“What we’d do was we’d play the song and close our eyes, and each one of us would name the color that the song made us feel,” Colombian superstar J Balvin tells Apple Music about how he assembled his sixth solo album, whittling it down from roughly 40 potential tracks. “The color that prevailed, that was the song’s name.” Indeed, when the deliberately austere single “Blanco” first dropped last year, few could’ve anticipated it would mark the beginning of a veritable rainbow’s worth of new thematic fare, even after he named his 2019 tour Arcoiris—literally “rainbow” in Spanish.
“This is practically an album of all J Balvin; it’s not a collaboration album,” he says. Where his prior projects found him paired up with everyone from Daddy Yankee and Farruko to Pharrell to ROSALÍA, this follow-up to the beloved 2019 Bad Bunny duets set OASIS finds him looking inward more than reaching out. At a time when so many eyes globally are fixed upon him, thanks in no small part to successful musical partnerships with artists outside of the Latin music world like the Black Eyed Peas and DJ Snake, Colores finds him shutting out the world while engaged in a grand creative exercise with a tight circle of producers, including his longtime studio familiar Sky Rompiendo.
The neo-psychedelic floral stylings of modern pop art mastermind Takashi Murakami complement these ten vibrant dembow variations, assigning moods to an array of sonic hues. Furthering that message, each song has a dedicated music video directed by Colin Tilley that showcases experimental fantasias built from each part of the album’s palette. For those who’ve come to see Balvin as the face and the voice of contemporary reggaetón, Colores proves that, in the right hands, the genre has limitless artistic potential. Below, he breaks down each of the tracks for Apple Music.
Amarillo “Yellow was what 80% of the people who listened to this one felt. Produced by DJ Snake and Afro Bros, it’s very energetic and made for discos. It says that I don’t complicate my life. Many people know J Balvin, but few people know about José, and the thing is that I don’t complicate myself. Let’s enjoy it. That’s why it’s the first song of the album, because as soon as people listen to it, I want them to feel connected with the color and with the song’s power.”
Azul “We closed our eyes as a work team and the color blue prevailed. This was produced by Sky, and Justin Quiles worked with us. It’s a very refreshing song, one where we talk about a woman who lives her life the way she wants—independently. She does things her way and she can’t be controlled.”
Rojo “The lyrics here really guided us towards passion, towards love. It had been a while since I last made a romantic reggaetón song. The lyrics say, ‘I choose you.’ When you love, you love freely, and you need to let the other person be happy. The part I like the most says, ‘They try, and they fail. They always want to buy you with money, but that treasure has its pirates. I’ll do anything for you.’ It means no matter how much they want to buy you, your heart belongs to me.”
Rosa “This is produced by Diplo. We had a fantastic time making the song, which has a very sensual vibe. With this song, you can’t tell a woman how much you like her, and you don't know what to do when you are in front of her. Again, I am alone, as you can see, like with 90% of Colores.”
Morado “I’d been wanting to release a classic reggaetón song for a long time, J Balvin-style. When we closed our eyes, we connected with the color purple. And when we thought of purple, we thought about royalty, the castle vibe, the king vibe. The lyrics are very funny: ‘I asked for a drink, and she asked for the bottle. She always goes too far when I’m with her. Listen to her, or else you’ll crash, yes. If there’s any problem, it’s her fault. Dance so that her butt bounces, done.’”
Verde “There are only two collaborations in the album, and this is a very special one because it’s with my brother and right hand in music, Sky. For the first time, he shows himself as an artist. Apart from being a great producer and composer, he also raps and sings very well. This is pure 100% reggaetón. It’s made to jump, to actually jump. It’s telling people to check out the swag or the flow of everybody.”
Negro “This is one of my favorite songs on Colores because it has malianteo, the flavor that made me fall in love with reggaetón. It reminds me of the days of Hector El Father; it makes you want to grab a bat and head out to the streets. The lyrics are brutal. The color and what the song inspires are brutal. Dee Mad made a beat that really hit it.”
Gris “Gray was the predominant color in the voting for this one. The lyrics are about when you try to be the best for your partner, yet they don’t see any value in it. They don’t stop judging you for the mistakes you made in the past.”
Arcoíris “This is called ‘Arcoíris’ (rainbow) because it was the song that changes the rhythm the most. The producer is Michael Brun from Haiti again, a collaboration alongside Mr Eazi of Nigeria. He samples a Cuban song by Compay Segundo. It sounds a lot like Africa, but it has a lot of our Latin flavor. We combine all colors into the rhythm, so to speak. I'm an Afrobeats fan, and we worked with Mr Eazi in the past on OASIS.”
Blanco “This was the first song that was released from the album. When everything was sounding very similar, I decided to go another way. It talks about my city Medellín, and was produced by Sky. It is different from what was happening outside. For real, made in Medellín.”
J Balvin & Sky
J Balvin & Mr Eazi
10 Songs, 29 Minutes
March 19, 2020
Universal Music Latino; ℗ 2020 UMG Recordings, Inc.