J Balvin

JOSE

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JOSE Review

by David Crone

In recent years, Colombian superstar J Balvin has worked along bold lines: Vibras put forth a blueprint for reggaeton's new identity, OASIS forged a Latin "The Throne," and Colores audio-visually explored relationships between color and sound. Yet, amid all these outward ideas, there's been little focus on Balvin himself. What happens when the concept of the album isn't a concept at all, but simply Jose Balvín?

This is a question that the vocalist's sixth studio LP, JOSE, seeks to answer. Based simply around its eponymous creator, JOSE feels like a partial return to the genre-blending ethos of Energía -- but the five years between the albums has changed the man behind the mic. Balvin is now not just a visionary, but a titan -- "nobody has to tell me that I am a legend, I give that to myself" runs opening track "F40" -- and he carries that status throughout, producing polished renditions of the style he was so instrumental in pioneering. His seductive vibes and smooth melodies remain unmatched across solo cuts like "Vestido" and "Suerte," while "Si Te Atreves" and "Que Locura," the latter sounding like a forgotten jewel unearthed from the Vibras era, offer demonstrations of his hit-making prowess. However, this status carries just as well outside of his reggaeton kingdom, empowering the confident boasts of "Billetes de 100," sunshine-speckled trap of "La Familia," and earnest balladry of "Querido Rio." "7 de Mayo," the musician's most poignant and reflective single to date, sounds just as beautiful here as it did all those months ago.

After the isolationist Colores, it's refreshing to hear Balvin alongside three generations of contemporaries here: Zion & Lennox put a punch into "Si Te Atreves," Ozuna and Myke Towers prove strong melodic and lyrical partners to Balvin, and new faces like María Becerra and Jay Wheeler shine in the later cuts. The Sech-assisted "Una Nota" is a breezy highlight in and of itself, but when Yandel arrives for a surprise second-parter, the track finds a joyous new purpose. Of all Balvin's guests, its Jhay Cortez who produces something transcendent: "La Venganza" is an unquestionable career highlight, a starry-skied and bittersweet revenge banger fueled by twinkling synths and a luring, nocturnal undertone.

With the album's liberal approach to concept, Balvin opens himself up to a scattering of new ideas, but that scattershot approach also raises questions of where to stop. With a 24-deep track list, JOSE can feel more like a compilation than a statement; clearing out the few blunders ("Perra," "In Da Getto") and older singles ("Un Día," "Otra Noche Sin Ti") would produce a work with a stronger core identity. Yet part of that critique is also part of the album's appeal: JOSE is a representation of Balvin in the moment, a whirlwind of its creator's thoughts and ideas. It's a colorful, wide-ranging romp of an album -- and an airy liberation for its titular figure.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
F40
J Balvin 02:41 Amazon
2 J Balvin feat: Sech 02:51 Amazon
3 J Balvin feat: Yandel 01:44 Amazon
4 J Balvin feat: Sonny Moore 02:10 Amazon
5 J Balvin feat: Myke Towers 02:44 Amazon
6 J Balvin feat: Jhay Cortez 04:08 Amazon
7 J Balvin 03:06 Amazon
8 J Balvin 03:19 Amazon
9 J Balvin feat: Feid 03:46 Amazon
10 J Balvin 03:15 Amazon
11 J Balvin feat: Zion & Lennox 02:49 Amazon
12 J Balvin 03:15 Amazon
13 J Balvin feat: Ozuna 03:17 Amazon
14 J Balvin 02:58 Amazon
15 J Balvin feat: Tokischa Altagracia Peralta 02:37 Amazon
16 J Balvin 03:29 Amazon
17 J Balvin 03:23 Amazon
18 J Balvin 02:31 Amazon
19 J Balvin 04:11 Amazon
20 J Balvin feat: María Becerra 03:37 Amazon
21 J Balvin feat: Jay Wheeler 03:22 Amazon
22 J Balvin feat: Khalid 03:48 Amazon
23 J Balvin feat: Crissin / Totoy El Frio / Karol G / Nicky Jam / Natan & Shander 06:31 Amazon
24 J Balvin feat: Bad Bunny / Dua Lipa / Tainy 03:52 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick