How Manuel Turizo Scored His Biggest Hit Yet by Making a Left Turn Into ‘Bachata’

Manuel Turizo is a Colombian with no Dominican roots and yet the 22-year old singer, known for catchy Latin pop songs that incorporate urban beats, has scored his biggest hit ever by dipping into bachata. The beloved Dominican genre known for its trademark syncopated rhythm, plucked guitar and guira carries Turizo’s latest single, “La Bachata” (La Industria/Sony Music Latin), which has been steadily rising up the charts since May.

The track, which replaces bachata’s traditional guitar with electronic riffs and R&B vocals, debuted at No. 44 on Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart June 18 and on Billboard’s Global 200 and Global Excl U.S. charts in July. Since then, it’s been slowly growing, reaching No. 6 on the Global 200 and No. 3 on the Global Excl. U.S. chart this week. On the U.S. Latin Airplay chart, “La Bachata” this week became Turizo’s fifth No. 1 but only his second solo track to reach the top spot since 2019’s “Sola.” And that success so far helps earn Turizo’s manager Juan Diego Medina the title of Billboard‘s Executive of the Week.

“It’s Manuel’s most important song, and it’s the song that’s placing him in the best and most decisive moment of his career,” says Medina — who also manages Nicky Jam and ChocQuibTown — noting that Turizo’s monthly listeners on Spotify went from 19 million to 32.7 million since releasing “La Bachata”. 

While Medina built his company, La Industria Inc., to a large degree on the basis of data mining and savvy social media management, he attributes a big chunk of Turizo’s current success to international promotion and to his ability to connect with audiences at a ground level with his very personal take on a very distinctive genre. Now, “La Bachata” — written by Turizo, Edgar Barrera, Andrés Jael Correa Rios, Miguel Andrés Martinez and Medina himself — will kick off what’s likely to be his biggest album yet, 2000, slated for release in early 2023.

“With so many avenues open to promote music,” says Medina, “I’ve opted to go back to the streets, to the root of this business and touch people.”

Manuel has had big hits with pop/urban tracks like “Vaina Loca” with Ozuna and “La Nota” with Myke Towers. Why a bachata of all things? 

Manuel is absurdly versatile at a musical level and he doesn’t get stuck on a genre. He wants to do everything. He hadn’t released a bachata before, but he’d recorded another bachata, which actually Romeo Santos produced [and will also be included in 2000]. This track was brought to us by Edgar Barrera, who wrote it with Rios [Andres Jael Correa Rios]. Then, Slo [one third of ChocQuibTown and the producer of most tracks on Turizo’s upcoming album] heard it and thought it would be perfect for Manuel with a bit of an urban touch.  Manuel loved it. When they played it for me, I decided to go with it because it was different. It was a bachata, but not the kid of bachata Romeo or Prince Royce would do. It had an urban touch, a sort of hidden dembow. It was a gamble. 

What were your expectations? 

Truth, 50-50. It was 50% this will kinda work, and 50% this will break all rules. The song began with 400,000, 500,000 daily streams, and that’s a good start. Nowadays, to be on the top five, you have to do 5-6 million daily streams. We started slow, but once we saw that traction, I thought, we have to activate the Latin region. I called Afo [Afo Verde, Sony Latin Iberia’s president and chairman], who was in Croatia, and I said, “If we want this song to do what we want it to do, we need to activate Latin America.”

But before Latin America, you focused on Spain? 

Manuel’s consumption in Spain has always been good, and we did our first big campaign there because that’s where the song first took off. Sony has an internal platform that details all consumption and we can see what countries things are working at. It first broke in Spain, then in Mexico. The U.S. is where we’ve had the hardest time. And, keep in mind, there are Spanish artists like C. Tangana and Rosalia who’ve released bachatas, but none had had Manuel’s repercussion, even though he’s neither Spanish nor Dominican. He’s Colombian.

Humbly, this was an organic success. Obviously, it comes with an investment and a strategy. But you don’t reach these levels only with investment and strategy. The song was received well when the algorithm proposed it.

So, Spain was key. What else do you think made a major difference here? Because there are a lot of bachata songs out there, including Romeo Santos’ entire new album, but none are having this impact.

Another key factor is that three, four days after the song’s release, we went to the Dominican Republic and did a lot of press, but we also spent time with bachata and Dominican organizations. That gave a lot of credibility to the fans. There’s a lot of Dominican migration to Spain. So, spending time in the Dominican Republic was key. That came linked to Manuel’s “Bailando Bachata con Manuel Turizo” TikTok campaign. Everywhere he went, he’d get out of the car in the middle of the street — in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Spain, everywhere — and he’d ask a woman to dance bachata with him [filming the interaction and posting on TikTok]. We’ve forgotten to connect with people and to make the fans feel you’re human, like them. Today, there are so many avenues to promote your music, that we’re saturated. I’ve opted to go back to the people, to the root of this business and to feel the street. We went viral on the ground, and then we did the big actions with the big tools. It’s not often that we do both those things. We do the big things, but we forget the people. 

You say the U.S. was your hardest market to penetrate. Why is that, especially considering Manuel is so close to the U.S. and you’re based here? 

Once the song broke in Latin America, it went viral in Asia, and then Europe. The U.S. was last. I feel it’s a market where urban, street music is far stronger today. It’s not an easy market to penetrate when your product is more clean, more lyrical. It sounds contradictory because there are successful pop acts like Camilo. But Manuel’s music is made for adults, not kids, and adult ears are not always geared toward romantic fare. Conquering the U.S. market isn’t easy when you have to compete with acts like Maluma, Balvin, Camilo. 

You’re No. 1 on Latin Airplay, which is radio. How important is radio to you? 

We always try to work with radio stations. I’m faithful to radio and I think I’m not one of those who thinks it doesn’t matter anymore. Some people are not tech-savvy, they like their radio, they like to hear the DJs. I think radio is the biggest ally of people who want to listen to music free. YouTube is also still very important to us, especially in Latin America. 

Manuel has had other major hits. How important is “La Bachata” to him? 

It’s his most important song, and it’s placing him in the biggest and most decisive moment of his career. He’s at that stage where he’s poised to go to the next level, and this is the song that will make him a star, God willing. 

Do you have more bachatas planned? 

Not for the moment [aside from the Romeo-produced track]. I feel we can’t abuse [the genre]. It’s about proposing new things, not getting stuck on a single one. 

Chris Eggertsen