Friday, June 14, 2024

Rauw Alejandro Headlines Governors Ball 2024, Talks New Single & Album

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It’s a new era for Rauw Alejandro. Fresh off the release of his first solo single since August, the disco-tinged “Touching the Sky,” and announcing an upcoming album, the Puerto Rican artist has taken center stage across the international festival circuit.

The announcement of his headlining slot at the upcoming Coca-Cola Music Fest and Baja Beach Fest highlights his escalating prominence, following a top billing at Chicago’s Sueños last month. Yet his ascension feels most pronounced at New York’s Governor’s Ball Music Festival, the genre-spanning festival that ties his roots and personal narrative within the bustling energy of the Big Apple.

On Friday (June 7) at 7:30 p.m., the superstar lit up Gov Ball’s GoPuff stage. Dressed in a striped suit that harked back to the late 1960s, a tribute to West Side Story, Rauw unleashed a performance charged with boundless energy and impeccable dance moves. Over the course of an hour, he rolled out hits like “Al Callao’,” “Panties y Brasieres,” “Party,” “Desesperados,” “Desenfocao,’” and “Todo de Ti,” blending hard-hitting reggaetón with riveting dance-pop anthems.

His connection to the crowd was palpable: “I’ve always had a special connection to this city. My dad was born in Brooklyn. It’s a meeting point for many cultures,” he said to the audience. “Many of us left our country in search of opportunities and dreams. And I feel that here you can fulfill all the dreams that you want to do in life. In my case, a dream is being fulfilled by sharing it here with all of you, a dream that I am living today, thanks to all of you who have supported me since day one.”

Marco Perretta

Gov Ball, with its iconic New York-inspired elements like a tattooed Statue of Liberty and city memorabilia, saw Rauw honor NYC in his own unique way. A subway train replica served as his stage backdrop, setting the scene for a powerhouse dance performance that pulled from his admiration of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” and Chris Brown moves, assuring all of his superstar caliber. In a standout highlight, the performer got off the stage to sing among the tens of thousands of fest-goers.

Moments before his dynamic act, Billboard Español caught up with the Puerto Rican artist to discuss his upcoming album, and the personal stories that shape his public persona and electrifying performances.

It’s exciting to have you here in New York headlining at Gov Ball. How are you feeling about today’s performance?

I’m really excited. It’s my first time. It’s a big deal. In the last few years, there have been a lot of Latinos headlining U.S. festivals. We are here. 

Do you prepare differently to perform a headlining festival set in comparison to your own concerts or while on tour? How does the experience differ to you?

It’s different. In festivals, you share a stage with other artists, so you don’t have two or three hours to do a show. My shows are normally two and a half hours long, arena and stadium shows. But festivals, it’s like we’re united as artists. We’re sharing energy with the public. The festival starts midday until 10 p.m., so it’s like a quick teaser. Festivals are more fun, more energetic. I focus more on what people like. I just want to have a good time. My concert, I just go into my album concept, and then I try to tell a whole story about it, and promote your new album. With festivals, we use it more for promoting singles. It’s the taste before the tour. I remember my first festival, when I didn’t have an album yet six years ago. It was just promoting me as a new artist. Festivals are that opportunity. I’m headlining this festival, and I have a special surprise for the people here. My dad is from Brooklyn; I have a lot of family in New York, so there’s that special connection. And this weekend is the Puerto Rican Day parade. Puerto Rico is here.

Dance is such a significant element of your performances. Can you share some insights into how you develop your choreography? Who are your choreographers? 

I’ve been working with FeFe Burgos. He’s also Puerto Rican. He’s been in New York for a long time. He’s been dancing with many artists. I’ve been with him for around six years. Also, we collaborated with all the choreographers. It’s how you mix this Latin flavor with all these other types of dancing around the world, with hip-hop, jazz and contemporary. I even have a small foundation of ballet. I have always danced my whole life, just for fun.

In my opinion, you are the best dancer, taking the genre’s performances to the next level.

I realized that this is where I want to be, so I started studying a little bit more. I try to get better and better with time, [incorporating] the salsa flavor. There’s been so many artists through past generations that have inspired me. I remember seeing Michael Jackson when I was a boy.

