The Puerto Rican reggaeton singer's "De Camino Pa' La Cima" debuts at No. 2
The title of J. Alvarez's "De Camino Pa' La Cima" ("On the Way to the Top") reveals some typical urban swagger on the part of the Puerto Rican reggaeton artist. But Alvarez backs up the claim with the album's debut at no. 2 this week on Top Latin Albums, charting just below Marc Anthony's hit salsa album "3.0."
"It all started on the Internet," Alvarez, whose real name is Javid David Alvarez Fernandez, told Billboard. He was writing and performing songs at age 12, and launched his professional career in 2009 with the mix tape "El Dueño del Sistema." His single "La Pregunta," from his previous independent release landed at no. 8 on the 2013 year-end Hot Latin Songs chart. The only track by an emerging artist on a list populated by long-running Latin superstars, it placed between Santos' "Llevame Contigo" and Enrique Iglesias' "Loco."
Alvarez says his rising social media cred led directly to radio play and signing with Sony Music Latin last fall. On YouTube "La Pregunta," from his 2011 set "Otro Nivel de Música," has over 25 million views. Then there are his nearly 1.8 million Twitter followers and almost several million Facebook fans.
Alvarez, 30, acknowledges that his calculated campaign for success started with the music, which he describes as "modern reggaeton." Exposed as a teen to the songs of Daddy Yankee, Wisin y Yandel and others who were responsible for reggaeton's initial boom, he wanted to revive the genre, from which its stars eventually distanced themselves in favor of more mainstream dance rhythms. In the wake of reggaeton's wane, the romantic tropical sound of bachata had taken over Latin radio.
"We looked for a way to maintain the reggaeton beat but with lyrics that would transcend," Alvarez says. "We wanted people to listen to reggaeton the way they listen to bachata." Other artists, most prominently Colombia's J Balvan, have joined Alvarez in leading a new wave of reggaeton that recalls contemporary R&B more than hard-core hip hop.
Social media also connected Alvarez with promoters, and he has toured extensively in South America, and done enough shows in seemingly improbable countries in Europe to knowingly report that audiences in Geneva "are the most euphoric" when it comes to reggaeton.
"Now it's the U.S. that's opened the doors and that's where we're focusing this year," he notes.