J Balvin 2014-2019: From Opener to Coachella Line-Up

by Michael Gaitskell

art by Mariadelle Gamit. See their website here, and follow their Instagram!

It was September 27th, 2014, and that evening I was fulfilling my dream of attending an Arena concert in the United States. Everything was still pretty new to me because I have moved to Boston in August. I was pretty excited about the whole event and the beautiful TD Garden, but I was most excited about being there that night to watch perform the Latin superstars of the moment Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull, and who would become my favorite Colombian artist: J Balvin.

The show went great; we all celebrated from beginning to end. The headliners threw a spectacular show full of lights, dance, and surprises. And even though I had a great time watching them two (Enrique/Pitbull), I was most surprised by J Balvin’s opening act and the fact that for the first time I have watched him perform in the United States.

That day I was surprise because just a couple years before the show, Balvin started to gain enough popularity in the Colombian and Latin Reggaeton scene to be on the radio. It is really tough to be played in Colombian radio because of the lack of smaller-sized stations. So it was definitely a feat for him to be in radio and quickly be touring the US as an opener for two star acts in the US concert circuit.

Fast forward to January 2019: J Balvin is announced as part of the Coachella 2019 Line-up. How can a Latin Artist, that only sings in Spanish, pulled this one out in just a little over 4 years?

It has been a tough but incredible path for Jose Alvaro Osorio Balvin to make it where he is right now. After proving to most of Colombians that he belongs in the elite circle of his own country’s music scene, J Balvin acted quickly and smart knocking doors overseas. It didn’t take him long to meet someone that would believe in his drive, passion, and work ethic: the one and only Rebeca Leon. She was already a veteran in the U.S. music industry working for AEG Live, when she decided to take Balvin over early in 2014.

Thanks to his first U.S. tour opening for Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull, J Balvin made so many new fans that his music started to play in the U.S. He was then charting high in the top spots of the Latin Billboard charts, and he was already winning multiple awards and attending big magazine interviews. Also, Reggaeton, his main style of music, started to become the mainstream style of music in all Latin America: to the point where you cannot tell the fine line between Pop and Reggaeton.

While all of this was happening, he was able to book his first solo tour “La Familia” in 2015. Armed and ready with his own tour, J Balvin travelled the country in his “La Familia” styled tour bus. Of course I attended his show in Boston. This time it was a sold-out House of Blues and not the TD Garden, but what an incredible show. He was touring solo for the first time and he was performing at 2000-3000 capacity venues, which is pretty impressive.

“La Familia” tour was a complete success. He packed every show and his music was everywhere breaking YouTube records, radio airplay records, and he was also meeting North American music and fashion Stars as well. Balvin used his time very intelligently opening his boundaries and knocking more doors to expand his stardom. Not only he decided to venture into the Fashion industry, he featured in the released of the Latin remix for the hit song Sorry by Justin Bieber.

Hit song after hit song, J Balvin finally was able to record and release his following album “Energia” in 2016 that featured a collaboration with Pharrell Williams in the song Safari. Because of the album’s success, he locked down a deal for another U.S tour with Live Nation in 2017. That year he went up again to Boston but I was not able to attend that night to the show. The performance happened at the prestigious Wang Center Theatre in downtown Boston.

The tour featured a much more matured show. Traveling with four production semi’s and a couple tour busses for his staff (he was already flying private for some months prior), J Balvin was set to conquer another North American milestone. In 2017 he was selected as Ambassador for the New York Fashion Week, and became the first Latino artist to be selected by The Council of Fashion Designers of America. Thanks to this achievement he was able to release his first clothing collection, and seal his seat in the fashion industry.

His single Mi Gente (featuring Willy William), helped him to reach even higher grounds in 2017. Not only it was in Barack Obama’s top songs of the year list, J Balvin had Beyoncé to feature in the remix. The song reached to spot #10 on the general Billboard chart, earning him his first top 10 in December 2017.

And if you think he stopped there… well he didn’t. For 2018, he released his latest album “Vibras”, and he toured the U.S again. Last year I did attend the show in Boston, and I think the most fulfilling part of all was that it was performed at an Arena. Agganis Arena of Boston University welcomed J Balvin to perform infront of 7,200 people in October of last year. The tour ended as another huge success for J Balvin and his team, and some months later, in January of this year, he was announced as part of the Line-Up for Coachella sharing stage with the biggest music names in the world.

Besides Balvin’s successes and achievements I think it would be irresponsible not to acknowledge his team’s and his own efforts to keep the train on full throttle. It seems like he never stops, like everything he does is great and becomes gold. J Balvin is just a living proof of the power of discipline, drive, and obsession with life goals. It seems that there is nothing he cannot do, and he has helped to open the door for so many Latin artists to enter the English-speaking world of mainstream music.

I came to this country at the same time he first visited to for his tour, and it has been one of the biggest inspirations seeing him grow into the role model he is today. We can all learn that in music there is much more to do, and there are many doors we need to knock so we can keep growing. Cheers to J Balvin, I am eager to see what you come up with in the future!

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