For many years, the music business seemed to think that Latin artists needed to follow a stereotypical cross path to gain global attention. Major acts like Bad Bunny and Maluma debunked that idea by becoming undeniable stars without changing their sound or style to fit the world of Anglo pop. But years before either artist appeared, it was Romeo Santos, the bachata heartthrob known for his falsetto, who helped pave the way by refusing to give in to the industry machinery.
Santos began singing in New York in the legendary boy band Aventura, which brought the traditional Dominican genre of bachata into the mainstream. He launched a solo career in 2011 with Formula Vol. 1, a flashy debut that featured massive names like Usher, who performed the song ‘Promise’. “I was one of the first to really say, ‘No, no, nah, I want these artists to sing in my Latin groove,'” Santos says in a recent Zoom call from Miami, where he lives. “Seeing now, a decade later, that some of the biggest records in this industry have that essence of Latin music, I feel like I was a part of that.”
Formula Vol. 1 was a huge success, and Formula Vol. 2 was even bolder. Since then, while working on other wildly popular projects, fans have always wondered if and when they might get a third volume of Formula. Romeo Santos wasn’t entirely sure either, but during the pandemic he began working on a set of songs that felt striking and unexpected, full of fusions and collaborations that continued to propel bachata into the future. He played them for his friends and they all had the same reaction: “This feels like Formula”.
That’s how he decided that he was finally ready to give people Formula Vol. 3, available on September 1st. “I have never been afraid to experiment with bachata. I have always been able to create ideas that are not the norm, unorthodox,” he says. “There are some musical proposals that people are going to be shocked to hear, because they have never done them before, with artists who are clearly icons.”
Stretching the boundaries of bachata is something Santos has been doing since his Aventura days. The band formed in the Bronx in the 1990s; Romeo Santos was just a teenager and became the lead singer. The quartet originally called themselves Los Tinellers, but after changing their name, they released their debut as Aventura in 1999. They immediately garnered attention for taking on bachata, a genre historically ostracized and vilified since it flourished among working-class New Yorkers. the Dominican Republic, and mixing it with stylish R&B and hip-hop. For Romeo, his approach was simply a reflection of the musical influences around the band as they grew up. “I mean, it would sound great to tell you that we were scientists with our s**t,” He says. “We studied, but it wasn’t even about studying. It was so organic.”
Aventura broke records with box office hits like 2002’s We Broke the Rules and 2009’s The Last. Although the band broke up for a few years to pursue solo work, fans rejoiced in 2019, when the members announced they would be reuniting for their first tour in a decade. The tour sold out in minutes and set them up for a wildly successful comeback, but sadly, several dates were canceled due to the pandemic. Regardless, the guy kept making waves, casting Bad Bunny for 2021’s “Volví,” a song the Puerto Rican superstar immediately loved. “I told him, ‘Listen, I’m pretty sure you’re working on something pretty big, but this is just an idea I have,'” Romeo recalls telling Bad Bunny. “The response was ‘Hell yeah!’ without even hearing the idea.”
As we speak, Romeo is putting the finishing touches on Formula Vol. 3, at the perfect time for a renaissance happening right now: Along with Bad Bunny, artists like Rosalía, The Weeknd, C. Tangana and Nathy Peluso have jumped into bachata in the last year. Other Latin genres, including Dominican dembow, have gone global, and Latin stars are now some of the biggest on the planet, confirming what He always knew: “We were always flyers. We were always killing him. But now, everyone is paying attention.”