The year was 1999, and Enrique Iglesias kept hearing two words that made him cringe: "Latin explosion."
"It always used to be mind-boggling to me, because it almost always sounded like we were a fad and that we were going to disappear, and I never saw it that way," the crooner says. "Latin music and Latin artists are here to stay -- whether they're singing in English, Spanish or changing styles."
Iglesias' comments came after he'd announced a major fall tour, also featuring radio favorites Pitbull and Prince Royce. The tour will visit about 17 U.S. cities and is positioned to be one of the year's biggest, straddling the English- and Spanish-language markets. For the trio, the trek also represents a generational shift that places them in a different playing field: as artists with Latin roots who were raised in the United States and who have mainstream appeal while simultaneously catering to their base in the Latin market.
Video: Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull, "I Like It"
"I don't think this type of tour has ever been done," says Rebeca Leon, VP of Latin talent at AEG Live/Goldenvoice, which is promoting the tour. "For those of us born and raised in this country who feel just as much Latino as American, it's exciting."
The brainchild behind the tour is Iglesias himself, who approached Pitbull. After the pair collaborated on the single "I Like It," they met Prince Royce at the Billboard Latin Music Awards, and a tour was born.
"I give Enrique credit for stepping up," AEG Live president/CEO Randy Phillips says. "It takes a sophisticated businessman and artist to agree to a tour with a package so strong."
That the three artists had already established strong bonds with each other, Phillips says, makes all the difference. "There is a new generation of Latinos and Latinas who listen to pop and crossover radio," he says. "I don't think that the genre wall really exists anymore. These stars have cross-generational appeal."
Fernando Giaccardi, Iglesias' manager for nearly a dozen years, has seen music evolve in ways that increase opportunities for Latin artists. "Latinos are not segmented anymore," he says. "There are a lot of girls in Kansas who love [Iglesias, Pitbull and Prince Royce], English or Spanish. They don't care where the artists are from. They are mainstream now, even though these artists have a big Latin flag in their hands. And there's no reason to deny it."
"There are no rules to music anymore," Iglesias adds. "You can turn on top 40 radio and listen to Latin artists, and you can turn on a Latin radio station and listen to American artists, too. It goes both ways now."