Much like their English-language predecessors One Direction, CNCO were assembled from a hodge-podge of contestants on a televised singing competition — but instead of The X Factor, it was the first season of La Banda, the Spanish-language show helmed by Simon Cowell and Ricky Martin, which aired in 2015. Comprised of five Latino-American teens citing roots in various parts of the world — spanning Ecuador, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the D.R. — CNCO tapped into the unique experience that is growing up Latinx in the United States. Yet by oscillating effortlessly between English and Spanish, and accenting their balladry with música urbana, they broke away from the paradigm of yesterday’s Latin pop pretty boys. Furthermore, their genre-flexible, radio-ready hooks have made them accessible to those well outside the culture. “That has been like a mark of CNCO,” band member Richard Camacho told Rolling Stone in July. “We’re [a] boy band that has different cultures, different nationalities, so I think that has an effect on a lot of our fans because everybody can relate.”
Without the international pop savvy that produced memorable songs like 2016’s “Reggaetón Lento (Bailemos)” — or their subsequent rework with British darlings Little Mix — CNCO could have been just another canned teen group. Now with the release of their chameleonic new EP, <em>Que Quiénes Somos</em>, CNCO proceed to push the bounds of American pop music. A seven-song encore to their self-titled Top 40 opus, 2018’s CNCO, the new EP speeds up the band’s momentum with more daring detours. Taking a page from globally-minded pop players like J Balvin, CNCO toy with sounds sourced from numerous diasporas: a blend of trap and salsa, “Ya Tú Sabes” pays respects to Cuban diva Celia Cruz by sampling her 2003 classic, “Ríe y Llora.” Meanwhile, the gents play up their hybrid pop identity with the synth-pop-gone-reggaeton grand slam, “Qué Va a Ser de Mí“; and on their Manuel Turizo-assisted track, “Pegao,” they accessorize their dembow with a Colombian vallenato flourish. The results perfectly crystallize the essence of an increasingly border-agnostic, multilingual Generation Z.