While the recent rise of collaborations among English music artists and Latin music artists – particularly in the pop music sphere – give the impression that the two stylistic sectors are just now finding a creative momentum and enthusiastic audience, Miami, FL Latin band, CNCO (Joel Pimentel, Richard Camacho, Erick Brian Colón, Christopher Vélez, Zabdiel De Jesús) are devoting their third full length album, Déjà Vu,to dispelling this incomplete notion.
Coming in the early days of 2021, Déjà Vu is a 12 track record focused on showcasing CNCO’s awareness and sincere appreciation of widely acclaimed songs by Latin artists that preceded the critically-acclaimed quintet. Furthermore, CNCO decided to incorporate a second layer of nostalgia acknowledging English pop acts through visual parallels in Déjà Vu’s music videos. This facet of creativity easily stops the album from being seen as a mere cover record, to one of with a far more multi-dimensional concept. Selecting songs that span a variety of moods, sonic foundations, and most notably, years of fame, Déjà Vu is a delicately constructed homage to artists who not only left their own lasting marks in the form of memorable choruses, hit singles, and signature styles but, more broadly, helped to set the gears in motion for scores of Latin music artists to follow.
Prior to the unveiling of Déjà Vu’s track reimagining Enrique Iglesias’s 2001 hit, “Hero,” and its accompanying music video that channels the visual direction of the Backstreet Boys’ 1999 brooding hit, “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” CNCO spoke with American Songwriter about what Latin artists of the past mean to them, how the mashup for “Hero” came about, where they hope Latin music goes in the year to come, and more.
American Songwriter: How does it feel looking at an album’s worth of songs, by just as many different people, who all helped to move Latin music forward to where it is now? What kind of perspective does the band hold, thinking about other generations’ icons?
Richard Camacho: We have a fresh perspective. Just how much people are loving this project, how much are they giving us credit…because sometimes when people do coverage, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, why’d you do that,?’ you know? In this case, people are liking it and they’re really enjoying it so, for us it’s a great pleasure to, you know, put homage to these legendary musicians and artists that have lifted our Latin community up in so many ways you know, music-wise and art-wise you know? So we’re very just blessed and thankful that we had this opportunity and we’re just hoping to also teach the new generation – you know, our generation – the same thing as we learned when we were growing up and (that) our parents taught us as well about this music.
AS: What was your first reaction to seeing the “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” video?
Richard Camacho: (We saw) it a long time ago. You know, these are the bands that we look up to. These are the bands that we look for different references and see how they work the crowd, you know, and the energy that they had on stage, and the choreography, and stuff like that, you know?
But before before every recording, we had a little brief of every song and how much it meant to the era. Or, we saw the original clip with the original songs or who wrote it, you know, stuff like that. So we were also getting taught the songs in this generation (and) this era. So, you know, while we were recording it, sometimes when you listen to a song, you don’t really look at the lyrics or the production, you just jam into it. And this time, we really got to tap into (the artists’) emotions, tap into the lyrics, and their production, and everything connected with (all) the songs that we recorded.
AS: The concept behind the pairing of Déjà Vu’s songs and the visual counterparts for its music videos is connected by shared time periods and meaningful moments in pop culture. How did you decide on the pairing and contrasting visual twists on “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”?
Richard Camacho: We thought that Enrique (Iglesias’s) song (“Hero”) was very melancholic you know, and it (had) very dark vibes, very matrix-type (aesthetic) you know? So “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” had had a similarity to it. You know, the same dramatic twist to it. So we love what we did to it, what Carlos Perez did to it, he––shout out to him––he really executed this, whole project smoothly and very creatively you know? We never thought that it was going to come out the way that it did now, and he definitely just, you know, kind of, over accomplished our perspective with this and he did a great job. We actually cut this and we feel very good about everything that we did to it. We try to do our best, you know?
AS: Musically speaking, what was most important to you for “Hero’s” performance, knowing your take on Enrique Iglesias’s song would expand it from a solo piece to an ensemble arrangement?
Joel Pimentel: I think the most important thing was just to make it sound super genuine. Like, not forced on like splitting parts and all that. Usually when we listen to a song, we kind of already have an idea of who’s gonna sing what. And thankfully that day, and I remember in specific, I remember we had like, I don’t know, a very great vibe that night when we are recorded. We just felt something. I guess in our hearts that just made it sound extremely genuine, which I think that’s the most important thing of any song in reality. And we just, we did our best, we did what we could, and we’re glad the way it came out. Sometimes songs that are just made by or made for one artist, it could be a challenge to like, you know, split up the song and stuff. But there was just something special that night and it kind of just happened naturally, just like every other song that we’ve done. And it wasn’t that much of a challenge because it just felt great, and like, special and natural.
AS: What were some notable things the band – either individually or as a whole – learned or realized about the past music and artists that Déjà Vu is highlighting, as a result of making this record?
Christopher Vélez: Well we got into the studio, knowing the songs but, to be honest, while we were recording them, we had to get involved in that character. So we kind of studied the song – each one of the songs – so we kind of learned more of the story, the history behind the songs and the story that the singer was trying to tell so we can get in that zone (and) in that character. So we kind of went back, story by story to be honest, by any practicing every single day. But it was amazing. It was it such a good experience and I feel like it was a challenge, to be honest. And because these old songs were iconic, there were two ways to go: either good or bad. And thank God it came out good and the people are liking it.
AS: What do you hope fans new to either CNCO or even Latin music in general, learn or feel after listening to Déjà Vu?
Zabdiel De Jesús: With this album, we want the intention of this album to try to like make people feel good, because we know that these songs are so important for Latinos. We know that everybody knows these songs. But like bring(ing) them (out) again is kind of like bringing nostalgia. And I think could be really cool like to see parents listening this album with their kids and stuff. So I think is something very familiar and we want to like make (people) feel that joy and happiness with this album.