Over the course of the last three years in particular, Latin music has crossed over into the mainstream. While streaming has taken over traditional methods of music consumption, songs like Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito,” Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita” and Cardi B’s “I Like It” are nearly inescapable for those of us who still listen to the radio.
The latter featured J Balvin, a Colombian reggaeton singer who has been on a rapid rise to fame. While he has been releasing music since 2009, Balvin has gained popularity in the United States with his Latin-pop, hip-hop and EDM crossovers.
In addition to Cardi B, in the past three years alone, Balvin has collaborated with Liam Payne, Pharrell Williams, David Guetta and Beyoncé. This past Friday, Balvin brought his musical stylings to Toyota Music Factory in Irving.
At the local stop of his Arcoiris Tour, Balvin delivered hours-worth of hits with rainbow-colorful visuals. The tour follows the release of his fifth studio album, Vibras, as well as Oasis, his collaborative album with Bad Bunny. From beginning to end, not a single person remained in their seat during Balvin’s slot.
It’s hard to venture a guess as to which of Balvin's songs will be chosen to open and close his set. While artists' biggest songs are usually held off until the end of their sets, nearly every one of Balvin’s singles has become a hit.
Within the first 10 minutes, Balvin performed his Bad Bunny collaboration “Como Un Bebé” and his Rosalía collaboration “Con Altura.” Although Balvin may not be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, his stage was lit up in all colors of the rainbow, as suggested by the name of the tour, Arcoiris (the Spanish word for rainbow). Balvin defies production standards and expectations for a male performer in a bold artistic style.
Before the recent resurgence of Latin sounds in mainstream music, there was a brief period between 2004 and 2005 in which reggaeton had a stint within the realm of Top 40s. Balvin reminded us of this about halfway through his set, when he played and rapped along to hits like N.O.R.E.’s “Oye Mi Canto” and Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina.” Nearly everyone in the audience, young and old, remembered all of the words to these old gems.
Balvin also gave a dedication to immigrants, both documented and undocumented, as well as a brief talk about the importance of mental health.
Toward the end of his set, Balvin performed more of his mainstream hits, including “I Like It," during which two people in Cardi B and Bad Bunny costumes (with very big heads) joined onstage.
Apart from the stunning visuals, nostalgia and the use of his platform to raise awareness of hot-button issues, the best part of J Balvin’s show was the sense of camaraderie and joy within the Latin community. The audience was made up mostly of Hispanic fans, and while one can argue that more white people need to start showing up and supporting the artists they claim to love, J Balvin’s show was definitely a “by us, for us” kind of night. It was refreshing to be around people who know and love the culture.
The energy of the audience never died down at any point in the show. Whether the members were in the front row or in the nosebleeds, everyone was just happy to be there. Latin artists are delivering more exciting shows than some of today’s biggest pop stars, and it’s about damn time we began paying attention.
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