Reggaeton is the undisputed king in Colombia. After all, this a nation that has given us global stars such as J Balvin, Karol G, and Maluma.
But it wasn’t the red-hot genre it is now when Yeison Jiménez started singing at a young age. In Manzanares, Colombia, the coffee-growing region where Jiménez grew up and used to sell avocados, Colombia's música popular (popular music) reigned supreme.
Jiménez says being surrounded by the trumpet-heavy genre — which is influenced by Mexico’s ranchera music — led him to pursue a career in the genre rather than reggaeton, as so many of his peers have done. Música popular likely won't catch up to reggaeton any time soon. But the 29-year-old believes it has passed vallenato, once Colombia's top music genre, to become the country’s second-most-popular genre.
“There are like ten young guys [succeeding] in the genre, and that helps a lot,” Jiménez tells New Times over Zoom from Miami. “Even though I’ve been doing this for ten years, I’m new for my genre. I think we’ve invested more in promotion, improved our music videos, and focused on growing the product. We’re more organized than past generations.
“If you listened to [musica popular] 30, 40 years ago, it was slow and there was a lot of suffering, drinking, and crying. The new wave has sped it up and made it happier. It’s for everyone now.”
Jiménez feels vallenato was hurt by the deaths of young stars Martín Elías and Kaleth Morales. As for reggaeton, he says the fact that many of the artists are living and working outside Colombia has given the more local genre of música popular room to breathe and prosper within the country.
To be clear, Jiménez is a fan of both vallenato and reggaeton. He dueted with vallenato star Silvestre Dangond — who he has said is in a league of his own when it comes to that genre — on the song "Gracias a Ti." Somewhat surprisingly, Jimenez hasn’t collaborated with any reggaeton stars, a move that has become so trendy in the music industry that the Jonas Brothers have done it — twice — but he’s confident that day will come.
"There’s a big ranchera/hip-hop fusion song out right now, 'Botella Tras Botella.' It shows it can be done and become very popular," Jiménez says of the Gera MX and Christian Nodal collabo. "I’ve had lots [of reggaeton artists] approach me, and I’ve also approached them. It hasn’t happened yet more so due to lack of time than lack of interest. But it will happen. There will be a moment where we’ll do it."
Also on Jiménez’s to-do list: a move to Miami. He says it's not a matter of if, but when.
“Who wouldn’t want to live in Miami? It’s a magical city,” Jiménez says. “It’s going to happen — especially with the economic and political situation going on in Latin America. Right now I’m organizing papers to come here in the future. But I’m taking my time."
From a business perspective, the fact that música popular is more closely tied to Colombia itself makes it trickier to move away, but Jiménez appears to be enjoying a growing following abroad. His 11-city Aventurero tour kicked off Friday and Saturday in Charlotte and Atlanta, respectively, marking his first time performing in both cities. And Jiménez says he has a 14-city tour planned for Europe later this year.
“Seven years ago, the crowds were very [Colombian]. Now they’re Colombian, Ecuadorian, Puerto Rican, Peruvian, Salvadorian, and Venezuelan. Social media has allowed more people to see me and become a fan of my music,” says Jiménez, who currently has 3.2 million Instagram followers.
“Unfortunately, 15, 20 years ago, [social media] didn’t exist like it does today. [Música popular] artists depended on radio and very few got interviewed. If an artist isn’t on the radio now, his song can still catch on through social media — and they’re off.”
Speaking of social media, Jiménez's 2021 music video for "Tu Amante," off his recently released Quinto Elemento EP, has 13 million YouTube views. It's not the 191 million views that his 2018 music video for "Aventurero" has notched, but he's proud of the songs and videos off Quinto Elemento and confidently calls it the most complete album of the genre.
Jiménez says the six-song EP was put together with the international audience in mind. More specifically, the mariachi-backed songs are meant to cater to the preferences of audiences in Colombia, the U.S., and Mexico.
“The moment will come when one song hits it big with the international audience," Jiménez says. "When that happens, people will go to YouTube or social media and find a clear and carefully crafted product. I didn’t want to have that one song and nothing else to show the international crowd. I didn’t want to get caught with my pants down."
Yeison Jiménez. With El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. 8 p.m. Saturday, July 3, at the Charles F. Dodge City Center, 601 City Center Way, Pembroke Pines; 954-392-9480; charlesfdodgecitycenter.com. Tickets cost $65 to $372 via ticketmaster.com.
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