By now, Julia Michaels is a familiar face on the pop landscape. An in-demand songwriter for artists like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Britney Spears, she scored her first Top 20 hit under her own name with her 2017 debut single, “Issues.” But even those who have been following Michaels’ career might not know a key fact about the artist: She’s Latina. Her government name is Julia Cavazos, and she’s of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent on her father’s side. And on her new single, “Only One” — a breezy pop song with shades of reggae and trap that finds her collaborating with Mexican-American pop star Becky G, Argentine rapper Khea, and Jamaican producer Di Genius — she finds her footing in Latin music for the first time.
“My bloodline is predominantly Spanish, which a lot of people don’t know, so it’s exciting that people are going to discover that about me,” Michaels says over email.
Like Gomez on her recent Spanish EP Revelación, Michaels is embracing her Latina roots through music. She wrote the English chorus of “Only One” in a session for Becky G two years ago. Becky G, who sings in English and Spanish in the song, serves as a bridge between Michaels, who isn’t fluent in Spanish, and Khea, who speaks only Spanish. From her Top 20 hit “Shower” to the empowering smash “Sin Pijama,” Becky has had success in both the Latin and Anglo markets.
“I always get excited when my worlds collide,” Becky G says over Zoom. “[Working in both markets] made me more sure of who I am. It’s more important to just be ourselves and live in our truth and be authentic. That’s a beautiful thing about where we are in music right now. It’s a universal language.”
Language was not a barrier for Khea, the 21-year-old pioneer in Argentina’s trap movement. As a teen, he scored his first hit with “Loca,” featuring fellow upstarts Duki and Cazzu. When then-rising Puerto Rican star Bad Bunny jumped on the remix in 2018, he took the track global. In 2020, Khea signed with Interscope. Now he’s leading the charge of Argentine artists who are breaking out from the southernmost tip of South America. In his “Only One” verse, he proudly shouts out Argentina in Spanish.
“That’s where I come in, an Argentine coming from below,” Khea says with a laugh over Zoom. “We’re at the bottom of the world. I feel like everything that my colleagues and I are doing for music is making history for my country and we’re leaving our mark. Today we’re here because of what we fought for and how hard we’re working. It’s satisfying to get to this point, but then you see there’s always another point to get to.”
Di Genius, who co-produced Drake’s “Controlla” and songs by Becky G and Khea, has masterfully maneuvered both markets. He ties all three artists together through a trop-pop vibe that’s reminiscent of Michaels’ breakthrough co-write, Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.” With Michaels’ warm English vocals, the song could easily find its way onto pop radio, while Becky and Khea help to make it Latin-format–friendly. Interscope execs Nir Seroussi and Jose Cedeño, who are behind the label’s new Miami division and the success of Kali Uchis’ top 40 hit “Telepatía,” helped shepherd the collaboration.
“‘Only One’ is the result of a creative process that is genuine and free of boundaries,” Seroussi says over email. “Each artist brought their own touch. You can’t put this record in a box. All the pieces came together in an organic way.”
To emphasize three artists from different worlds coming together, three music videos — each directed by Navs — will complement the song’s release. The first is from Michaels’ point of view. Becky G and Khea are locked up in prison, and Michaels appears to be a supernatural force that breaks them out. Two more clips will follow from Becky G and Khea’s perspectives.
“Only One” is about confronting cheating rumors in a relationship, but to Becky G and Khea, the title could be a double entendre for how unified music is becoming in the streaming era. “The versatility behind artists like myself, Khea, and Julia, and us coming together, is pretty magical,” Becky says.
“The industry is starting to see music as one world,” Khea adds. “Collaborations like this are fundamental so that music transcends barriers.”
After releasing her debut album Not in Chronological Order this year, Michaels was spotted in the recording studio with her boyfriend JP Saxe and Venezuelan brothers Mau y Ricky. There’s most likely more Latin music in her future, but will she sing in Spanish next time?
“I’m not ruling it out. I love music and I love music that makes me feel closer to my culture,” Michaels writes. “If an opportunity knocks, I wouldn’t say no.”