In Vida Cotidiana, his first studio album with completely original music in four years, Juanes reflects on his relationship with his wife and children and the problems that affect his country.
They’re not particularly new subjects for the Colombian rocker known for his deep and honest lyrics about love and social commitment. But at 50, his introspective journey is more mature and fascinating.
With 11 songs including the previously released singles “Gris,” “Amores Prohibidos,” “Ojalá” and “Veneno,” and a return to his rock roots with electric guitar tinged with funk, son and cumbia, among other rhythms, Vida Cotidiana (which means Everyday Life) debuts Thursday (May 18) at 8 p.m. (EST) under Universal Music Latino. At the same time, the official video for “Cecilia” will be released, a Juan Luis Guerra-assisted song dedicated to Juanes’ wife, the actress and model Karen Cecilia Martínez. (The clip, directed by María Camila Calle and shot on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, stars Martínez and their daughters Luna and Paloma, who are joined at the end by Juanes and son Dante to complete the sweet family picture.)
Produced by Juanes and Sebastian Krys, Vida Cotidiana was born during the pandemic, when the singer of “La Camisa Negra” and “A Dios Le Pido” — accustomed to spending long periods away from home due to his musical career — was for the first time living with his wife and children 24 hours a day, in many occasions going through painful moments of frustration and learning.
“It’s been a very experiential album,” Juanes says to Billboard Español, speaking in Spanish from Medellín. “Normally I travel all the time, so [being home] was very nice, but on the other hand we obviously had differences and we had situations with the children, well, a normal life, literally, the everyday life. So it was very emotionally charged, but also very important.”
In addition to Guerra, Juanes invited other artists to help him write. Puerto Rican singer-songwriter GALE assisted him in the lyrics of the pop-rock “Ojalá,” Tommy Torres on the reggae-infused song “El Abrazo,” and Cuban poet Alexis Díaz Pimienta on “Mayo,” a song inspired by the marches that led to violent situations in Colombia in recent years during the month of May (when Labor Day is celebrated there.) Another compelling song, “Canción Desaparecida”, about the disappeared in Colombia, was recorded with Mabiland.
“It’s impossible to get anywhere alone,” says Juanes, who also used the confinement during the pandemic to set up sort of a virtual “university” at home, taking guitar lessons with Tomo Fujita from Berklee College of Music, harmony with Guillermo Vadalá, singing with coach Eric Vetro, and poetry
with Díaz Pimienta (hence their collaboration). The result, he says with satisfaction, is a “more elevated” production.
Below, Juanes breaks down five essential tracks on Vida Cotidiana, in his own words.
“Gris” (Gray) is a totally indie-rock song … It’s the song that opens the album and it’s a song that talks about the peak moment, let’s say, of my crisis with Cecilia at that time. It was a discussion in which I felt that there was nothing left to do, I felt that my relationship had ended and for me it was very sad. I was angry with myself and frustrated, in a very dark place. The craziest thing is that this song came out. Sometimes I listen to it and I’m like, “My God, I love this song, but I can’t believe what I went through to make it. I can’t even explain it.”
“Cecilia” is the answer to that song (“Gris,”) — it’s where I tell my wife, “No more, let’s not fight anymore, it’s not worth it. If we love each other, let’s give this a spin, let’s dance together.” That is why “Cecilia” is happy, tropical. It has son, and it has Juan Luis, who is a blessing. My wife is as much a fan of Juan Luis as I am, or more. I had worked with Juan Luis before on a song of his called “La Calle” and he had produced one of my records, but I never had the opportunity to do one of my songs with Juan Luis before. It was super exciting, really. [His contribution to the lyrics can be felt] in a very particular part that says: [Juanes sings] “I feel the air run out if you stop being my wife.” And he said to me: “No Juanes, no. Your wife always has to be your girlfriend. He changed ‘wife’ to ‘girlfriend’. And the truth is, he is right.”
“Canción Desaparecida” (Missing Song) is a song I did with Mabiland, a very cool girl from the Chocó region in the Colombian Pacific, from a city called Quibdó — a very complex city. She lives here in Medellín and does kind of R&B, but she also raps. “Canción Desaparecida” talks about the disappeared in Colombia, who have reached alarming numbers, and in the last three years many stories have emerged about why this happened. There are stories of ex-policemen, ex-guerrillas, ex-paramilitaries, ex-military, and some very terrifying things have been coming to light. The subject caught my attention, I began to investigate and well, I ended up writing the song. We recorded the video here too, it was directed by Kacho López, and it’s also tough, like the song.
“‘Vida Cotidiana” is a song that I wrote for my daughter Luna, who is the eldest. At that moment during COVID she was 17 years old and I was having this tremendous clash with her because I didn’t understand that she wanted to be independent. I wanted to continue being the scolding father and we began to argue a lot over differences, and then I argued with my wife over differences, to the point that I became indifferent to [Luna], invisible. And that killed me, because I couldn’t [accept] as a dad that I couldn’t connect with my daughter. I was terribly sad, but it was also my bad, it was my fault, because I didn’t know how to interpret what was happening to me. This song is that story.
“Veneno” (Venom) is a song that I really like because it evokes a bit of the world of funk that I love, but also because the lyrics talk about toxic relationships that are so important, that we experience daily in our personal relationships, and also at work sometimes. I feel that this is like a poison that travels inside you and eats away your soul, up to a point where you have to make the decision and say ‘no more, this is not going to hurt me anymore, I have to come out stronger from here and get over me’. The video was directed by María Camila Calle, who is a director from here in Medellín, and stars Dante, who is my 13-year-old son. It has been very special to work with them on this project.