When last we heard from Colombian rocker Juanes, the Key Biscayne resident’s charismatic energy was on high beam for “Juanes: MTV Unplugged,” the 2012 live set recorded at the New World Center on Miami Beach that went on to win a Grammy for best Latin pop album.
A follow-up to the underwhelming 2010 studio album “P.A.R.C.E.,” the Juan Luis Guerra-produced “Unplugged” was an ideal setting for the organic warmth and pure, rock ‘n’ roll revelry that radiates from Juanes, especially on such sing-along hits as “Es Por Ti,” “A Dios le Pido” and “La Camisa Negra.”
Handsome, articulate and politically fearless, Juanes has always seemed ripe for the kind of crossover that longtime followers regard with suspicion if not outright horror. This may explain the look you see on the faces of those fans as their headphones fill with “Mil Pedazos” (1,000 Pieces),” the opening track on Juanes’ album “Loco de Amor,” set for release Tuesday and produced by Steve Lillywhite, most famous for his work with Irish rock icons U2.
Bumping along to a keyboard-bedazzled dance beat, with Juanes falling in and out of an Enrique Iglesias-style falsetto, “Mil Pedazos” is just the kind of ultra-produced pop confection that Juanes adherents dread most. Bruce Springsteen fans may recall the shudder they felt at the pandering “Dancing in the Dark.”
Fear not. Redemption comes quickly on “Loco de Amor.”
The title track is a stylishly successful mixed marriage of classic conga and fuzzy synthesizers, its irresistible bounce swinging seamlessly into the handclap-driven rocker “La Luz” and the twangy mandolin-and-synth mashup “La Verdad” (the falsetto works this time).
For fans of Juanes the uncomplicated romantic, the album’s salvation is complete with “Una Flor,” a shimmering, joyful love letter on the order of “Es Por Ti,” Juanes’ acoustic guitar and voice augmented by not much more than snare and handclaps. The soulful “Me Enamoré de Ti” is a rewarding power ballad, with gentle interludes of classical guitar, violin and cello, that seems destined for the setlist of Juanes’ next tour.
Lillywhite leads the singer to some unusual places on the second half of the album: “Delirio” lurches to life with a dark, urban dance thump that would do Depeche Mode proud before finding its footing on more sturdy and familiar power-pop terrain.
“Persiguiendo el Sol,” zags the other way with a Southern-rock guitar opening and a sunny, windows-rolled-down rock vibe sprinkled with waves of Edge-style fret stroking. It’s a pleasant ride.
With its reliance on synthesizers and other tools of the modern-rock motif, “Loco de Amor” risks turning off fans unaccustomed to hearing Juanes so plugged in. But the singer, who acknowledged some burnout after the release of “P.A.R.C.E.,” had to go someplace new, and “Loco de Amor” is a strong bridge to Juanes’ sound of the future.Copyright © 2015, South Florida