As a songwriter, Vibarco has co-written multiple hits for Latin pop star Maluma. But as an artist, the Colombian only recently stepped out with his debut EP, Wash, last month. Vibarco’s seven-track release created buzz within the reggaeton scene, pushing the boundaries of Latin music while mixing in pop and EDM influences. A few weeks after Wash’s release, Vibarco seems ready for his name to jump out of the liner notes of other artists and onto the marquee.
“Wash has a lot of Anglo beats, but the writing is super reggaeton,” Vibarco tells SPIN via Zoom from his home studio in Medellín, Colombia. “I love trying to find those mixtures. I love when you take a risk and it pays off.”
Vibarco’s music career is based on taking chances. Born Vicente Jiménez Gómez del Barco in Medellín, he learned to sing as a kid while imitating the voice of local rock star Juanes. When Vibarco moved to the states for a few years with his father, he discovered American artists like Eminem.
“The way [Eminem] chose to do things — always with an edge and something different — I try to carry that around when I make my music,” he says.
After graduating from college in Colombia, Vibarco gave himself three years to find a break in music. In that time, he signed with publishing company Warner Chappell Music, but struggled to find his place within the music scene. While trying to find his groove as a songwriter and artist, Vibarco developed a close friendship with Maluma, another Medellín native. The pop star offered to take Vibarco on tour, which led to a chance writing session.
“On that trip, we wrote ‘HP’ with Edgar Barrera,” Vibarco recalls. “It was crazy, because I didn’t even know if I should’ve been there. It felt like a lucky strike and it happened. … When I heard [‘HP’] for the first time, we were in Bolivia, and I heard a whole stadium singing it. For me, that was crazy. That was the first time that ever happened. I couldn’t believe it.”
In the end, Vibarco co-wrote the bulk of Maluma’s 2019 album 11:11, including “HP” and “11 PM,” which each have over 800 million views each on YouTube. Those hits led him to write for other Latin acts like Anitta, Reik, Piso 21, Manuel Turizo and Nicky Jam, and then eventually pursue his own musical endeavors more seriously. After releasing a few singles of his own, Vibarco’s solo career started to take off in 2019 with sensual reggaeton track “Pandora.” He released the song (against the wishes of his producer) with a horror movie-themed music video.
“I felt like it hadn’t been made yet in the genre,” he says. “I went with my gut there. My life changed in that way that I learned to trust my gut a lot more.”
Over 328,000 “Pandora” YouTube views later, Vibarco is trusting his instincts with Wash. While he’s created a buzz within the Colombian reggaeton scene, the new EP marks a distinctive switch to an electro-pop feel. In the glowing lead single “Londres,” Vibarco admits there’s an influence of pop trio LANY. The frenetic “Cabron” uses a beat from Argentine producer Federico Vindver, who has worked with massive names like Billie Eilish, Kanye West, and Pharrell.
“[‘Cabron’] was the first song that me and Federico Vindver did together,” Vibarco says. “It took a while from when I did it to when it came out, so a lot happened in between. Then Federico told me that the beat was for Billie Eilish — and she actually took it and recorded some stuff on it, but never used it.”
Reflecting his bicultural upbringing in Colombia and the U.S., Vibarco seamlessly switches between Spanish and English in the EDM anthem “Timezones” and trap-infused “Fuego.” About his Spanglish flow, he says, “It just felt right. I wanted to do Wash because I wanted people to understand the broad spectrum of what I want to do. I don’t want to be cased into any genre.”
Vibarco is already hard at work on his next project — which he jokes will see him “cash in a lot of favors” to feature artists that he’s written for, like Turizo, Piso 21, Noriel and Llane. Meanwhile the singer’s songwriting career is still going strong, with some of his latest work being two songs for Jennifer Lopez and Maluma’s rom-com, Marry Me.
“Me being a movie fan, that was crazy!” Vibarco says. “The same day I saw my name in Hollywood movie credits for the first time was the same night that I released my first EP, so February 11 will definitely remain a big day for me.”