Spanish-language music hit new highs and reached more people than ever before in America in 2017, but don’t think for a minute it was just a momentary phenomenon. The Latin genre in all its forms has been growing in popularity around the world—but the eventual takeover has finally started stateside.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” helped kick things off early in the year, and J Balvin quickly followed with the global smash “Mi Gente,” which was yet another incredibly catchy Spanish cut he’s released throughout his career. Those two hits introduced millions of people—who may not have normally listened to Latin music—to the art form. Because of their successes, more deserving Latin artists will achieve great things that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.
J Balvin hasn’t slept on his newfound fame with an audience who wasn’t aware of him before last year. With a slew of new music (including "Ahora," "Machika" and "X" with Nicky Jam), 2018 could see the Colombian talent finally become a household name in America. The international superstar spoke with Fuse about his past year, why “Mi Gente” resonated with millions, and how he convinced Queen Bey to collaborate with him.
Fuse: I have to congratulate you first because 2017 been a huge year for you, hasn't it?
J Balvin: Yeah man. Thank you for being so nice. Everything is going so well, and I'm so grateful.
You've been a very popular figure in the Latin music world for several years now, but 2017 saw your career jump to the next level. How did it feel to see that happening in such a short span of time?
It's been amazing and it's not been a short time but, people have been working a lot to get that. It’s amazing just to see...everybody feeling the vibe even though they don't understand what I'm saying. They just feel that it's right and people always connect emotions. I need that.
“Mi Gente” was of the biggest songs in the world last year. Tell me about creating a beat and a song that maybe not everyone understood the words to, but that resonated.
It was this producer, his name is Willy William. He sent me the beat and I was like, “Wow, this is real!” He said to me it’s what the world needs right now. I knew it was going to be global, so we put all the energy together and it happened.
It was already a massive hit everywhere and then Beyoncé jumped on it and it really went to the next level. How did you get her to feature on the song?
I didn't get her, you know what I'm saying? The music is beyond everything. She and her family loved the song, and it was organic because the beautiful thing is that the song hit No. 1 global [on Spotify] without a superstar, so it wasn't just the name.
She doesn't do many features. What did a co-sign from someone like her mean to you?
Well, to me, it's amazing because she doesn’t collab with too many people, and I'm super grateful. It's still a dream. She's so respected and she's a super perfectionist and she's working with me!
I was a bit surprised when I heard the new version of “Mi Gente” because Beyoncé sings in Spanish, which she's only done a few times before. Last year we also heard Justin Bieber do so. How do you feel about artists who have never really worked in Latin music picking up Spanish to jump onto this trend?
They never worked in Latin music, but music is always here in the Latin community. We're super cool. I love the fact that she took her time to do correct pronounciation. She made it with love, and God bless her for that. She really was super cool.
In the months since “Mi Gente” came out and took over the world, you've put out quite a few singles. What's the plan for all these new songs?
Keep growing the music! We drove “Downtown,” “Machika” is a collab with Anitta as well and Jeon from Aruba. It's something you have to move to...that's what we try to do.
Is there an album coming soon, or are you just focusing on the singles for now?
Yeah, yeah, there's another album coming soon. We're about to cut it, to finish it. It will be out anytime soon.
What do you think has spurred this surge in Latin music that has taken over the world last year?
Well, it think just it was a matter of time. Nothing happened, you know, like from one day to another. It's been a process. And that, I'm talking about “Macarena,” “La Copa de la Vida” by Ricky Martin, back in the day. I feel the world is smaller than it used to be with social medias. There are more ways to connect with people and I think that there's enough going on right now with Spanish music.
You scored a number of hits in the U.S. in a mainstream market singing in Spanish. We're in a tough political climate here, especially facing Latin people. What do you think the significance is of songs like yours doing so well these days while that population is facing criticism from some people?
Well, they show the reality; music at the end of the day is for people. So, the reality is that there's real love for us, there's hate somewhere, but there's more love. Obviously more love.
Everyone seems to be a fan of Bey, including British girl group Little Mix, who are inspired by the pop star (just like J Balvin is):