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Juanes - Biography
|last update : 24-10-2007 16:23|
|In the wake of the crossover mania that characterized the Latin music industry at the end of the '90s (Ricky Martin, Shakira, Paulina Rubio, Thalía -- all of whom released English-language albums around this time) came Juanes, a Latin artist so great he didn't need to calculate crossover approaches to attain international recognition; he simply needed to write, sing, and play his own songs in his own language, which was enough to make him the biggest and most important Latin artist throughout the world. Granted, his solo debut, Fijate Bien, released in 2000, didn't exactly sweep the world off its feet, but he did exactly that with his second one, Un Día Normal, released in 2002. The album rode the Billboard Latin chart for two straight years, remaining in the Top Ten for a record-breaking 92 weeks. It also notched numerous hit singles, Grammy nominations (eight), Grammy awards (five), and various other accolades too numerous to list. In short, it was a phenomenon, and not just in Latin America but also in the United States and throughout the world. When Juanes returned in 2004 with his third album, Mi Sangre, expectations were high to say the least. Yet the album was another remarkable accomplishment -- not quite as remarkable as Un Día Normal, granted, but remarkable all the same -- again racking up all kinds of commercial success and critical acclaim, proving once again that Juanes was the biggest and most important Latin artist in the world following the turn of the century.
Born Juan Esteban Aristizabal in Medellin, Colombia, Juanes began at age seven to learn how to play guitar from his father and older brothers. His passion for the instrument led him to learn traditional Latin sounds such as boleros, tangos, and cumbias as well as Colombian folk music styles such as vallenatto and guasca. During his upbringing in Colombia he also became steadily acquainted with the grief endured by his fellow countrymen. For instance, his cousin was executed by kidnappers, and a close friend was killed by gunmen. He also lost his father to cancer, which only furthered his sense of grief.
As a teenager, Juanes and his guitar playing drifted toward heavy metal, influenced greatly by Metallica and other bands of that ilk. This led to his founding of the metal band Ekhymosis, which went on to considerable success, releasing seven albums in 11 years and enjoying a sizable following in Colombia. He eventually chose to depart the band, however, and pursue a solo career. With guitar in hand, he moved to Los Angeles and brought along a cassette demo that got passed along to producer Gustavo Santaolalla, an Argentine transplant. Santaolalla heard promise in the demo, contacted Juanes, and ultimately signed him to his record label, Surco.
In 2000 Juanes and Santaolalla began work on what would become Fijate Bien, and the singer/songwriter/guitarist partnered also with manager Fernan Martinez, a fellow Colombian who had previously stood beside Enrique Iglesias during that artist's rise to international fame. Within everything in place for Juanes, Surco, in association with Universal Music Latino, released Fijate Bien on October 17. Initially, the album did very well in Colombia, where it spent ten weeks at number one, but it was slow to catch on elsewhere, spinning off a few modest hits: the title track, "Nada," and "Podemos Hacernos Dano." It was a surprise, then, when it was announced in July 2001 that Juanes had received a whopping seven Latin Grammy nominations. Such recognition brought a lot of international attention to Fijate Bien, especially once Juanes cleaned up at the Grammy ceremony, winning three, including Best New Artist. He also performed.
Later that very night, October 30, 2001, he returned to Santaolalla's Surco studio in Los Angeles, bringing with him demos for over 40 new songs that would become the basis of Un Día Normal. He completed work on the album in February 2002 and the lead single, "A Dios Le Pido," was sent to radio stations throughout the U.S. and Latin America in April. The song, which roughly translates to "I Ask God" in English, became an anthem in much of Latin America, a sort of prayer for peace throughout that often troubled part of the world. It went on to top the charts in 12 countries on three continents, and spent 47 consecutive weeks on Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks chart, a large percentage of those weeks spent firmly lodged in the Top Five. It also spent more than four straight months atop the Colombian chart, breaking a record formerly held by countrymate Shakira.
Surco/Universal unveiled Un Día Normal on May 21, and it lived up to the promise of its lead single and its predecessor, becoming perhaps the most successful Latin album ever released to date. The album was much brighter than the relatively gloomy and troubled Fijate Bien (Juanes himself described Un Día Normal as the dawn that followed the night of its predecessor), and it spun off numerous hit singles, most notably a duet ballad with Nelly Furtado, "Fotografia," which the duo would go on to perform at the following Latin Grammy ceremony. The album itself sold millions of copies worldwide, spending 92 weeks in the Top Ten of Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart. Its accolades are far too many to list, as seemingly the entire world seemed to celebrate Juanes throughout the remainder of 2002 and into the following year. He toured the world and set all kinds of attendance records, performed at all kinds of ceremonies and telecasts, and inspired gushing praise from critics left and right (from The New York Times: "Juanes is a figure like Bono or Sting: an idealistic songwriter who never forgets how to entertain").
Following the whirlwind that followed Un Día Normal, Juanes once again headed straight to the studio, in May 2004, to begin work on what would become Mi Sangre. The lead single, "Nada Valgo Sin Tu Amor," hit radio on August 12, bumped up to prevent unauthorized leaks, and Mi Sangre hit streets on September 28. Critics loved it, fans bought it, and Juanes promoted it nonstop, again mounting a mammoth tour (over 200 dates!) and performing at all kinds of telecasts, in-stores, and ceremonies. All the while he again swept up one award after another and tallied up yet more chart-topping hits, not only re-establishing his place atop the Latin market but also his steady reach into the greater international pop market, especially in the United States, where the mainstream media commonly upheld him in particular as a figurehead for the ever-growing influx of Latino culture. For instance, Time magazine counted him among its list of "the 100 most influential people in the world today." ~ Jason Birchmeier, All Music Guide