MIAMI (Billboard) - In 1996, Enrique Iglesias, already a Latin star, was shuttled by helicopter to a live show hosted by romantic station KLVE Los Angeles. As the chopper hovered over Westlake Park, Iglesias looked down in surprise at the crowd of approximately 150,000 that waited below.
“I was so shocked,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God, all these people listen to Spanish music on U.S. soil.’”
Today, as one of the world’s biggest stars, Iglesias no longer marvels at the possibilities afforded by two languages; he revels in them.
On Tuesday, Iglesias will release “Euphoria,” a potentially trailblazing album for both Iglesias and the Latin market. Whereas most Latin artists will record an album with Spanish- and English-language versions of a particular song (or songs), or record separate Spanish and English albums altogether, Iglesias has chosen a new route: “Euphoria” features six songs written and recorded in Spanish and four completely different songs written and recorded in English.
The album will be released in standard and deluxe versions through Universal Music Group. It will be released in every Universal territory — more than 70 countries — with a third, international version with eight English-language tracks specifically designed for markets like the United Kingdom that have small Latin audiences and where Iglesias is a major seller.
This has lent itself to an Iglesias sonic wallpaper of sorts. While his current Spanish-language single “Cuando Me Enamoro,” featuring Juan Luis Guerra, has spent four weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart — a spot it hit only five weeks after its release — his English-language single “I Like It,” featuring Pitbull and Lionel Richie (who rerecorded parts of “All Night Long” for the song), is scaling the Billboard Hot 100 and currently stands at No. 26.
Iglesias was all over iTunes’ real-time charts. As of June 23, “I Like It” was No. 14 on iTunes’ Songs chart and No. 1 on the iTunes Latino chart, where Iglesias had four of the top 10 songs, including “No Me Digas Que No” (featuring Wisin & Yandel) at No. 5, “Cuando Me Enamoro” (featuring Juan Luis Guerra) at No. 6 and perennial favorite “Hero” at No. 7.
Overseas, Iglesias has been on promotional visits to Mexico, the United Kingdom, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Finland, Spain and Germany. As of June 22, “I Like It” was in the top 10 on iTunes’ charts in Australia, Belgium and Spain and in the top 20 in Mexico and Norway.
In addition, two versions of the “I Like It” video were filmed. The first, made for the U.S. market, features the cast of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and premiered during the MTV Movie Awards. A second version, minus the reality show stars, is being programed on channels that don’t air “Jersey Shore.”
Releasing an album with distinct English and Spanish tracks should be commonplace for bilingual, crossover acts. But actually, this has never been the M.O. for labels, in part because marketing and distributing to Hispanic and mainstream audiences are two different processes. And coordinating two marketing campaigns for two distinct audiences has proved a challenge when a release falls under the jurisdiction of one label.
A major drawback is English-language radio: While youth-leaning, Spanish-language stations tend to play big, mainstream hits, only a handful of mainstream stations nationwide, like KIIS-FM Los Angeles and WPOW Miami, will spin Spanish-language songs.
And then there’s retail. Where does a bilingual album go? The Latin section? The pop section? Both would be logical, if only there was space, particularly when it comes to developing acts that are a challenge to get into big accounts to begin with.
As a result of these, and other considerations, standard practice calls for crossover acts to alternate between Spanish- and English-language albums, with the latter often including a Spanish version of the single that is worked to radio by a sister Latin label. Witness Shakira’s English-language album, “She Wolf,” which included the Spanish version of the single, “Loba,” worked to Spanish-language radio.
On the other end of the spectrum is Marc Anthony, whose new Spanish-language album, “Iconos,” doesn’t feature any English songs. Instead, Anthony is planning an all-English release later this year.
Although he’s gone down both roads in the past, Iglesias chose not to take either of these paths.
“I wanted both (languages) to be on the same album,” he says, even as he acknowledges the dangers of swimming into uncharted waters. “It’s a risk,” he adds, “but it’s a risk I wanted to take. I was sick of coming out with one English album and one Spanish (album). And the market has become a single-unit market where people pick and choose their music.”
The market has also changed from when Iglesias first began recording as a Spanish-language crooner who sold millions of albums in the mid-‘90s. Back then, with few exceptions (Gloria Estefan and Jon Secada, among them), the market was firmly compartmentalized by language, until Ricky Martin burst into the mainstream with “Livin’ la Vida Loca” in 1999 and changed the paradigm. Later that year, Iglesias released his first English-language album, “Enrique,” which included Spanish-language versions of three singles. “Enrique” sold 2.1 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and set Iglesias on a path of recording alternately in English and Spanish.
Spelling out exactly what “Euphoria” is boils down to details like the album sticker, which will identify both singles. Each album version, too, is differentiated. The basic, budget version includes six tracks in Spanish and four in English. The deluxe version, which will be sold exclusively at Target, features seven tracks in English and six in Spanish. In exchange for the exclusivity, Target will promote the album in a radio, TV and print campaign in both English and Spanish media.
Born to megastar Julio Iglesias in Madrid but raised in Miami, Iglesias has transcended his pedigree, amassing 21 No. 1 hits — more than any other artist in the history of the Hot Latin Songs chart — and selling more than 50 million albums worldwide, according to Universal. In the mainstream, Iglesias’ credentials are less flashy but still impressive, with four top 10 tracks on the Hot 100. In the digital realm, he’s sold 3 million-plus downloads in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and he boasts the fourth-best-selling Latin download of all time, “Do You Know? (The Ping Pong Song)/Dimelo.”
But Iglesias is self-effacing about his success. Perennially dressed in jeans, hoodie and baseball cap, he still conveys the image of the cute boy next door; if one lives in Miami, there’s a strong likelihood of running into an unguarded Iglesias hanging out with friends. The openness extends to his attitudes toward the music business. He has a reputation for being a shrewd artist who stays on top of minute details in his career and has no qualms about picking up the phone to contact label staffers with concerns. But he’s also an intuitive artist who acts spontaneously and is disarmingly self-deprecating.
It was Iglesias himself who personally invited each of the artists on “Euphoria,” an album of uptempo dance tracks and whimsical pop ballads whose collaborations he wrote without specific artists in mind, save for “Heartbeat,” penned for Nicole Scherzinger, a longtime friend and labelmate. Akon, for example, entered the mix after he stopped by the studio to visit and asked if he could record vocals.
Iglesias was most worried about Guerra, an idol of his but someone he barely knew.
“I didn’t think he was going to say ‘yes.’ And he didn’t,” Iglesias recalls. “He said, ‘I really can’t give you an answer unless I hear the song.’”
This in itself was a challenge, as Guerra only records his own songs. But to Iglesias’ surprise, Guerra not only accepted, but also agreed to participate in the video for the song, which was released to radio roughly at the same time as Guerra’s own single. That two such different artists could co-exist in the charts’ upper echelons with such different tracks is a testament to Iglesias’ ability to deliver catchy pop hits with key differentiating factors that help them stand out from the pack.
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