Legendary music artists
Whereas many of his Spanish-language contemporaries undertook English-language crossover campaigns at one point or another in their careers, Colombian singer/songwriter/guitarist Juanes won global appeal in his native language exclusively and became perhaps the biggest and most important popular Latin music artist in the world in the early 21st century. After his debut album, Fijate Bien (2000), won him a Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Juanes broke through to global success with his second album, Un Día Normal (2002). In the United States alone, 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 charting hit singles (six), Grammy nominations (eight), Grammy awards (five), and various other accolades. When he returned with his third album, Mi Sangre (2004), Juanes again garnered all kinds of commercial success and critical acclaim. He tirelessly toured in support of the album, and by 2005 he had begun topping the singles chart in non-Spanish-speaking countries such as Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. By the time he returned with his fourth album, La Vida...Es un Ratico (2007), Juanes had such a global presence, Universal chose to release "Me Enamora, " the lead single, to media outlets in 77 countries; it became a number one hit in 14 of them, setting the stage for another cycle of commercial success.
Born Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez on August 9, 1972, in Carolina del Príncipe, Antioquia, Colombia, Juanes began to learn how to play guitar at age seven, taught by 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. In particular, 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 ten years (1988-1998) and enjoying a sizable following in Colombia. He eventually chose to depart the band 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 also partnered with manager Fernan Martinez, a fellow Colombian who had previously stood beside Enrique Iglesias during that artist's rise to international fame. With everything in place for Juanes, Surco, in association with Universal Music Latino, released Fijate Bien on October 17, 2000. The album sold 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 pleasant 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 won three Grammys, including Best New Artist. He also performed at the ceremony.
Immediately following his Grammy wins, Juanes 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 God-addressing song 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.