The Dallas Morning News
Call her Señorita Christina Aguilera, por favor.
Teen queen Aguilera, the big-voiced Grammy winner who scored with her 7-million-selling eponymous debut and its ubiquitous hit, "Genie in a Bottle," is a Latin artist now. The just-released Mi Reflejo album marks the Pittsburgh-raised singer's much-hyped foray into the Latin pop world.
"Genio Atrapado" (RealAudio excerpt), the Spanish version of "Genie," snagged Aguilera a Latin Grammy nomination this month. She performed it on the Latin Grammy telecast.
And Aguilera is hardly the only pop star singing an old tune in a new language. Teen superstars *NSync crooned "Yo Te Voy a Amar," a Spanish version of the boy band's current single, "This I Promise You," at the Latin Grammys. It's being promoted at Latin pop radio stations nationwide.
Fellow teen dreams 98° precede their new album, Revelation, with the Spanglish single "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)."
Teen pop sensations go Latin. A reverse crossover, if you will.
And, really, it should come as no surprise. Just as the Hispanic population has increased, the Latin music industry in the United States has enjoyed dramatic growth in the past decade; it is now valued at nearly $325 million.
Last year's lucrative Latin pop crossover movement made Anglo stars out of Latin fixtures Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Marc Anthony. Suddenly, Middle America was swiveling its collective hips to Martin's "Livin' la Vida Loca" and swooshing to Iglesias' "Bailamos." It all adds up to the perfect moment for an Anglo-to-Latin musical trend.
"I really feel that it's the growth, the unstoppable growth, of the bicultural audience, coming out of the woodwork in the United States," says Latin music producer Rudy Pérez. Pérez was at the helm of Aguilera's Mi Reflejo and spent the better part of 20 years working with Latin superstars such as Vikki Carr, Luis Miguel, Olga Tanon and Jose Luis Rodriguez.
"There are all these families that are crossing the borders and coming into the United States," he continued. "Probably by the year 2010 there will be 80 million Latinos living in the United States, growing up with mixed cultures. That's the bicultural audience. I don't think the typical Latino [who] comes from Colombia is buying 98°, but their kids are. All these artists are crossing over because the audience is there."
So it's the perfect time for Aguilera to explore or exploit her Ecuadorean heritage. Five of the 11 tracks on her latest CD are newly recorded Spanish translations of Anglo pop hits. In addition to "Genio Atrapado," "What a Girl Wants" has become "Una Mujer," and "I Turn to You" is "Por Siempre Tu." The other six tracks are fresh Latin tunes, including the salsa-tinged "Falsas Esperanzas" (RealAudio excerpt) and the ballad "Si No Te Hubiera Conocido," a duet with Puerto Rican Latin pop star Luis Fonsi.
Rocking In Two Languages
It's also a time when a Texas-born man with a Mexican father and Guatemalan mother might appreciate the music of, say, East Coast rock group Aerosmith and Mexico's legendary singer/songwriter Juan Gabriel.
That describes A.J. Vallejo, lead singer of Austin, Texas, rock act Vallejo. The group, fronted by three Vallejo brothers, laces Latin elements (salsa-style percussion, mariachi-style brass) and Spanish lyrics over guitar-fueled rock songs on Into the New, the band's recently released debut. Their Mex-rock fusion can be heard in the title track (RealAudio excerpt) and "Día de Muerto" (RealAudio excerpt).
Befriended by influential Latin music producer Emilio Estefan Jr., husband of crossover grand dame Gloria Estefan, Vallejo are already working on a Latin album. They have recorded five songs in Spanish, Vallejo said, even though a release date for the Latin CD is still pending.
He's excited about the prospects of a bicultural constituency.
"Now the market demographics are so much bigger," Vallejo said. "You've got so many Latinos that you can sell only to Latinos and sell millions of records without ever crossing over to the Anglos. That's the beautiful thing. If you can get every culture on it, like Santana, who has crossed generations, that's the ultimate fanbase."
This, of course, isn't the first time Anglo pop acts have vied for Latin market dollars. In 1975, the Captain & Tennille recorded Por Amor Viviremos, a Spanish translation of their hit album, Love Will Keep Us Together. Sheena Easton crooned en español in 1984 for the Todo Me Recuerda a Ti album. Later, ex-Van Halen singer David Lee Roth, Englishman Sting and R&B quartet Boyz II Men all delved into Spanish-language projects.
But now the stakes are higher. Back then, those albums were considered side projects. Sure, the labels wanted them to sell, but the focus remained on the artists' loyal and larger Anglo audience. Today, with the success of Latin music and Latin-fused pop releases, record buyers are as bicultural as the artists they are supporting.
"They [the fans] are hearing a fusion of Latino music with Anglo-culture music, and they are thinking, 'This is really cool,' " Pérez said. "I only think this is going to get bigger as the years go by."
© 2000, The Dallas Morning News