Thoughts on Maluma’s X (The Film)

Colombian singer Maluma has released a 26-minute video, starring some of reggaeton’s current top boys and with three new trap-influenced songs.

Here are some of my first thoughts about the film, songs, and where we’re at.

Maluma is a young, rising star in latin urban music. He’s had two hit albums, earned 7 nominations at the 2017 Latin Grammys, and just finished a worldwide stadium tour. The film comes ahead of his album F.A.M.E, to be released early next year.

For those who haven’t seen it, the film starts with a bike race between the musicians…

It’s not clear which exact five were racing but performers Bad Bunny, Pipe Bueno, DJ Luian, Bryant Myers, De la Ghetto, Arcángel, Brytiago, and Almighty all star in the film.

Juan Luis then meets Camila, played by Lourdes Motta. Her mother warned her against men like him, but he convinces her not to judge him:

‘Siii, yo canto trap pero te prometo que yo soy un hombre de buen corazón. Te lo aseguro.’ [‘Yes, I sing trap but I promise you I’m a good-hearted guy. I assure you.’]

Things go well for a while, as the first new song, GPS, plays, and she rejects the beautiful man that tries to flirt with her at the bar where she works.

His growing fame and the demands of touring put a strain on their relationship. Her calls go unanswered.

She decides to surprise Juan Luis on tour. Camila knocks on his dressing room, to be greeted by two topless women that shut the door in her face.

She gets together with Freddy, the guy that flirted with her when things were going smoothly, played by Jarlin Martinez.

Camila bumps into Freddy

So Juan Luis and the boys find other women and party, led by Arcángel, while second song Vitamina plays. They find themselves in a strip club, only to see Camila take the pole.

It seems Freddy has forced her to work there. To her joy, Juan Luis runs into her dressing room the next night to save her. They run to escape but, as she gets in the car, Freddy shoots Juan Luis.

Freddy + friends

The final song, 23, plays at Juan Luis’s funeral, followed by a last dance, now outside the narrative.

As both a latin music fan and someone who’s lived in the city, I found it fascinating. Here are some initial thoughts…

This is a celebration of Medellín

The film’s shot in and around the city, notably Communa 13. There are wide shots of the skyline that showcase some of the city’s beauty.

Looking down from the east over El Poblado

It’s also a love letter to a certain type of baller-life in Medellín, as they race through the barrios, dance on the city’s football pitches, and party in mansions.

Bryant Myers is actually too cool to be 19

It’s a good demonstration of what a big deal these musicians already are, and are going to be. The Puerto-Rican singer-rapper is not widely known in the UK but his songs get millions of listens, sometimes in the 100 millions.

English-speaking countries might not be paying much attention yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

This is a return to Bad Boy Maluma

His last album, Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy, was superficially about the split between his light and dark sides, pictured on its cover.

It’s a fairly accurate representation of how he’s handling his career. He’s been touring with Shakira, an incredible achievement for a 23 year-old latin singer, and hoovered up nominations for the Latin Grammy’s with a pop-reggaeton-based album.

This film is both an acknowledgement of his mainstream success and a reaction against it.

The film ends with a boast, a call from his credit card company to say he can spend without limit. Doubtlessly true, and only a star could have made such an ambitious and expensive film.

At the same time, the film focuses on a started-from-the-bottom backstory. It’s not necessarily true, but the line between Juan Luis the character and Maluma the person is blurred. For example, scenes of Juan Luis on stage are often real footage taken from Maluma’s most recent tour.

The music is also much darker; as I said before, US trap sounds have definitely filtered in. The visuals add to the bad boy imagery. The crazy-parties-with-only-women aesthetic is hardly uncommon but reminds me of recent videos by Miguel and Drake, but in the format of Nicki Minaj’s Pinkprint Movie, talking of which…

It elevates B-sides from the album

There seems to be a trend of taking a few good songs from an album, ones which wouldn’t necessarily be singles, to form a long, intense music video. The Pinkprint Movie does this so well. It’s an underrated masterpiece.

Although both movies follow the same format, in three parts with three songs, they couldn’t be more different in tone. Maluma tells a high-octane story, while Nicki just hints at a broken relationship in three of her slowest, most contemplative songs.

I’m less of a fan of the songs in X at first listen, though I freely admit I’m not the greatest trap fan. Yet, they certainly work well with the film. The association gives them a greater resonance when listening without the video.

We need vocally to support women singing urban latin music

I loved X. It was great to see so many talented guys, mostly from Colombia and Puerto Rico, making cool art. The actors, too, were brilliant, all of whom owned their style and sexuality.

At the same time, it was a reminder of the disparity between men and women behind the microphone in successful latin music. This isn’t to talk down the film or the guys who made it. It was brilliant. It’s just a reality that men are often in control: as in the video, as in the industry.

There are so many brilliantly talented women making music, and the more we celebrate and raise them up, the more power they will have.

A couple of songs I love at the moment:

Leslie Grace & Becky G — Díganle

A jam with an awesome music video, directed by Mike Ho. It’s taking a theme that gets sung about all the time and dealing with it in a really fresh way, with great lyrics, emotion, and visuals.

Chocolate Remix — Ni Una Menos

This is such an incredible, fiery rap with a video that shows the effects of violence on a woman’s body and mind. Ni Una Menos [Not one fewer woman] is a movement in Argentina that fights against gendered violence. I should warn the video is quite upsetting.

Sara Hebe — Violeta Perro

I’ve written before about how I think she is original and a massive talent.

Thanks for reading. I’m definitely keen to hear what others think, whether you have recommendations or you interpret the film differently — do comment or tweet @ me.

If you enjoyed this, please do think about sharing it. I would truly appreciate it! I tweet about latin music and culture, follow me here, if you’re interested.

Watch Maluma — X (The Film) here:

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