Colores — J Balvin (review)

“You already know Balvin, now meet José” opens Colores, the latest album from first lad of reggaeton, J Balvin. Of course you know Balvin, his flamingo crop and towering trainers are stamped across just about every song in the charts.

But please! forget that Balvin. This one wants you to know he’s more than just a body for hire. Besides a co-credit or two, this is emphatically a solo vision, each track representing a different colour – colour being such a big part of Balvin’s personal brand already. It’s also a nod to his hometown Medellín, a vibrant Colombian city emerging from the shadows of its past. 

Besides being one of its biggest names, J Balvin is also reggaeton’s biggest fanboy. No record of his would be complete without lusty moans and shout-outs to Daddy Yankee. But as well as celebrating the soundtrack of his teen years, he’s big on novelty, hoovering up dembow, trap and R&B influences and stirring them all into the broth.

All the usual suspects are here: parties til dawn, sipping aguardiente with women in bikinis (the bikinis are non-negotiable), forgetting what you did the night before. But J Balvin has always been open about his demons, and even with hedonism at high tide there’s usually a darker subtext. Desire is torture, sexual gratification is a slightly nicer form of torture, but ultimately there’s a risk of getting seasick even as you sip champagne on a yacht.

Blanco is a prowling public notice to reassure us he’s still got money and beats to burn. Rojo is, reliably, about desire, but this time from beyond the grave (watch the video for his bloodied take on Ghost). Three or four songs are about women who are kind of evil (translation: sexy). And at just 28 minutes, the record itself is lean enough to feel at home on any beach.

With someone as prolific as J Balvin, it’s inevitable that certain hits he appears on feel throwaway, each muttered “leggo” giving some no-mark a leg-up. But Colores is a fully realised, insatiable prism of a record, winking through really impractical tiny sunglasses, dancing perreo til sunrise. Don’t check your watch, this might be the closest you get to a party for some time.

2020. Also appeared on Getintothis, before that imploded.