My dad has been a huge fan of Elvis Presley and James Brown. So it’s like you grew up with that style. Since I was young, all [dance] performers caught my attention. I was like, watching them [thinking], “Oh my God, I want to be like them.” I’m hyper. I cannot be on the stage [sitting still]. I need to move. 

You recently released “Touching the Sky,” your first solo single since August (“Hayami Hana”). 

Yes, new single, new era. I tried to divide my projects by eras and characters. It’s just a starting flavor. I got an album that’s almost ready. I try not to repeat albums, soundwise. In all my albums, you will always find reggaetón. Your essence will always be there. It’s different touch, perspective and musical colors. I did “Touching the Sky” a few months ago, and it feels like summer is coming. It’s that vibe. I don’t plan exactly what song is going to be [the first single]. It’s just how you feel at that moment. We’re going with a New York vibe. And I filmed in New York. It was really fun.

You channel an old dapper New York era. What were your influences?

It’s a little bit more like late ’60s and ’70s, West Side Story, Broadway, it’s theatrical. Before I started [making] music, I was doing theater at 16, 17 years. So I like to mix theater with music. On Saturno, I started doing short films for my albums. For this one we’re preparing, you’re going to see the contrast between my albums and what I did in Saturno last year. It’s going to be the opposite.  

I loved freestyle, too. On a different subject, Billboard reported in December that you left Eric Duars and that you have a new management. How has this change influenced your career direction?

I think everything is for the better. I always try to grow as an artist. I’ve been in this game for almost nine years now. I started in the music business by myself, officially in 2015. Then in 2017, I signed with them [Duars]. And now, 2024. It has been long time. You grow up, you learn. What we did together was great. Now it’s just a different vision, a different perspective. But that doesn’t have to be… it’s just business. I have a great team right now. I’m 31 years old, a grown ass man. I feel really happy at this moment of my life. I feel in control of my whole career. I know what I want to do. I have my notes. I learned. It’s just part of growing. 

Many of your oldest fans, including myself, first discovered your music on SoundCloud over five years ago. How do you think starting on such a platform influenced your music career?

SoundCloud was a huge tool for me when I started my career. I really support SoundCloud artists, and YouTube. Back in the day, it was just SoundCloud and YouTube before big platforms. I remember in the Island, everybody was down with SoundCloud, listening to this s— in SoundCloud. It was a small group. Myke Towers, Alvarito Díaz. Even Bad Bunny. All the artists back in the days, like in 2017.

Now you’re headlining so many festivals: a Coca-Cola Festival, you did Sueños [last month], you’re going to be a Baja Beach Fest headliner. That’s a big growth. 

I was seeing the old festival flyers the other day. My name was little, and now we’re headliners!

With fame your personal life becomes public too, such as your breakup with your ex [Rosalía]. How have you faced those experiences in the public eye and how have you found strength or inspiration to grow personally?

I think that’s part of life, growing and learning. We are here, and I’m just focused right now on the present and my future. All these [past] life experiences, I just use it for being a better person.

How was going to the Met Gala?

The Met Gala was fun. It was my first time. I felt like this kid in a new school. I was like, “What’s up? My name is Rauw. Hi, I’m Puerto Rican.” It was fun. We had the after parties and everything. I’ve been around fashion for the last few years. I think music and fashion always [go well] together.

Speaking of fashion, what are you wearing tonight on stage?

I work with my stylist. Shout out to Chloe and Chanel. We worked with them also for a few years. They are amazing. But you are going to see some classic Rauw, like an old salsa generation. It’s going to be really fun.

Marco Perretta

Any new tattoos?

I’m working on it. I haven’t had the time, but I want to tat my legs, my back, everything. The only thing I’m not going to do in my life, because [I promised] my grandma, was my face.

Last words? 

It’s a new Rauw, new era, new music. The album is something amazing. I always like to do my final touches in Puerto Rico. I think it’s just good luck. Puerto Rico has this magic touch that no other place has, in my opinion. The biggest artists in the Latin world, most of them are in the Island. It has something magical. If you guys want to find out, you need to go and have a visit to the Island.



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