Colombian rocker Juanes was propelled from Medellín's metal scene to international stardom in the wake of the U.S. Latin pop explosion of the 1990s, and his radio-friendly songs, as catchy as they are, have maintained an appealingly hard edge. He might have been expected to dig in to his rock roots for his first MTV Unplugged, recorded for the network's bilingual channel Tr3s. But this Unplugged has a bigger sound than most of Juanes' studio recordings. Helmed by Grammy-winning tropical artist and music director Juan Luis Guerra, it's pure big-band Latin pop, featuring guest vocalists, horns and strings sections, traditional Latin American instruments and even a 32-person choir. "Me Enamora," a hit from Juanes' album La Vida es un Ratico, is punctuated by a brass section, trading the intense percussion-heavy vibe of the original version for a soaring euphoric sound. New song "La Señal" is tinged with likeable tropical dance grooves. Rock ballad "Hoy Me Voy" is performed here as a bilingual bossa nova with Brazilian singer Paula Fernandes. Juanes' songwriting is strong enough to stand up to these splashier arrangements, but don't expect to find much of the broodier singer-songwriter side of Juanes at this party. The album sounds like just what you'd expect from a Latin pop idol.
Judy Cantor-Navas, Google Play
Colombia's Juanes' star continues its spectacular ascent through the world of Latin music as he becomes -- as Bono and Bruce Springsteen in the English-speaking world -- the crossroads where pop music and social conscience meet. The guy is a hopeless romantic and idealist. He connects not only with Spanish-speaking countries, but with Europeans as well, and he has built a large and growing following in the United States -- he's sold out Madison Square Garden and four nights in L.A. on his Mi Sangre tour, and has played huge gigs in Detroit and Chicago, as well. The reason? His sincerity, songwriting craft (whether writing love songs, power ballads or anthems), commitment to social justice, and his ability to seamlessly combine hard rock, pop, and Latin rhythms is simply unequaled. He is an original, an artist of the first degree, and a media-savvy man who understands it and the record-company game inside out; he refuses to be swallowed by its machinations. Time Magazine listed him as one of the most 100 influential people in the world, but white pop culture has taken little notice. This specially packaged re-release of Mi Sangre (My Blood) is an individually numbered, limited edition of 150,000 copies, and it's handsome. It has a completely different cover so there's no mistaking it for Mi Sangre (though the original album cover is displayed within the set). Within its triple gatefold are two booklets -- the CD's lyric book, a fold-out booklet with full credits of the current version, and a slew of press quotes. The CD contains the album's 12 tracks, live versions of "A Dios le Pido," "La Camisa Negra," "Fotografia," and "Nada Valgo sin Tu Amor." There's also "La Paga" with Taboo and Black Eyed Peas, a remix of "La Camisa Negra," and the unreleased track "Lo Que Importa" that showcases not only Juanes' but producer Gustavo Santaolalla's magic. The second disc is a DVD featuring all four videos shot for the album. While fans will be snapping these up as fast as they can, there's also incentive for Anglos: this is a fantastic introduction to the work of an artist who falls below the standard Yankee pop radar.
Recorded in Los Angeles, CA, and co-produced by rock en español expert Gustavo Santaolalla, the second album by Grammy-winning Juanes, highly anticipated following the release of its first single, "A Dios Le Pido," once again delivers his awarded fusion of urban, rock, and Latin American rhythms. A spiritual folk-rock song opens this 12-track record, followed by the romantic mid-tempo "Es por Ti" and the Latin pop ballads "Un Día Normal" and "La Unica." Colombian Juanes (born Juan Esteban Aristizabal) goes local with "Luna," a pop-oriented vallenato, the most popular traditional rhythm from his native country. After the orchestrated ballad "Dia Lejano," the album's rock en español side emerges with "Mala Gente" and "Fotografía," recorded along with Nelly Furtado. Un Día Normal ends with the Latin dance-pop of "La Noche."
Drago Bonacich, Rovi
Colombian singer/songwriter Juan Esteban Aristizabal wanted to go on his own with a contemporary Latin pop album, teaming up with producer Gustavo Santaolalla, known for his valuable contributions to Latin rock numbers, to make that possible. Fíjate Bien comprised 12 songs, all of them composed by this South American performer, from the mid-tempo "Nada," and Latin Grammy-winning "Fíjate Bien" to the Colombian coastal folk-flavored "Podemos Hacernos Daño," a seductive ballad called "Vulnerable," and Latin hip-hop-oriented "Me Da Igual," allowing Juanes to achieve an award for Best New Latin Artist in 2001.
Drago Bonacich, Rovi