Around this time last year, J Balvin was joining Beyoncé onstage at her epic headlining Coachella set to perform a remix of his “Mi Gente.” But this time around at the festival, Balvin had his own solo slot.
The boundary-pushing Colombian star made history Saturday night (April 13) with presumably the most high-profile set from a reggaeton artist in the festival’s history, commanding the main stage for a performance almost entirely in Spanish.
“Last year, I was with Beyoncé, today it’s about Latinos and dreamers,” Balvin said on Instagram earlier that day. “It’s about people like me, who are not afraid to follow their dreams and it’s about all those people that are called different. We still need people to continue to call us crazy for being dreamers. Welcome to another chapter of my adventures.”
It was fitting, then, for Balvin to kick off his set with “Reggaeton,” his rowdy homage to the genre — followed by a surprise appearance from Spanish singer Rosalía to perform their collab “Con Altura.” Emerging onstage in a color-splattered tee, his buzzcut speckled with neon leopard print, Balvin transported festivalgoers into a candy-colored, cartoonish dream world onstage, complete with an enormous anime sculpture, a rocking horse-like duck (which he rode across the stage) and inflatable cartoon characters galore. The trippy setup was made possible by a collab with FriendsWithYou, an art collective known for surreal, large-scale installations.
Toys also helped Balvin perform his smash “I Like It” sans collaborators Cardi B and Bad Bunny. During the song — which instantly turned the crowd into an enormous rager — impersonators wearing giant Emoji heads in Cardi and Bunny’s images stood in for the stars, bouncing onstage like bobbleheads to the track’s boogaloo beat.
Amid showing off his own Latin Grammy-winning catalog, Balvin also took a moment to pay tribute to the reggaetoneros before him. “Esta noche, estamos represantando Latinos por reggaeton,” he said. “We’re going to pay homage to the old G’s.” With that, Balvin danced and egged on the crowd to a medley of reggaeton classics, including N.O.R.E. and Daddy Yankee’s 2006 “Oye Mi Canto” and Yankee’s 2004 monster hit “Gasolina.” And there were more surprise guests in store: At one point, dancehall king Sean Paul hopped onstage to perform their team-up “Contra La Pared.”?
Balvin joins a seemingly unprecedented number and range of Latin acts at this year’s fest, including Rosalía, Chilean singer Mon Laferte and regional Mexican act Tucanes de Tijuana. And Balvin isn’t done making history, either — he will become Lollapalooza’s first-ever Latin music headliner when he performs at the Chicago fest in August.