It’s easy to reel off stats illustrating Maluma’s global pop phenomenon status: the Colombian singer has 40 million Instagram followers, more videos with a billion YouTube views than Ed Sheeran and an ongoing 43-date arena tour that’s headed for Madison Square Garden. But it’s more interesting and probably more revealing to note that he proposed a collaboration to Madonna when they met at the 2018 VMAs, displaying the sort of savvy, ambition and, well, sheer balls that the Queen of Pop herself has built a career on.
So while Madge might tell him to “slow down, papi” on their excellent collaboration ‘Medellín’, in career terms there’s no chance of Maluma doing anything of the sort. This fourth album arrives nearly a year to the day after his third, ‘F.A.M.E.’, and includes collaborations with Ty Dolla $ign, huge Puerto Rican artist Ozuna, OG Latin pop crossover king Ricky Martin, super-producer Max Martin and, naturally, Madonna. She returns the favour for ‘Medellín’ (which doesn’t appear here) by singing in a not strictly necessary cod-Spanish accent on ‘Soltera’, a fun and flirty duet about playing hard to get. This time, she cools him off with, “I’m not a girl you’ll drink like wine”, a line that presumably wasn’t inspired by a shared bottle of tepid Echo Falls rosé.
But despite the impressive guest list, ’11:11′ feels very much like Maluma’s show – and not just because he loves to sprinkle his lyrics with “mamacita” the way George Michael used to with “baby”. ‘Soltera’ and ‘Tu Vecina’ are the only tracks with English parts (everything else is performed in Spanish) and he mostly pogoes between sultry reggaeton bops such as dancefloor-ready single ‘HP’ and Latin pop tracks that are fresh but cleverly retro-leaning. ‘Shhh (Calla)’ is a pretty flamenco-flecked slowie, the horn-driven ‘Te Quiero’ adds some ‘I Like It’-style salsa into the mix, while the breezy ‘No Se Me Quita’ has a brilliant, Ricky Martin-sung chorus which recalls the latter’s ’90s heyday. Ty Dollar $ign duet ‘Tu Vecina’, a catchy club banger which could almost be a Major Lazer production, already sounds like a crossover hit.
At 16 tracks, ’11:11′ is definitely a little long, but there’s no denying that Maluma creates a mood that suits his persona every bit as effectively as Drake does. Stylish, sexy and right-on-trend, this album should generate some heat from Bogotá to Bognor.