Words by ‘LLERO Editors
José Álvaro Osorio Balvín better known as J Balvin has accomplished perhaps all one can as an artist in the music game. Millions of albums sold, countless venues packed to the rafters across the world, numerous accolades and award show wins, the man even has his own McDonald’s Happy Meal. Yet, in 2020 J Balvin took it another level – not just of musical and commercial success – but also of consciousness.
First the former. Balvin started the year as a guest performer alongside good buddy Bad Bunny in the Super Bowl LIV halftime show headlined by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. Then in March of 2020 he released the album Colores in which every song is named after a color except the song “Arcoíris” (the Spanish word for rainbow).
The album was a bonafide hit, with Rolling Stone magazine calling it a “sophisticated show of Balvin’s sonic palette”. In October the Medellin native, teamed up with McDonalds for the “J Balvin Meal” – yes, Balvin actually has his own happy meal. Clearly the Prince of Reggaeton has just as much business acumen as musical talent, because the partnerships did not stop at the Golden Arches.
Later in 2020 he partnered with Nike’s Jordan Brand to design, develop and market his own signature line of Air Jordan’s, entitled J. Balvin x Air Jordan 1 Retro OG High ‘Colores Y Vibras’. Again, inspired in part by his Colores album. The shoes were a runaway hit, virtually selling out instantly – so good luck trying to score a pair.
However, unlike Nike, for Balvin it’s not about the shoes. But rather his honesty, candor and self-awareness. You see, in 2020, Balvin also made another revelation. He has long suffered from depression, even harboring moments he wanted to die.
While there has been mentioned made of mental health issues in the past by the press. The artist himself addressed it head on, when he made an appearance on Becky G’s podcast “En La Sala with Becky G”.
During the interview he recalled a time several years ago when he got so depressed that he laid in bed for five days “waiting to die.” Balvin further admitted it was occurring at a period when career was exploding. He acknowledged that the misinformation and stigma surrounding mental health are a big part of the challenges people face in dealing with it and preventing them from seeking help. And told listeners “It’s okay not to be okay…”
“I understand you, I feel you. I feel what you feel, you know? You might be having your ‘best moment in life’ and you’re feeling like s—. I feel you, I’ve been there. I’m going to that right now.”
Revealing one’s backstory or personal demons can be a p.r. stunt, especially for artists who have suffered a career set back or are on the comeback trail. It’s a means to connect and personalize. But for an artist already at the top of their game, the reveal is risky, especially in the testosterone laden world of reggaeton. The reveal could have jeopardized all that Balvin worked for. Yet in the end, the courage and willingness to be vulnerable likely had a healing effect, not just for him and others dealing with these same issues. And just may demonstrate why the Prince of Reggaeton may be ready to ascend the throne!