The Enrique Iglesias Phenomenon
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“I don’t care, really, what particular style they might be or what type of beat, or even the BPM [beats per minute] of the song. I’m a firm believer that you go with whatever feels best,” he says. “Does it make you want to go out there, and when you listen to it, do you think immediately, I wish everyone could hear this track right now? Or, Am I willing to kill for this song? Can you listen to it 100 times and not get sick of it?”
Beyond selecting songs for the final cut, however, Iglesias has a knack for knowing the global pop scene and picking out influential and ofthe- moment guest stars to grace those tracks. Euphoria features a pitch-perfect cast of collaborators. On the Spanish-language tracks, there is urban swagger courtesy of reggaetoneros Wisin y Yandel, and soulful crooning from the king of tropical beats, Dominican icon Juan Luis Guerra. Meanwhile, the English-language side features the likes of Nicole Scherzinger (of Pussycat Dolls fame), Usher, Akon and the other reigning bilingual Miami-boy-made-good, Pitbull.
Iglesias helped pave the way for an artist like Pitbull, who liberally applies Spanglish to a mounting number of international megahits. After all, one of the former’s first big “English-language” hits in the US, 1999’s “Bailamos,” featured a title and hook in Spanish. Iglesias demurs on his influence there, though. “I think Pitbull helped pave the way for Pitbull,” he says.
And if all these seemingly strategic moves, from melodies to musical partners-in-crime, have made him into a one-man business juggernaut, well, he insists it goes back to that teenage kid buying albums—the gut reactions of a music fan. Though he’s appeared in commercials for Pepsi and Doritos and dabbled in acting, you won’t hear Iglesias spew a lot of marketing speak about brand partnerships or new music industry models.
“I think I’m a music fan first, and then, thanks to me being a music fan, it becomes a business. I grew up with MTV, listening to the radio and buying records, analyzing the songs,” he says. “I approach my business based on music. In other words, I know that if I don’t have a song that people respond to and gravitate toward, the business is not going to matter, because the business is not going to be there.”
As important to the teenage memories of buying records is Miami. Although Iglesias was born in Madrid, he’s lived in multicultural South Florida since he was 10, and has never really left. “I’ve lived in LA, but I always come back to Miami,” he says. “Around the world, everyone has this image of Miami that’s South Beach and partying and whatever. But there’s that other side of Miami that’s very tranquil, where you can get away and have your privacy and not really bump into anyone.”
Not that there’s a lot of time for that. If Iglesias doesn’t like to put too fine a point on his musical or empire-building decisions, he’s the first to admit some workaholic tendencies. The remainder of the year and beyond sees him touring the United States and then the rest of the world, and maybe even dabbling in other forms of entertainment. Iglesias has already put his good looks and charisma to movie-star effect in a few acting roles, from the feature film Once Upon a Time in Mexico to TV hits like Two and a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother. Still, it’s clear he’ll always come back to the passion that sparked so young. “I do love film, and the little things I’ve done, I enjoy them a lot,” he says, “but it’s really hard to leave behind the thing you love.”
photographs by alan silfen