Since breaking into the mainstream throughout Latin America with his hits from La Familia almost a decade ago, J Balvin has been the soundtrack of many of our club nights. From early bangers like “6 AM” and “Safari,” to the so-called crossover moments with “Mi Gente” and “I Like It,” to his recent work as a global superstar on “RITMO” and “In Da Ghetto,” it seems like everyone in the world listens to J Balvin now…
… Except for J Balvin. “I never listen to my music,” he tells Remezcla over a Zoom call. “I listen to my music before it’s out to check if the songs are good, if I vibe with it or not. But once the album is out, I’m done.”
His latest album, JOSE, which bears his first name and is marketed as his most personal album yet, changed his no-listening rule. “[People] be like, ‘J Balvin, what are you listening to?’ I’m listening to JOSE, my G,” he says. JOSE is a carefully curated collection of tracks that vacillates between nostalgic early J Balvin vibes; the EDM meets trap streaming-friendly behemoths that translate well for his newfound global audience; and his signature more melodic “sexy,” as he calls them, moments.
On day one of its release, JOSE already comes with a resume. The collaboration with Skrillex, “In Da Getto,” became J Balvin’s latest No. 1 single on Billboard’s Latin Airplay charts — his 31st to date, for those who are counting. “Un Día (One Day)” with Bad Bunny, Tainy, and Dua Lipa was even nominated for a Grammy this year. His latest music video dropped today, “Si Te Atreves” with Zion and Lennox, and Balvin says it will also be a smash. “We never miss when we’re together. And we won’t miss with this one [either],” he declares.
Remezcla caught up with J Balvin last week ahead of the release of the album and its latest music videos “Perra” and “Si Te Atreves” to talk about how he’s prioritizing Jose, the person behind the artist, his newest string of collaborations, and how next year’s tour will be his biggest yet.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
JOSE is described as your most personal album yet. What makes it so personal to you?
Because this is like my own playlist of the types of songs I like to hear from me. And it’s my personal [taste], it’s the sound that I always wanted to do. Colores was a concept. Now, the concept in this album is me, Jose. It’s not even the artist. It’s what I like to hear, what Jose likes to hear. It’s like an album that I did, of course for my people and for the world, but it is going to be the first album that I can listen to as Jose being a fan of J Balvin.
With that said, what are some of the songs on the album that you can’t wait to perform?
Just the intro to me is everything. “F40.”
You open the album with “F40” saying that you’re a legend…
You have to check how I tell the story. I’m not saying that I’m a legend. I’m letting Arcángel say what is a legend. And it’s the first time that I’m talking [with] a little bit of ego, because it’s like the music that I like to listen to. It has a little bit of flex, but that’s not what I normally do. I’m giving credit to J Balvin for being a warrior, and making a statement being from Colombia. Because remember, I’m not from Puerto Rico. I jumped into this world and I knocked on all the doors, and they weren’t open. So, I jumped through the windows. I think I made a statement for the culture because there was a moment when reggaetón died, and I took part in that comeback. Even if you like it or not. I think they can’t deny that J Balvin made part of the new history of reggaetón. So I’d say, ‘Yeah, soy una leyenda — but that’s my ego talking. I really want to be a living legend and to inspire the people around the world.
I jumped into this world and I knocked on all the doors, and they weren’t open. So, I jumped through the windows.
Because of the pandemic, what was the process like creating this album?
It was hard at the beginning because there was no mood. Everything was too dark. We tried to work and we were like, “Nah, man, we just don’t feel like it.” I talked to Sky, I talked to Tainy, “Yo, what you have?” [He said], “Nothing, just don’t feel like it.” So when we started getting used to that situation, that’s when we were like, “Either we go crazy or we make music. Let’s do music and then go crazy.” So that’s what we did.
Make music to go crazy to.
Yeah, exactly. Mosty, my sound engineer from day one, he came back on this album. Keityn, who is a great songwriter. Us three, we were together every day. We did 60 songs. And there were moments where everything was sounding kind of the same, and they were like, “You know what? I’ll see you in a week.” We needed rest to let our creative mindset breathe.
What suddenly changed in you or the situation that allowed you to flow better creatively?
Everything changed when I realized… I had just dropped Colores, which was like an audiovisual concept. When I started doing music [again], I was like, “Oh, I have a whole different sound that I can explore because now I don’t have to be focused on colors.” So that’s when I started finding and redefining myself. Finding the essence of J Balvin. And that’s what we did. It’s like an evolution of J Balvin, but it’s still J Balvin.
You recently shot the music video for “Perra” with Tokischa in DR. What can you tell us about working with her?
Working with Tokischa is amazing. She’s such a sweetheart, and she’s definitely a character. It’s like she’s playing a role. And I respect her a lot and her movement. Us, men and women, we are equal. We’re the same. And I love the fact that we have this song because it’s like, si yo soy perro, you can be a perra. Like women are not below [men], and they should never be. So it’s just like, if guys are players, women can be players, too. So that’s why I embraced that song because there are people that are like, “Oh wow, what happened with J. Balvin? It’s the first time you go that crazy.” And I’m like… as Jose, I think this is cool — and I love to see up and coming artists. I love to see when they’re bringing something new to the table.
In a recent interview, you said that we need more women like Tokischa in el género. Can you expand on that?
Because she is not feminism. She knows that women are women and they just belong to be where they are [sic]. Because once you’ve got feminism, it could be like you’re trying to feel that you’re here [puts one hand above the other] and that you deserve to be here. No, it’s not that you deserve to be here. It’s that you have to be here, you know? So she’s not with the speech, you know, like empowering women. She is a woman that empowers herself. And just the fact that you see her, you already know that she feels like, the way she has to feel. We are the same.
Another big collab moment on the album were “Una Nota” and “Te Acuerdas De Mí.” They’re obviously a remake of Yandel’s “Oh Ah” with Tego Calderón. What’s the story behind these two songs?
Sech sent me the idea like a year ago. And when I was checking what we were doing [for this album], I was like, “We’re missing a certain type of sound.” And when I was looking around, I was like, “I have this song that Sech sent me a long time ago.” That’s “Una Nota.” But we needed to have the original person from this song, and we had to cut the song in two to surprise people. So, when you go to track number three, it says “Te Acuerdas De Mí” Yandel, which is giving the respect that he deserves.
For “Bebé Que Bien Te Ves,” you collaborated with Feid, who famously co-wrote “Ginza.” How was it like working with him after all these years? Especially given you’re now both in very different stages of your careers.
He deserves to be where he is at, and also I think he deserved to be even bigger since way before, but timing is perfect. So, I’m really happy that he is in my album and that he’s getting to the place where he should be.
You’re going back on tour next year. What can we expect from your shows? Because we know that your stages are always wild.
Way bigger than everything that we have done before. My mission was: “What would Michael Jackson do if he was still alive?” That was the mission for the team. I bet you it has to be one of the best tours ever seen on the planet. We first started with Vibras and then elevated to Arcoíris. Then I was like, “You know what? I have to make a statement worldwide with this next one.” I think it’s going to be kind of unbeatable because I’m investing everything on it. Once you see the stage, you will be like, “What is this? What am I getting into?” I’m gonna take care of even the smell when you get into the venue. Remember when we used to go to Abercrombie, that it had a certain smell? Once you get there, it will have a smell you’re never going to forget.
To wrap up, what’s something that’s currently making you happy?
Having time for myself. That’s everything. I’m focusing on Jose right now. So like finding what makes me happy as a person, not as an artist. I’m being so focused and caught up with J Balvin that I forgot about what makes Jose happy. And I’m learning, it’s never late.
Stream JOSE here: