Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin is a chart-topping artist whose polished urban singles and best-selling albums have made him a top-tier Latin pop crossover act. Born José Álvaro Osorio Balvin in Medellín, Colombia, he became interested in music at a young age while listening to rap, champeta, bachata, and reggae on the radio. He was also a big fan of music videos; it was from these that he began to develop his dance moves and cultivate his own style.
He signed to EMI Colombia in 2009 and released his first single, “Ella Me Cautivó,” which charted at 35 on the U.S. tropical chart. This was followed by the release of the full-length Real in 2010. Balvin contributed four tunes to the soundtrack of the Tim Bulot film El Negocio. All of them charted, including “En Lo Oscuro,” which hit the top spot in his native country.
Balvin was a featured vocalist on the Colombian version of Robin Thicke’s smash single “Blurred Lines,” which was issued in October of 2013, just prior to his own second album, La Familia. All four singles from the album charted in Colombia’s Top Ten, and “Yo Te Lo Dije” hit number two on the rhythm chart and number nine on the Latin pop chart in the U.S. The B Sides collection appeared in September of 2014, featuring two more radio chart-topping singles in “6 AM” and “Ay Vamos.” The latter won a Latin Grammy for Best Urban Song.
His 2015 single “Ginza,” the official pre-release for his next album, entered the Hot Latin Songs chart at number one, topped several others, and was certified platinum. Balvin’s collaborations were as notable as his own work that year. He and Julión Álvarez were featured on Juan Gabriel’s single “La Frontera.” His “Latino Remix” of Justin Bieber’s smash “Sorry” scored big for both artists at Latin pop radio and in digital streaming and downloads.
In 2016, Balvin won the Premios Lo Nuestro Artist of the Year Award and was a featured guest on both Sofia Carson’s charting debut single, “Love Is the Name,” and on Alejandro Sanz’s “Cuando Seas Grande” — from a performance at La Voz — along with Gloria Trevi and Los Tigres del Norte. In May he released the single “Bobo”; it topped the Latin songs chart. “Safari,” featuring Pharrell Williams, BIA, and Sky, was released in June, followed by the full-length Energia. The album, produced by Sky and featuring contributions from Bull Nene, Daddy Yankee, Fuego, Yandel, and Juanes, hit the top spot on several Latin album charts. The following year, he scored a hit with a remix of his track “Mi Gente” that featured Beyoncé. The song became his first U.S. Top Ten single.
Balvin kicked off 2018 with a handful of collaborative singles: “Machika” with Jeon and Anitta; “X” with Nicky Jam; and “I Like It” with Bad Bunny and Cardi B. His fifth set, Vibras, arrived that year. ~ Thom Jurek