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Born José Álvaro Osorio Balvin in Medellín, Colombia, he became interested in music at a young age while listening to rap, champeta, bachata, and reggae on the radio. He was also a big fan of music videos; it was from these that he began to develop his dance moves and cultivate his own style. Balvin signed to EMI Colombia in 2009 and released his first single, "Ella Me Cautivó," which charted at 35 on the U.S. tropical chart. This was followed by the release of the full-length Real in 2010. Balvin contributed four tunes to the soundtrack of the Tim Bulot film El Negocio. All of them charted, including "En Lo Oscuro," which hit the top spot in his native country.
Balvin was a featured vocalist on the Colombian version of Robin Thicke's smash single "Blurred Lines," which was issued in October 2013, just prior to his own second album, La Familia. All four singles from the set charted in Colombia's Top Ten, and "Yo Te Lo Dije" hit number two on the rhythm chart and number nine on the Latin pop chart in the U.S. The B Sides collection appeared in September 2014, featuring two more radio chart-topping singles in "6 AM" and "Ay Vamos." The latter won a Latin Grammy for Best Urban Song.
Balvin's 2015 single "Ginza," the official pre-release for his next album, entered the Hot Latin Songs chart at number one, topped several others, and was certified platinum. His collaborations were as notable as his own work that year. He and Julión Álvarez were featured on Juan Gabriel's single "La Frontera." His "Latino Remix" of Justin Bieber's smash "Sorry" scored big for both artists at Latin pop radio and in digital streaming and downloads.
In 2016, Balvin won the Premios Lo Nuestro Artist of the Year Award and was a featured guest on both Sofia Carson's charting debut single, "Love Is the Name," and on Alejandro Sanz's "Cuando Seas Grande" -- from a performance at La Voz -- along with Gloria Trevi and Los Tigres del Norte. In May he released the single "Bobo"; it topped the Latin songs chart. "Safari," featuring Pharrell Williams, BIA, and Sky, appeared in June, followed by the full-length Energia. The album, produced by Sky and featuring contributions from Bull Nene, Daddy Yankee, Fuego, Yandel, and Juanes, hit the top spot on several Latin album charts. The following year, he scored a hit with a remix of his track "Mi Gente" that featured Beyoncé. The song became his first U.S. Top Ten single.
Balvin kicked off 2018 with a handful of collaborative singles: "Machika" with Jeon and Anitta, "X" with Nicky Jam, and Cardi B's "I Like It" with Bad Bunny. After leading the 2018 Billboard Latin Music Awards finalists' list with nominations in 12 categories, Balvin released his fifth long-player, the 14-track Vibras, that May. Working again with producer Alejandro Ramírez (aka Sky Rompiendo el Bajo), who has been his musical partner since La Familia, the set moved reggaeton in new directions and sounds as it played host to a slew of guests including Carla Morrison, Wisin y Yandel, Zion y Lennox, L.A.-based flamenco singer Rosalía, Brazilian pop star Anitta, and Aruban singer Jeon. Vibras debuted at number 15 in the Top 200 -- the highest-charting debut for any Latin album -- and number one at both the Top Latin Albums and Latin Album Sales the week of release. Sales earned Balvin platinum status in the United States and multi-platinum status in Mexico and Colombia. In addition, the recording placed at either number one or two on various global streaming outlets. Riding the success of the album, Balvin threw himself into touring and working with other artists.
During the first half 2019, he made several more Hot 100 appearances: He collaborated with Benny Blanco, Tainy, and Selena Gomez on "I Can't Get Enough," and with Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, Farruko, and Anuel AA on the smash "Baila Baila Baila." In early May, Balvin and El Guincho appeared on Rosalía's Top Ten hit "Con Altura"; its video racked up 1.5 billion views. Later that month, he was featured on DJ Khaled's "You Stay," alongside Meek Mill, Lil Baby, and Jeremih. In June, the album Oasis by Balvin and fellow urbano prince Bad Bunny was released without advance notice. Saturated in dembow and trap beats and crafted specifically as a soundtrack for summertime, it entered at number one on the Latin Rhythm charts two weeks after release and debuted at number nine on the Top 200. The album's first single, "Que Pretendes," entered the Hot 100 as well. The set peaked at number one on the Top Latin albums chart and at nine on the Top 200. It was chosen by publications ranging from the New York Times to Rolling Stone and Billboard as one of the top Latin titles of the year. Oasis was certified double platinum (Latin) by the RIAA. In all, between collaborations and his own titles as a leader, Balvin appeared on and/or recorded 22 singles in 2019.
In February 2020, Balvin delivered the charting single "Morado," followed in March by the release of his fifth album, Colores, a concept offering wherein each of its ten songs corresponds to a different color with accompanying videos directed by Colin Tilley. The album cover featured psychedelic imagery from Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. Produced by Sky Rompiendo, the set was preceded by the Rojo EP that contained two of the record's tracks in "Blanco" and "Morado." The following year, he cracked the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart with "Location" featuring Karol G and Anuel AA. After a string of singles -- including collaborations with Skrillex, Khalid, and María Becerra -- Balvin issued his sixth album, the Grammy-nominated JOSE. With a looser approach to concept, the 24-track LP provided breezy reggaeton staples, extensive collaborative work, and some refreshing new styles. ~ Thom Jurek