Ultra – going beyond others or beyond due limit; extreme – is one way to describe J Balvin and his brazenly unconventional modus operandi in music and his career. A far cry from his mixtape days in the seedy nightclubs of Medellin, Colombia, Balvin’s made an illustrious career of dodging neatly packaged labels and making wildly infectious genre-bending music not just for Latinos, but “for the world.” Look no further than pop empress Beyoncé’s decision to hop on the “Mi Gente” remix as proof.
“Someone on her team told me that Blue [Ivy] loved the song, so I asked her half-jokingly if she thought Beyoncé would want to jump on the remix,” Balvin explains to Billboard of how the collaboration came to be. “To my great surprise she said yes, and the rest is history. We couldn’t feel more honored to have the queen herself be a part of the track.”
A Power Player in his own right, J Balvin first burst onto the scene with “6 AM,” ushering in a new kind of reggaeton wave that goes against the stereotypical images of masculinity, misogyny and violence. He went on to become the first-ever urban Latin artist to surpass a billion views on Vevo and YouTube with “Ay Vamos.” He even earned himself a Guinness World Record for his chart-topping darling “Ginza,” which stands as the longest stay at No. 1 on the U.S. Hot Latin Song chart by a single artist. Not too shabby for the paisa who still thinks himself an up-and-comer and the new kid on the block.
Not surprisingly, his recent Energia tour was presented by Buchanan’s Whisky, a partnership that first kicked off with the brand’s Es Nuestro Momento campaign, whose message of celebrating Latino greatness perfectly connects to Balvin’s sense of cultural pride. The tour, which stopped in 15 major U.S. cities, delivered a cinematic opus designed and structured by Drake affiliate Mike Carson; the spectacles were vivid reflections of Balvin’s musical creativity and unique sense of style. What with all his brightly-colored wardrobes, motley crew of guests featuring OG reggaetoneros and newcomers alike, original lightning bolt-eyed smiley face emblem and signature call-to-action leggo!, the man born José Álvaro Osorio throws the kind of party where even abuela’s favorite is seen shaking a mean tailfeather.
“I love being able to share my energy with fans and receive theirs in return,” he says vehemently, before sharing his greatest takeaway from the whole experience. “The tour taught me that hard work pays off. It was incredible to see sold-out rooms night after night. Next tour will definitely be more dates.”
Before his grand closing in Miami on Oct. 13, where everyone from BIA to Bad Bunny to Steve Aoki made guest appearances, Balvin’s “Mi Gente” feat. Willy William had already reached No. 1 on Spotify’s Global 50 chart. Then came the bilingual remix with Beyonce, which contributed to making chart history when it reached the top 10 of the Hot 100, along with “Despacito,” making it the first time two predominantly non-English-language hits emerged in the top 10.
“’Mi Gente’ is a song for the entire planet,” Balvin told Billboard. “It’s not a song for this person or that person, but for the entire human race. Five years ago, no one wanted to sign a Colombian reggaetonero. Today we are dominating global charts, and I think that’s a huge statement,” Balvin muses. “I’ve also demonstrated that ‘Latin music’ is not just for Latinos, that we have a dynamic culture that can engage with people throughout the world regardless of language… LEGGO!”