Guatemalan singer/songwriter Ricardo Arjona is among the most successful Latin artists. He has sold more than 80 million records and established a global reputation for his often poignant and always topical songwriting, which addresses subjects ranging from romance and sexuality to violence, racism, poverty, and the plight of immigrants. He possesses a crystalline, expressive baritone with a completely committed performing style, whether he's in a studio or on-stage. Arjona is an artist first and an entertainer second. He has pursued many directions over the course of his career. Early recordings, such as his 1992 synth-driven breakthrough Animal Nocturno, communicated his sophisticated lyrics inside infectious melodies. 1994's Historias showcased 14 songs in as many styles, ranging from rock and R&B to acoustic pop, folk, and even country. Since 2000's rhythmically adventurous Galeria Caribe, he has placed a dozen albums on the Latin and Latin Pop charts and ten more in the Anglo-centric Top 200. Arjona made the transition to streaming charts as well. Singles such as 2012's "I Wanna Be Around," in duet with Tony Bennett, placed inside the jazz Top 40, while 2017's "Ella" made the streaming Top Ten.
Born in Antigua, Arjona was interested in music from an early age but initially decided to become a rural schoolteacher. He also played basketball for the Guatemalan national team, but continued to play guitar and write songs in his spare time. After realizing that music was his vocation, he emigrated to Mexico City; once there, he played many student music festivals and sought a recording contract.
Arjona eventually secured a deal with PolyGram, but the label attempted to market him as a stereotypical Latin lover for his debut, Dejame Decir Que Te Amo. The album failed commercially and critically and Arjona spent the next five years teaching and occasionally writing songs that were recorded by other artists. He moved to Buenos Aires next and began performing again. He returned to the recording sphere with material more suited to his experiences as a topical singer, namely with "Jesus Verbo No Sustantivo," a controversial song about his experiences at a Catholic school as a child. It gained him another record contract, this time with Sony, the label that released many of his most popular albums, including 1992's Animal Nocturno. His next two albums, 1994's Historias and 1996's Si el Norte Fuera el Sur, were not only popular but critics' favorites, as well.
Galeria Caribe, which appeared in 2000, became Arjona's first number one album on the Top Latin Albums chart, and 2002's Santo Pecado won him a Latin Grammy Award. Adentro, released in late 2005, was a landmark in Arjona's catalog; it marked the first of several contributions by Puerto Rican producer and songwriter Tommy Torres, and won Arjona another Latin Grammy. 5to Piso followed in 2008, bolstered by Torres' help, plus a massive hit single in "Como Duele." Poquita Ropa arrived two years later, in 2010, with Arjona adopting a more stripped-down approach. Released in 2011, Independiente featured a more pop-oriented sound and style that made the album a commercial and streaming success, with its lead single, "El Amor," becoming a major hit.
In what had become typical fashion, Arjona switched creative directions again for 2014's Viaje, a singer/songwriter album through and through, driven by experiences of life on the road and clinical depression brought on by the death of his mother.
Arjona's next release was an acoustic collection of his favorite ballads, 2016's Apague la Luz y Escuche, which rose to number one on the Latin Pop Albums chart. His next set of original material, Circo Soledad, arrived in April of 2017. Arjona undertook a massive tour in support of the album. The Circo Soledad tour began in Toluca, Mexico in May 2017 and concluded in November of 2018 in Guatemala; he played more than 115 concerts in 20 countries and 75 cities. It was among the highest-grossing tours for Latin artists over the period. In August of 2019, Arjona released a concert DVD and live album entitled Vivo Circo Soledad! with an advance video single for "Historia de Taxi" appearing earlier that month. ~ John Bush