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How Maluma Became One of Music’s Hottest Acts — and Why He’s Headed to Hollywood Next

For the 2020 Power of Young Hollywood Issue, Variety profiled three young stars making an impact in the entertainment industry. For more, click here

How do you know you’ve made it in the music business?

When Madonna gives you her cellphone number — that’s one sign. For Maluma, that moment arrived in 2018 at the MTV Video Music Awards, where Madonna requested to see the reggaeton star backstage. After they met, she decided they were musically compatible. “I almost s— my pants,” Maluma, whose real name is Juan Luis Arias, confesses.

As Madonna describes their introduction in an email to Variety: “We immediately started talking about working with one another, and before we knew it, we were in the studio working on music for [2019’s] ‘Madame X’! I found him to be extremely good-natured, positive vibes, open-minded, fun and very musical! We did not waste time in the studio but just got down to work (between sips of coffee-flavored tequila).”

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The resulting “Medellín” was “one of the most effortless collaborations I have done,” adds Madonna. The video for the sprawling multilingual dance anthem (she sings in English, he in Spanish) was shot over two days at a costume banquet in Portugal, culminating with the two svelte stars riding horses in the desert at sunrise. It has amassed more than 47 million views on YouTube.

For Maluma, who is 26, the song carries weight. It’s named after the city where he was born and grew up and still lives part-time (along with Miami) when he’s not touring.

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