Colombian star brings the heat, but it struggles to justify its weighty span...
J Balvin Photograph

J Balvin’s decade-long run of success has broken the glass ceiling for latin pop, establishing a global footprint in the process. Yet he’s also rapidly evolved and diversified his sound – recently appearing on Skepta’s ‘Nirvana’, while also contributing to the Metallica Blacklist project.

‘Jose’ finds a way to balance these impulses, accepting new ideas while leaning in on his heritage. So, muscular single ‘In Da Ghetto’ features production from Skrillex, while the inclusion of Yandel on ‘Ti Acuerdas De Mi’ pays homage to one of his foremost latin influences.

When it punches hard, ‘Jose’ doesn’t miss. ‘Que Locura’ is a delicious sunshine-drenched workout, and ‘Una Nota’ is Balvin at his most seductive; ‘Que Mas Pues?’ finds the star aligning with the soulful sound of Argentinian singer Maria Becerra, while ‘Suerte’ is a low-key stormer.

Yet ‘Jose’ – like Drake and Kanye’s efforts, previously – is led down by quality control. The creativity is undiminished, but it struggles under the weight of its 24 track span – clocking in at more than hour, the record at times tries the patience.

Equally, some of the guest spots don’t add much to the over-arching picture. Khalid’s feature feels wasted, a push for clout from both parties, while closer ‘UN DIA’ has the somewhat odd casting of Bad Bunny, Tainy, and Dua Lipa.

The highs, though, help to sustain your interest across its unwieldy path. Following hot on the heels of 2020’s ‘Colores’, this album sketches out further evidence of the Colombian born star’s ambitions. A fun reggaeton fusion, ‘Jose’ keeps the fires burning.

6/10

Words: Robin Murray

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