Last fall, Colombian-American singer and artist Kali Uchis released Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) on Interscope, her second major label album and, importantly, her first Spanish-language album. The project was well received, and its first two singles, “Aqui Yo Mando” with Rico Nasty and “La Luz (Fin)” with Jhay Cortez, helped build the hype for the release, with the latter reaching the Latin Pop Airplay chart.
But at the beginning of 2021, the Sin Miedo track “telepatía” began gaining traction on TikTok and the album gained a new life, spurring her label, Interscope, into action. “In late January, we noticed a subtle uptick in the track’s consumption,” says Nir Seroussi, executive vp at Interscope Geffen A&M (IGA), who worked closely with Kali Uchis on the project. “We then quickly harnessed the company’s social media and marketing expertise, launching a comprehensive TikTok campaign spearheaded by Murdoc Hardy, Kim Barrena and Kat Morales from our team.” “telepatía” quickly became the label’s focus across the board, rising to the top of the Hot Latin Songs chart for four weeks by May and this week reaching the No. 1 spot on Latin Airplay — and earning Seroussi the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
As “telepatía” continues its rise, not just on the Latin charts but on the mainstream charts as well — this week it sits at a new peak of No. 25 on the Hot 100 — Seroussi tells Billboard about the song’s journey into becoming a global hit (it reached No. 10 on both of Billboard’s global charts), IGA’s multi-faceted radio campaign for the track and how Kali Uchis is embracing this moment.
A month after Kali Uchis’ “telepatía” spent four weeks atop the Hot Latin Songs chart, it has now gone to No. 1 on Latin Airplay. What key decision did you make to help make this happen?
The crucial decision, made collectively by [IGA promotion president] Brenda Romano, [IGA head of rhythm promotion] Nino Cuccinello and me, was to take “telepatía” concurrently to Latin, top 40 and Rhythm. It enabled our promo teams to strategically build the record in each format market-by-market, which ultimately fueled the record’s success at Latin radio. Considering that there’s no other record like “telepatía” playing on the radio, it’s certainly a big accomplishment.
“telepatía” is the third single from Sin Miedo. What is it about this song in particular, and how you worked it, that broke through?
First of all, it’s an amazing song, one which during the struggles of the pandemic genuinely struck a chord with people. As we entered 2021, it reflected a mood many of us could relate to: nostalgic yet hopeful, missing our loved ones who we couldn’t travel to see. It also felt fresh and stood out from everything else that was happening in mainstream music, both general market and Latin.
The song got a big push from TikTok. Was that a specific part of the strategy for the single, or did it happen organically?
In late January, we noticed a subtle uptick in the track’s consumption. We then quickly harnessed the company’s social media and marketing expertise, launching a comprehensive TikTok campaign spearheaded by Murdoc Hardy, Kim Barrena and Kat Morales from our team. Within days, “telepatía” exploded and by the end of February it was a bona fide global hit. At the same time, Kali’s entire catalog also experienced a significant lift, a sign that new fans were discovering Kali and consuming her music.
In the past, songs that have gone viral have tended to burn brightly and flame out, but “telepatía” has seen steady growth over the past several months. To what do you attribute that?
Working closely with Kali’s management (Shakira Kalité, Jon Lieberberg and Yamile Fernandez), we kept stepping on the gas and covering every possible angle, from the DSPs, social media partners, radio, TV and press in the U.S. and internationally. Kali has been doing promo nonstop and is not slowing down. Later this month she’ll be performing on Premios Juventud and the MTV MIAW awards, which she’s also hosting. This is clearly Kali’s moment and she’s ready for it.
Kali Uchis has spoken about the decision to record a Spanish-language album. Why do you feel that it worked, and has become her biggest album of her career so far?
Kali is an artist who unapologetically remains true to her essence. Working with her A&R Matt Morris, she delivered an incredible album that resonated with music fans in a very powerful way. By collaborating with Tainy and tapping into her Latin roots, she added yet another layer of authenticity to Sin Miedo. Not only did it deepen her connection with her Latin fans, but it also introduced her to audiences around the world who have already been embracing the ubiquitous Latin sounds. With Sin Miedo, Kali broke the mold of the Latin mainstream and is empowering other Latin artists to do the same. The musical landscape has begun to shift, and Kali is leading the charge.
How has the Latin music business changed in the U.S. over the past several years?
The fact that the number one U.S. label is committed to offering Latin artists a seat at the table with their general market counterparts speaks volumes to the progress of the Latin business in the U.S.