer Maluma? Shakira, 41, Latin music’s most bankable and best-known female star, was open to the idea. She had paired up with newcomers many times before, and while Maluma had yet to land a No. 1 single on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart, his Instagram and YouTube accounts were exploding, and she was intrigued by his sinuous 2015 pop-reggaetón hit, “Borro Casette.” The collaboration “turned out to be one of the most brilliant ideas Afo Verde has had -- and mind you, he has had several,” Shakira says now with a laugh. Says Verde, who also suggested Shakira’s collaborations with Prince Royce, Carlos Vives and Nicky Jam: “I was fascinated with her evolution from a global sensation to recording again as a mom. What was going to happen with all that sensuality? I thought those two together could do amazing things.” “When I meet with a producer in the studio, it’s a bit like a blind date. But what I found [with Maluma] was absolute chemistry,” confirms Shakira. “The moment the creative energy started to flow, it never stopped.”

2018 Billboard Latin Music Awards Nominations: Shakira and J Balvin Lead With 12 Nods

2018 Billboard Latin Music Awards Nominations: Shakira and J Balvin Lead With 12 Nods

The meeting evolved into a joint recording session of two tracks, “Chantaje” and “Trap.” The former debuted at No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs in November 2016, where it ruled for 11 weeks. Even without a bilingual remix, it climbed to No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100. Maluma, a star on the brink, finally exploded. Today, the 24-year-old is Latin pop’s new worldwide superstar, with seven No. 1s on the Latin Airplaychart, over 1 million tickets sold on his first world tour in 2017 and more Instagram followers (32.1 million) than any other male Latin star. He’s currently touring U.S. arenas for the first time, having sold out New York’s Madison Square Garden in March; promoting the Spanish-language version of Coca-Cola’s World Cup song by Jason Derulo, “Colors”; and prepping the May 18 release of his third studio album, F.A.M.E. Shakira, meanwhile, will embark on her first world tour in seven years, in June, after sweeping the nominations for the 2018 Billboard Latin Music Awards with 12, including four for “Chantaje.” (Maluma has 10 nods.) But the two have more than singles in common. Maluma (real name Juan Luis Londoño) grew up listening to Shakira and feels a deep artistic connection with her. “One of the things that has influenced me the most is the folkloric elements she has incorporated [into her music] since she was very young,” he says. “To be part of that group that has been influenced by the sounds that identify a country has definitely had a bearing on me and my musical career.”