Camilo’s Hemisphere-Spanning Pop (Published 2021) (2023)


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With indelibly catchy songs, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter from Colombia has conquered an international audience. A new album, “Mis Manos,” may bring him even more fresh ears.

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Camilo’s Hemisphere-Spanning Pop (Published 2021) (1)

By Jon Pareles

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Camilo, a singer from Colombia, writes hits even when he’s not trying. That’s what happened with “Vida de Rico,” a song he released in September.

Like many of Camilo’s songs — and unlike much braggadocio-centered Latin pop — “Vida de Rico” is a declaration of modesty delivered with only a handful of instruments. Camilo sings that while he’s not rich, he’ll share all he has with the one he loves; he promises beer, not Champagne.

By now, “Vida de Rico” has been streamed 240 million times on Spotify, and its video — showing Camilo and his wife, Evaluna Montaner, visiting their first house together with workmen — has been streamed nearly half a billion times on YouTube. It was the first single from “Mis Manos” (“My Hands”), the album Camilo releases on Friday, 11 days before his 27th birthday.

Via video chat from the Miami home of his father-in-law, the Argentine-Venezuelan pop singer Ricardo Montaner, Camilo said the couple’s new house still “needs a lot of work. We haven’t been able to sleep there even one night.” He sat on a couch below a painting that’s familiar to Camilo’s millions of YouTube followers; he and Evaluna, who were married last February, have shared it often for video updates on their yearslong romance.

(Video) Reik, Farruko, Camilo - Si Me Dices Que Sí

“Vida de Rico” was originally intended to circulate among fans on social media, just to build interest for “Mis Manos,” according to Edgar Barrera, Camilo’s songwriting and producing collaborator for most of the new album. “It was not for the radio,” he said from his home in Miami. “The key for the success of the song was that because we weren’t looking for a hit, that’s how the song turned out.”

The track has the old-fashioned, clip-clop beat of a cumbia, not the reggaeton or trap rhythms that dominate Latin urban radio. And its droll, nasal little keyboard solo doesn’t use a painstakingly constructed synthesizer tone — just one of the first presets that popped up during the songwriting session. “We didn’t clean up anything about the song from the first demo,” Camilo said. “That song is all about roots and honesty and rawness and mistakes.”

“Vida de Rico” is part of an album that’s determinedly grateful, trans-nationally eclectic and strategically stripped down. In “Millones,” Camilo marvels that his partner has chosen him out of millions of others; in “Tuyo y Mio,” he disagrees with the saying that “Behind every great man is a great woman,” instead insisting, “You were always ahead.”

That attitude is far removed from the conspicuous consumption and raunchy machismo of many reggaeton and Latin hits. “I don’t do it as a reaction,” Camilo said. “Even if something is very different from what I feel or what I create, if it’s honest I really respect it. But when I’m writing a song, when I’m creating a universe, I just have what I feel and what I want to say to my inspiration, which is my wife. What I’m trying to celebrate in this album with the lyrics is honesty. I’m being true to who I am, and making my wife feel proud.”


With Barrera — a prolific producer from Mexico who has worked with performers from across Latin America — Camilo sets his elfin tenor voice in tracks that touch on Colombian champeta, Mexican norteño and mariachi, Dominican bachata and, in “Machu Picchu” — a duet with Evaluna — beats from the Andes. In “Ropa Cara” (“Expensive Clothes”), a single that’s already a hit, Camilo plays a character who can’t afford Balenciaga or Gucci; the song starts with the programmed beat of reggaeton but suddenly switches — as if the electricity has gone out — to a son Cubano with acoustic instruments.

“There’s a simplicity at the other side of complexity that took me a lot of time to discover,” Camilo said. “This album, it’s all about protecting what is essential. It’s like the artisan bread that has like only three or four ingredients. You don’t want a long list of ingredients because you lose the essence of the bread. This album is made with an artisan soul.”

“Mis Manos” is a rapid successor to Camilo’s 2020 album, “Por Primera Vez,” which has been nominated for a Grammy this year as best Latin pop or urban album. While “Por Primera Vez” translates as “For the First Time,” Camilo made his debut much earlier.

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Camilo Echeverry was 13 in 2007, when he became a contestant on “El Factor Xs,” a Colombian children’s version of “The X Factor” — and won. He had grown up listening to music from across Colombia along with the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Bee Gees and the Mexican boleros his parents loved; he wanted to play guitar like the Spanish flamenco master Paco de Lucía. “I was just a little kid,” he said when asked about the show. “I wasn’t looking for the opportunity to be an artist — I was just having fun. I knew the thing I enjoyed most in my life was playing guitar, and sound in general, but singing wasn’t a plan for me.”

He made two albums as Camilo Echeverry, a child star following record-company advice, and he acted in telenovelas. But after his second album, in 2010, he disappeared behind the scenes to be a songwriter. “That first opportunity came in a moment that I wasn’t passionate about writing my stuff, about thinking about my legacy, about what I wanted to transmit and how I wanted to make other people feel,” he said. “If you don’t find your sound, your message, what do you have? You’re not going to be able to grow anything in your life.”

Instead, he eased his way into songwriting and recording sessions with the influential reggaeton producer Tainy, the band Bomba Estéreo and singers including Becky G, Prince Royce, Maluma and Evaluna’s brothers, the duo Mau y Ricky.

“I started writing and producing for other artists, and that made me free from a lot of pressure in my head,” Camilo said. “You’re writing a song and you’re going into a club, and thousands of people are singing the song that you wrote in the studio, and nobody knows who you are.”

He also began making what he calls “lifestyle videos” — sometimes playful, sometimes earnest — with Evaluna Montaner. “We started sharing it because we thought what we were living could impact on other people’s lives in a positive way,” he said. “And now, there are a lot of people that I see in airports, or in the street, that are, like, ‘What you posted with your wife, that caption you put in that picture, changed my life.’ That is so much deeper than, ‘Oh, that melody is catchy.’”

Another sign of maturity came when Camilo cultivated a new visual trademark: an extravagant handlebar mustache. “There was a moment in my life when I was fighting with the way things look, because I thought aesthetics was part of a superficial universe,” he said. “But I realized that everything is connected and everything that you have, your exterior, is making an impression, is making another person feel something. It’s not only an accessory — it’s giving messages.”

He added: “A lot of people are, like, ‘Take that mustache off!’ And I’m like, Bro, if I take the mustache off, I’m going to be in a costume, a disguise, of someone that I am not. This is part of who I am. And, my wife loves it.”

Late in February, Barrera brought Camilo a customized bajo quinto — a large hybrid of guitar and bass, with 10 strings. Camilo played it almost immediately; he had tuned his guitar to the bajo quinto’s five pitches and practiced. “Camilo was born for this,” Barrera said. “Exploring new sounds.”

Jon Pareles has been The Times’s chief pop music critic since 1988. A musician, he has played in rock bands, jazz groups and classical ensembles. He majored in music at Yale University. @JonPareles

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Continue reading the main story

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Who is Camilos wife? ›

Evaluna Montaner and Camilo Echeverry have been married for only three years, but they are already planning to renew their wedding vows.

What kind of music is Camilo? ›

Camilo's music is generally characterized as Latin pop and reggaeton. Suzette Fernandez of Billboard labeled his music as "romantic pop songs fused with urban beats".

Does Camilo write his own songs? ›

Before his own chance in the sun, Camilo spent many years writing and producing some of the biggest Latin pop hits including tracks by Anitta, Becky G and Bad Bunny.

What language does Camilo speak? ›

I almost go every time with the artist,” he shared. Camilo learned how to speak English two to three years ago but has continued to sing in Spanish.


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