At last year's Latin Grammys, Juanes was the most nominated artist (seven), eventually winning three trophies. But on the same day he was going to have the Big Night (September 11, 2001), the Twin Towers came down, taking the Latin Grammy ceremony with them, and Juanes' title track ("Fíjate Bien"), with its prophetic lyrics, became an anthem of the times.

Un Día Normal (A Normal Day) is the confirmation of Juanes as a master songwriter, guitarist and singer who immediately hooks you with simple melodies that are soaked in subtle touches of genius. If Fíjate Bien was intimate, Un Día Normal is all-out. "A Dios le Pido" opens the disc with a frontal attack of Juanes' alternative Colombian folk. From then on, the album never lets go, whether it's the cumbia reggae, the ballads or the breathless cover of underrated Colombian salsa legend Joe Arroyo's "La Noche."

There are some surprises on Normal, such as the absence of accordions on what is otherwise a very Colombian-sounding album; somehow, it makes the album sound even more authentic, since everybody's using accordions nowadays. And even though this is supposed to be Juanes' "happy" album, he goes berserk on a former girlfriend in "Mala Gente," telling her "your whole, whole, whole self will burn forever in hell"--it's a clear first for the ultimate nice guy. There's also that duo with Nelly Furtado ("Fotografia"), a match made in heaven and one of the best songs of the year. Un Día Normal sets the stage for another normal year for Juanes, one that should consolidate him as the smartest name in Latin pop. OK, "alternative" pop.


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