5 Things We Learned From J Balvin’s Documentary ‘The Boy From Medellín’
J Balvin’s new documentary, ‘The Boy From Medellín’, shows the Colombian singer’s rise to fame, his mental health struggles, and how he deals with social responsibility amidst political upheaval in Colombia, and more.
In this up close and personal look into a week in J Balvin’s life, we see the global Reggaeton superstar prepare for the biggest concert of his life in his hometown called ‘El Niño De Medellín‘, the pressures of fame and having a platform amidst Colombia in crisis, and the stark difference between José, the person, and J Balvin, the artist.
Here are the 5 things we learned from watching the documentary.
At the beginning of his career, J Balvin lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant.
Something that perhaps many people are not aware, is that J Balvin lived in the U.S. for a short period of time as an immigrant, hoping that he could make his dream of becoming a singer come true. He would work painting houses during the day and then perform at clubs at night.
J Balvin mentioned in the documentary how during this time period his anxiety and depression were at an all-time high. How the pressures of “making it” got to him, and he felt hopeless for going back home to Medellín empty-handed, with no signs of success in the US.
During a press conference, J Balvin said that his immigrant experience shaped him to never give up.
“Just as I worked illegally in the United States and had to go through many tests, here we continue to fight and work for it,” J Balvin says. “My message is one of struggle, not to give up but to continue insisting.”
The throwback videos in ‘The Boy From Medellín’ show a young José dreaming of the career he now has.
“People from Medellin know that I started from the bottom. It wasn’t luck. It was just heart, sacrifice, hard work, and a big dream. You may love me, you may not love me, but you gotta know I worked hard for it. That’s a fact.”, says J Balvin in the documentary.
While filming The Boy From Medellín in 2019, Colombia was dealing with protests, much as the country is doing currently, and J Balvin had to deal with social responsibility and using his platform.
Once José moved back to Medellín from the US, he started performing anywhere they’d let him: schools, corner stores, malls, anywhere where they had a mic for him. One of his very first radio hits happened with local duo Fainal y Shako called “Una Obra de Arte“.
In the documentary, there’s a full circle moment when J Balvin performs “Una Obra de Arte” and brings Fainal y Shako on stage during the ‘El Niño de Medellín‘ concert.
In November 2019, Colombians took to the streets to protest against the government. As ‘El Niño de Medellín’ concert approached, many concerts and events were being canceled or postponed due to some protests escalating and turning violent, with many people injured and deaths. At the time, many Colombians felt as if J Balvin was just living in a bubble, unaware of what was going on. In fact, The Boy From Medellín shows the “Mi Gente” singer scrolling through his feed, reading what people were saying about him.
One particular comment got to him from local Medellín rappers that felt as if he was “lukewarm” for not speaking up or taking the people’s side. J Balvin felt conflicted as he “didn’t sign up to be a politician”, but still felt compelled to find the right words to say something. In the documentary, we see Balvin change his views on using his platform to voice the opinions of his fellow countrymen, and standing up for what’s right.
In one scene, J Balvin shares a post on his Instagram account of young protestor Dilan Cruz, whose death at the hands of the police sparked outrage around the country. J Balvin’s manager, Scooter Braun, tells him that while it was right to share a tribute for Dilan, J Balvin failed to acknowledge the situation and who was behind Dilan’s death. Braun tells him: “J Balvin has a platform, but José needs to speak”.
With the recent protest in Colombia against President Duque’s tax reform, J Balvin has been sharing on his IG feed and stories, videos from the protests, and joining the Colombian people in spreading awareness worldwide.
During the press conference for the documentary, J Balvin reflected on his social responsibility: “It is still an apprenticeship because we did not choose to enter the world of politics. Our choice was purely musical and entertainment. What happens is that today we have a bigger and more powerful platform than that of any politician. That is when you have to begin to understand the social responsibility that you have as a public figure. It was not easy, it has not been easy, but here we continue to learn.”
J Balvin continues to be open about his mental health struggles with anxiety and depression.
By far, J Balvin has been one of the main stars in the Latin music industry to be completely open about how he deals with anxiety and depression for many years. In ‘The Boy From Medellín‘, we see J Balvin talk openly about his anxiety with his team and family, taking his medication, and we’re even introduced to his spiritual advisor.
Even when it comes to checking his work schedule, José makes time every day to practice meditation and isn’t shy to ask for help or let his people know that he’s not in a good place mentally. Right before the biggest concert of his career, J Balvin made sure to meditate right before taking the stage.
One of the many struggles Balvin faces is separating J Balvin, the artist persona, from José, the human being, but he works hard in trying to find the right balance.
J Balvin’s favorite song is Héctor Lavoe’s “El Cantante“, and it makes so much sense.
J Balvin revealed in ‘The Boy From Medellín‘ that Hector Lavoe’s salsa anthem “El Cantante” is one of his all-time favorite songs because he relates to it so much.
“I was very young when I heard it and I never thought it was going to touch me, that is why it causes me a lot of nostalgia when I listen to it after I have grown up and realize that this message was direct for me and for many.”, J Balvin shared.
The song’s lyrics talk about people coming to see the singer take the stage, but people never wondering how’s that person doing. As an entertainer, J Balvin is aware of what his job entails, but just wishes that people could see him as another human being with feelings, that even with all the fame and money in the world, he also has moments of sadness and defeat.
“I am the singer popular everywhere,
But once the show is over,
I’m like any other human being”
‘The Boy From Medellín’ premieres on Amazon Prime on May 7th, J Balvin’s birthday.
READ: J Balvin Opens Up About Concert Nerves And Social Responsibility In New Trailer For ‘The Boy From Medellín’
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