Given the crossover success of Shakira, it wouldn't be surprising if a stream of Latin pop vixens floods U.S. airwaves in the coming months. One such singer with a good shot at Stateside success is Mexican firecracker Paulina Rubio.
Her debut U.S. single, "Don't Say Goodbye," blends buoyant techno beats, sweeping keyboards, jangly guitars and stratospheric vocals, and many pop stations are already playing the tune even though it doesn't officially go to radio until the end of the month. Rubio's English-language debut, Border Girl, will follow on June 18.
As uplifting as "Don't Say Goodbye" may sound, the track is about a former boyfriend of Rubio's who got goin' just when the goin' was gettin' good.
"It was so strong, this love, that he told me he needed to step back," Rubio said recently from the MTV radio studio. "I was a little bit desperate at the moment. I believe in love as much as I believe in life. Love for me is everything."
Recalling the experience, Rubio shrugged, forced a smile, then revealed her theory on men who bail on a good thing.
"Woman today know what we want," she began. "We're independent. Plus, men get frustrated because they have this macho man inside. I'm a strong woman and sometimes if you're a strong man, when you love so much you start feeling fear. I don't know why. Maybe it's because you're not a girl."
Maybe the men back off because they're afraid of being burned?
"What do you mean burned?" she scoffed. "You need to be on fire if you're alive, and that's part of love. I'm very passionate. That's part of love, and if you don't feel that pain you don't feel the love, so it's like breathing without being awake."
In early April, Rubio shot a video for "Don't Say Goodbye" in Los Angeles with the Brothers Strause (Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers). The clip, which will be submitted to video channels in the next two weeks, features a combination of animation, live action and dancing shots that loosely convey the narrative of the song.
"We did part of it like a Japanese cartoon," Rubio said. "And for the dancing, we feel the rhythm of the song because the beat is almost like a heartbeat. The story is about this love that you feel with someone and he just takes one step back. I was riding the motorcycle with him, and at the end, well, he makes his choice. I was riding the bike 'til the end of love. And I was driving, of course. I was in charge."
While there's no question that Shakira opened doors in this country for artists like Rubio to succeed, Rubio was a Latin music star long before Shakira. At the age of 6 she started recording with Mexican teen pop sensation Timbiriche, and she's been featured on 24 albums, including five solo records in Spanish. While she's excited to finally have an album out with English lyrics, she said writing the songs was more difficult than she expected.
"I learned English at school, and English is the universal [language], so I wanted to cross boundaries," she said. "But it was hard because we were very clear that we didn't want to miss the simplest thing. When you translate one thing to another language and you use the exact same words, sometimes you're not gonna get the same feeling. So I worked very hard because we wanted it to be as I am. I'm very feministic and I'm very strong and I didn't want to miss that. So it was hard, but at the same time I like to work with hard things because you insist on so much and at the end it's great."
As for the Shakira comparisons, Rubio remains unconcerned because she believes so much in what she's doing and because the star to whom she's constantly compared happens to be one of her close friends.
"Our boyfriends are very, very good friends, so we go out in Miami and do very simple things," Rubio said. "We go to the beach and have fun, and when we're sharing the stage in some awards ceremony or something, we talk about cell phones, batteries, diets, love, movies. We just chill down. I think our whole generation is very supportive with one another. We don't have any ego trip. We are like a pyramid. We support each other and we're a very simple generation just trying to be friends."