J Balvin Attempts to Reintroduce Himself on ‘Jose’

If there’s one determine in pop music who has perfected the language of feel-good cultural affirmation, it’s J Balvin. For over a decade, the 36-year-old Colombian star has claimed he’s on a mission to “change the perception of Latinos in music,” utilizing his rainbow aesthetics, easy reggaeton textures and radio-ready entice hits as ammunition.

There have been loads of milestones, together with “Mi Gente” and “I Like It”: his chart-crushing collaborations with Willy William and Beyoncé, and Bad Bunny and Cardi B. Both tracks have turn out to be flash factors for jejune narratives about “booming” Latino cultural illustration: a story that flattens variations amongst individuals of distinct races, languages and nations — and suggests this music is influential solely when the Anglo mainstream is paying consideration.

There was his efficiency at Coachella 2019, when Balvin turned the primary reggaeton artist to play the pageant’s fundamental stage. There are his cartoonish visuals, leopard-print hairstyles and flowery album covers designed by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. And there are his ad-libs — “J Balvin, man,” “Leggo” and “Latino gang!” — signature catchphrases which have turn out to be so trite, they’re basically begging for meme-ification.

“Jose,” his sixth studio album, arrives at a second when Balvin has lastly established himself as a world celeb. The report considers what is feasible when a pop idol, particularly one from Latin America, now not wants to show himself.

At the tip of “Jose,” Balvin takes a real gamble. For what stands out as the first time in his profession, he will get deeply private.

So, enable J Balvin to reintroduce himself. “Jose,” Balvin’s first identify, is a 24-track behemoth that follows within the vein of different playlists-as-albums — the type of challenge meant to dominate streaming platforms, just like the current supersized releases from Kanye West and Drake. But the album struggles to really innovate: “Jose” is an itinerant, unfocused effort that gives an impressionistic stock of the sounds which have established him as a power: pop-reggaeton, entice and EDM.

The majority of the album (about 13 of its tracks) — like “Bebé Que Bien Te Ves,” “Lo Que Dios Quiera” and “Fantasías” — falls firmly inside the sphere of ultrapolished, creamy popetón. It is an unimaginative formulation, and one which Balvin has mastered: mix a lilting dembow beat, a candy-coated melody and lyrics concerning the gushy cleaning soap opera of a dance-floor courtship or a sexual fantasy for max streams. Elsewhere, Balvin returns to Top 40 entice, one other type he’s identified for: On “Billetes de 100,” that includes the Puerto Rican star Myke Towers, Balvin gives a self-mythologizing reminder that he can really rap. “In da Getto,” a resort-ready EDM monitor produced by Skrillex, elaborates on one more sound that has helped catapult Balvin to worldwide stardom.

Some songs purpose for novelty. The opener, “F40,” is a confident blast of reggaeton bombast that shifts tempos, slowing to an irresistible, carnal crawl. And “Perra,” a collaboration with Tokischa, is an audacious, X-rated enterprise into dembow, a avenue sound born within the barrios of the Dominican Republic that has not too long ago caught the eye of the broader Latin music trade, regardless of its longtime grasp on in style music within the Caribbean nation.

It is barely within the final third of “Jose” that Balvin takes a real gamble: For what stands out as the first time in his profession, he will get weak and deeply private. “7 de Mayo,” named for Balvin’s birthday, is a chronicle of his rise from the streets of Medellín to eminence, that includes spoken samples of his mom, Alba, and an awards-show thanks from the reggaeton forefather Daddy Yankee. “In a barrio in the middle of Medallo, this one was born/With sweat on my forehead/Calluses on my hands,” Balvin reminisces in Spanish. While the intimacy is new for Balvin, the track follows the formulation of hip-hop origin tales too carefully (practically mimicking Jay-Z’s “December 4th”). It seems like Balvin is being pressured to full a tedious homework project, somewhat than reflecting earnestly on his private hardships.

“Querido Rio,” a tender guitar ballad devoted to his new child son with echoes of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” equally falls flat. Its shallow lyrics and syrupy supply land with cloying sentimentality: “I don’t just want to be your father/I also want to be your best friend,” Balvin croons in Spanish.

For an artist who paints himself as pathbreaking, “Jose” feels remarkably secure. At this level, Balvin does have the ability to nuke expectations — these of his personal profession trajectory, his imagined neighborhood and the genres he operates inside. Instead, “Jose” colours contained in the strains, safeguarding Balvin’s reign by reveling within the acquainted.

J Balvin
(Universal Music Latino)