Ask CNCO where they’d like to travel next, and they have a list ready and waiting for you.
“Australia, we haven’t been there,” Richard Camacho offers at the outset. Joel Pimentel agrees.
“Egypt,” Erick Brian Colón adds.
“China,” Zabdiel de Jesús says.
“Yeah, China,” Pimentel echoes.
“We haven’t been to Dubai,” Christopher Vélez says. “I would love to go to Dubai.”
“Did you guys say Australia?”
They build on each other’s suggestions happily, their camaraderie a kind of choreography in its own right. It’s easy to sit back and talk big plans with them — where they’ll travel to next, who they’d love to collaborate with, what goals they want to achieve together. A Grammy, if they’re able, maybe a TV series of their own. And for a group that has, in the past year alone, performed at the VMAs pre-show, taken the Latin AMAs by storm, and seen their faces dozens of feet high in Times Square and above Hollywood’s biggest intersections, you get the sense that few things would be out of reach.
They are quick to admit that everything they’ve done and seen so far has been pretty surreal. “Being able to do all of this in such a short amount of time has been a dream come true,” Pimentel tells MTV News, referring to the fateful first season of La Banda that joined them together in 2015. Since then, they’ve released two albums; toured with mentor and music legend Ricky Martin, as well as the likes of Ariana Grande, Pitbull, and Enrique Iglesias; collaborated with groups like Little Mix and PRETTYMUCH; and just dropped a new EP, Que Quiénes Somos.
But the accolades are nothing without the fans, wherever the CNCOwners are from, and whatever language they speak. “Our music is going places we never expected,” Colón says. “We’ve been to Asia and Europe and people have told us they’re learning Spanish from our music. That’s amazing.”
An estimated 577 million people worldwide speak Spanish, which is roughly 7.6 percent of the global population. But even countries with significant Latinx and Spanish-speaking populations, like the U.S., have often faltered with giving adequate shine to music that features one of the most common languages in the world. Plenty of non-Latinx artists also take inspiration from the genre, resulting in some of the biggest songs in recent memory. Still, some people still consider Spanish-language songs that succeed in an English-language market to be “crossover” hits, or outliers — so much so that award shows create entire offshoots for the Spanish-language market, which plenty of us know as our normal more than a niche.
The ability to succeed globally, then, isn’t lost on CNCO. “Seeing all of these different countries — including the United States, accepting Latin music, it’s super cool,” Pimentel says. “Being able to present ourselves with Latin music makes us very proud.”
“Social media has broken a lot of barriers for us,” de Jesús adds, and Colón points to the broad democratization of streaming as just one way people can discover their music, or any music in a language other than English.
Que Quiénes Somos comes in at a tight seven songs, including the lead single “De Cero,” which reflects on how far two people in a relationship have come from the start of their courtship (literally, from zero). Some songs on the album, including “De Cero” and “De Mì,” feature English-language interludes, but the project relies heavily on Spanish-language pop and plenty of traditional guitars, which are on full display in the Manuel Turizo collab, “Pegao.” “Tóxica,” a ballad about a destructive relationship, slows things down significantly at the end of the set with a capella harmonizing that showcases the group’s vocal ability.
“This EP was our first writing camp,” Camacho explains of the creative process behind the release. “We just felt fire because we could actually put down our ideas, and we were just writing constantly — about different stories and different things.” He estimates the group wrote over 20 songs in that two-week span, which allowed for plenty of bonding. “We actually connected more,” he adds. “We found each other a little bit more, and we found our sound a little bit more.”
De Jesús says it’s been fun to play with plenty of musical genres in the group’s four-year shared history. “We’ve done ballads, pop, electronic music… We did pop rock in the first album,” he notes. Still, he’s especially keen to take on even more: “We haven’t done bachata, and we haven’t done salsa.”
“In ‘Ya Tú Sabes,’ it’s like salsa mixed with trap,” Vélez offers. “But a full salsa, that could be dope.” Camacho immediately offers up Marc Anthony as a possible collab. (The consensus? “That’d be amazing,” all five echo.)
There are a number of artists on their list of musical inspiration: Billie Eilish and Daddy Yankee top the list. Pimentel shouts out Maluma (“of course”), while de Jesús is quick to nominate Bruno Mars. Their list of dream collaborators is just as varied: Ed Sheeran, Backstreet Boys, Normani, and Post Malone all earn nods. Someone points out that NSYNC has been up to something lately on social media, so maybe there’s space to link up there, too.
Until then, the group is just as excited for “Me Necesita,” a bilingual effort with PRETTYMUCH that serves as an implosion of boy-band swagger: The two groups’s voices sing in tandem about the girls that just can’t quit them. “Basically she’s trying to play hard to get but you’re telling her, ‘At the end of the day, we need each other,’ you know?” Camacho explains.
“It’s 10 people singing one song, so it felt crazy, but it’s beautiful,” Pementel adds.
The video for the track also pulls on a Latinx-American staple: futbol… or soccer, if you’re stateside. “The video is cool,” Colón says approvingly, explaining that it’s like a superpowered version of the game complete with wires and slow-motion effects.
The process of recording the song and learning the choreography, which was by Ian Eastwood, “felt like a party the whole time,” Camacho says. “We’re joking around, we’re doing stunts. Everyone was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ We were all backing each other up.”
And just as they’re broadening their horizons to work with other groups, they’re becoming a more tightly knit crew themselves. “Every single day, we’re learning about each other,” Vélez says, pointing in particular to how they’ll sometimes discover the way the same words are used differently across Latinx cultures. “Some random words mean something different in different places, or maybe don’t mean anything.”
“The foods, too,” Pimentel says, “And stories, and the history of each country.”
It’s in effort, Camacho adds, of celebrating their heritage collectively. “It’s bringing it all together, which is cool. Music brought us into one, into this world that we created by ourselves.”
Which brings us back to their global ambitions — the 2020 plans, the list of places to go, the records they still want to smash. The Grammy they hope to land, and the fans that they can connect with at any time of the day or night, hopefully for the better.
“We want to be an inspiration, more than anything,” de Jesús says. “I think that’s the purpose of the music. More than just doing what we love, we want to be a good example to follow, and make a change in our generation.”