Just about anywhere in the world where Spanish is spoken, you’re bound to hear reference to a Juanes song. From the blaring headphones of a skateboard-riding teenager to the soft hum of an elderly señora, the 20-time Latin Grammy winner has made his mark across seemingly every musical platform to every romance language-speaking demographic imaginable.
Which is why, after spending most of this year in Europe and Latin America touring for his sixth studio album, “Loco de Amor,” the Medellín, Colombia, native is stopping at the Hard Rock’s Joint on Thursday for only his second U.S. show of the tour.
After dropping arguably the least successful album of his career, “P.A.R.C.E.,” in 2010, Juanes, whose real name is Juan Esteban Aristizábal, waited four years before releasing “Loco de Amor” in early 2014. The album has been significantly more popular, thanks to a renewed focus on topics closest to his heart, he told the Review-Journal.
Its three singles, “Mil Pedazos,” “La Luz” and “Una Flor,” approach the “concept of love in a very different way,” he said, referring to the different stages of a romantic relationship from “happiness, emotions and dreams” at the beginning, to “understanding” and partnership as time goes on.
In exploring that dynamic, Juanes, who won his first Latin Grammy in 2001, said he’s having his “best time ever” on stage. And the world is noticing. The 42-year-old, whose resume includes performances at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, was recently invited to perform for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in September.
We caught up with Juanes for a quick chat in advance of Thursday’s show, where he’ll be performing with Mexican pop artist Ximena Sariñana. He shared his thoughts on his latest album, what he loves most about Las Vegas, playing for the pope, and looking back on a storied career.
Las Vegas Review-Journal (Chris Kudialis): You made Las Vegas the second stop on your “Loco de Amor” tour in the United States, after Bakersfield, Calif. Anything special about this city and what it means to you?
Juanes: So many good memories and special moments here. My first show here was in 1996, and I’ve been coming ever since. For me, Vegas is about the shows, the venues and all the talent. It’s just amazing when you come here and see so many talented people. All the shows and all the concerts. It’s the right city to go, perform and then have a good time.
You’re playing at The Joint on Thursday, do you have any other favorite venues here in the valley?
I have a few, but I really like The Joint, just because of the Hard Rock’s vibe, and the performance environment. Everyone is pretty close and everything works (laughs).
Can you talk a little bit about your inspiration for the album and how the tour’s going so far?
The inspiration for this album came from the concept of love in a very different way. When you’re in love it’s not just about happiness. Sometimes you get upset or you get depressed or you get crazy in love. I just wanted to write songs about all these different moments in relationships. For example, when you start a relationship, everything is about happiness, emotions and dreams. And then you start to realize you have to understand the other person and you have to work with this other person and then other elements come to the relationship. You learn in many different ways.
I’m having my best time ever performing because I really love this topic and also producing with Steve Wildey. He gave me some of the elements to perform live that I really like.
Since you released your first solo album in 2000, you’ve become one of the faces of Latin pop and you’re known all across the world. When you look back, does it ever seem surreal or are you ever surprised by the amount of success you’ve had in your career?
Yes, definitely, I look back and I see all these things that are happening to me, and I just feel so thankful with life and with music. And that’s something I never expected in my biggest dreams. I always dreamt having a career in music, but never in the way it happened. So I feel so full of energy and very thankful with life for this opportunity. Because I always dreamed about being on stage performing and it’s something I enjoy every day of my life.
Can you talk a little bit about what Ximena Sariñana brings to your show?
She has a new, fresh sound that she’s building, and her energy on stage is incredible. She’s a really cool star, she’s talented and she’s unique.
You’ve performed with everybody from Ximena to Juan Luis Guerra to Nelly Furtado and even Claudia Leitte. Do you have any favorites that you’ve most enjoyed playing with over these years?
I’m very happy working with Juan Luis Guerra. Very recently, I also worked with Juan Gabriel (laughs). It was incredible. But each artist is so different from one another.
After you work in a collaboration with somebody else, you get things from the other artist that you can do yourself and try to make different. It’s very healthy.
Even though you’re still making new hits, you’re known for playing the classics at your shows, like “La Camisa Negra,” “Mala Gente” and “A Dios Le Pido,” among others. What keeps you still playing those still so often, over a decade later?
I just like to make people happy at shows, I want to think as if I were a part of the audience. I’d want to know about new songs, but also hear the old stuff too, because I really love that. When I’m performing, I want to give the audience the best that we can, showing them both the new stuff and old stuff. And just combine those throughout the show.
You’re scheduled to play for Pope Francis next month in Philadelphia. Is that your first time performing for a pope?
Yes, the first time playing for a pope and I’m really excited. More than religion itself, I really feel that what he’s doing is just incredible. And I feel very honored to be part of that event.
You’re very involved in charities and giving back with your time, perhaps more than most artists. What drives you to do that?
Getting involved in music helped me to really understand and care about social issues. Back in the day I was part of a rock band in the ’80s and ’90s, Ekhymosis, and I used to write social lyrics all of the time. Once I became a solo artist, I released “Fijate Bien,” and I began to better understand the fatalities, statistics and different aspects of conflicts in Colombia. I wanted to be part of helping people change their lives. Because in my personal experience, art transformed my life. So there’s a way to give back something like that, I want to do it.
What can people looking forward to your show expect when they go see you on Thursday night?
This is one of our best shows ever because we’ve been practicing for years, and we’re having some of the most fun of our lives on stage. It’s 100 percent about the music, and with the great sounds and great lights, we’re going to be having a party. I hope people come out and see us.
Contact Chris Kudialis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283. Find him on Twitter: @kudialisrj.