J Balvin’s Iconic Lollapalooza Performance Provided Brief Respite for Latinxs During Trying Times

Lead Photo: Photo By Greg Noire courtesy Lollapalooza
Photo By Greg Noire courtesy Lollapalooza
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Buenos días, buenos días, buenos díassss (José Álvaro Osorio Balvín voice). This past weekend generated a slew of bad news that served as a searing reminder of the hate Latinxs face in the United States, making it an especially difficult one to find joy, or grant oneself permission to find joy at least. It often feels odd covering and/or working in the music industry during times like these because our contributions can feel trivial, but it’s often when it’s needed most. Music, including el genero urbano—once deemed a “triggering factor for criminal acts”—has proven to be unifying and healing, rendered positively combative in bringing about change. All that to say, you too may have missed the fact that Colombian reggaetonero made history pa’ la cultura on Saturday.

In continuing with a year of firsts, J Balvin became the first Latino headliner at Lollapalooza in its 28 year history. How the music festival avoided doing so prior beats me, but this is hopefully the first of many. Earlier this year, Balvin was also the first reggaetonero to perform on SNL, and first reggaeton act to grace the main stage at Coachella. The 34-year-old’s visionary nature is undeniable and though he could have used this moment to bring out predictable guests like Rosalía or Sean Paul, who may appeal to those beyond the Latinx diaspora as they’ve fed off of the genre’s boundless reach, he brought out the duo’s Wisin y Yandel to play timeless hits like “Rakata,” and “Gasolina.”

Simply iconic. As Balvin proves he’s worthy of the label, I’m reminded of when he told Complex last fall that he recognizes the great responsibility that is. “I have so many icons, so many people who inspire me, so I try to take the best from each of them and put it into practice.” This isn’t the first time the Oasis singer honors those who came before, most notably giving a tear-jerking speech in presenting Daddy Yankee with the Lifetime Achievement Award at Premios Lo Nuestro, and shouting out several of his Puerto Rican inspirations in “Reggaeton.” With new Anglo management and a feeling of arrival, yet expected continued relevance, it will be interesting to see what Balvin does next.