While J Balvin still hasn’t shared the name of his upcoming album, he notes that he had decided on the title before he recorded a note. “My albums have always started with their names,” the Colombian star says. “That way, we let ourselves be guided by the vibe.” In the past, he has mostly used one-word titles: Jose (2021), Colores (2020), Oasis (2019), Vibras (2018) and Energía (2017).
He says that the mood of his latest, arriving this fall, was sheer joy. Recorded at RAK Studios and Abbey Road during a monthlong stay in London, Balvin’s first full-length album in nearly two years features a variety of producers, including Tainy, Mura Masa, Michaël Brun, Hear This Music/DJ Luian, Mambo Kingz and Súbelo NEO. The project also boasts “precisely” curated collaborations, including tracks with Stormzy and Anuel AA.
“I like to explore other cultures and genres,” he says. “But as far as my DNA and my essence, I represent Medellín, Colombia.”
Coming out of the pandemic, Balvin and his team looked around at a world mired in negativity. “The vibe wasn’t right for inspiration,” Balvin says. “We decided, from within ourselves, to focus on giving happiness to our listeners and change the vibe from negative to positive.” A key element was London’s vibrant club scene, which became a living, breathing experiment to discover and test beats. Balvin and his team hit two or three clubs every weekend to take inspiration from dancefloors and observe what fans were connecting with. And, on occasion, he would even play demos. “We wanted to see fan reaction,” he says, “and it was amazing.”
Though Balvin has known the veteran hit-maker for years, their first collaboration was the result of a chance encounter during Paris Fashion Week in July. “When I saw him, I had that flashback to the songs that defined my childhood,” recalls Balvin, who, on the spot, asked Usher if he could sample his 2004 smash “Yeah!” in a new track that wasn’t even done yet — and whose title he hasn’t yet divulged. “He said of course, but then I thought, ‘It’d be great to actually do something with him.’ Recording the track and filming the video with someone so legendary fills me with nostalgia and gratitude. I think this song will have huge global impact.”
Balvin and girlfriend Valentina Ferrer welcomed son Río in June 2021. “Having my son has changed my perspective, but my competitive spirit, that drive to improve as an artist and a person, is part of my day to day,” says Balvin, who often takes Río on his global travels. Daily workouts, he says, are also key — as is maintaining mental health, a topic he has been outspoken about. In that regard, his new album is a way to actively put positivity to work: “It’s not just talking about mental health, but actually applying the concept,” he says. “This album is a mood that will make people happy just by listening to it. I’m contributing by raising serotonin levels.”