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J Balvin led the Latin pop wave at Coachella

J Balvin led the Latin pop wave at Coachella
Rosalia, left, and J Balvin at Coachella. (Valerie Macon / AFP / Getty Images)

If Coachella is in the throes of globalizing, no artist better represents the future of the fest than J Balvin.

The Colombian pop-reggaeton crossover just played the most high-profile set of any Spanish-language act in Coachella‘s history.

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On Saturday, Balvin made his case that old limits around language and genre don’t matter — and they might actually point the way to the future.

If Blackpink’s set Friday night was a signal that K-pop can thrive here, Balvin’s set was maybe an even more radical assertion: that Spanish-language, Latin American artists are as much a part of the mainstream in the U.S. as anyone.

When he tucked into a globe-spanning track like “Mi Gente” or “Safari,” the sheer crossover took on new dimensions out here. Is it even fair to treat a Spanish-language hit like something other than completely American at this point?

The lurching drums and slinky horn samples in his tracks felt Latin as heck, even in his cobbled-together version of Cardi B’s “ I Like It Like That,” where he had a guest verse and paper-mache stand-ins for the song’s leads.

But at this point in the steady ascent of Latin pop, Balvin’s ideas felt like an inevitable future, one where a diverse young crowd recognizes the music on its merits, and even mainstream Coachella-goers know it as the pop music it is. Plenty of Spanish-language acts have played here before, but none had the hits and self-assertion that Balvin did about his own place in pop.

There’s a reason Beyoncé wanted in on his remix: artists like Balvin and Bad Bunny and Rosalia (and Blackpink, for that matter) are bigger than their own genre scenes or regions.

They represent the coming future of Latin and global pop where language is less a barrier than an invitation. There’s no better place to prove that than the biggest stages at Coachella, and in this pointedly global year, they’re making their case with aplomb.

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