RKM & Ken-Y Score with Latin Tween Market
RKM & Ken-Y first realized the extent of their popularity among Latina schoolgirls through Facebook.
The Puerto Rican duo has nearly 1.5 million "likes" on the social media site, where dozens of fans have posted photos holding a copy of its new album, "Forever."
"These songs are dedicated to the time when you fall in love for the first time, when you have your first boyfriend or girlfriend in high school," says Ken-Y, whose full name is Kenny Vazquez. "It's a record to accompany the moments of your first love."
Video: RKM & Ken-Y, "Mas"
While most reggaetón stars are known for their racy lyrics and tough image, RKM & Ken-Y have succeeded in the crowded urban Latin genre with romantic rhythmic music made for teen crushes.
"Forever," released on Valentine's Day, peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart. The pair's previous, Grammy Award-nominated album, "Masterpiece," sold 314,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"This is music that the kids and their parents can listen to in their car on the way to school without obscene words," says Jorge Pina, president of RKM & Ken-Y's label, Pina Records. He puts the duo's core audience at between 8 and 16 years old.
While the 20-something RKM and Ken-Y say they didn't consciously set out to court young followers, they have found a growing niche in the Latin market that is being surprisingly underexploited by Spanish-language artists and labels.
While the Jonas Brothers and other Disney acts and teen artists like Justin Bieber can appeal as much to a Latin crowd as any other, past acts like Mecano and Mexico's RBD have found their own huge audiences among bilingual teens and tweens, with the bonus of also appealing to their Spanish-speaking parents. Such is the case with "Forever," a 15-track set that includes romantic bachata ("Goodbye") and G-rated reggaetón ("El Party Sigue") that is destined to have minivans shaking.
"Yo Se," a romantic ballad featuring pianist Arthur Hanlon, is sophisticated enough for Latin radio listeners of any age. Another song, "Regalo Quinceañera" (Quinceañera Present), demonstrates that RKM & Ken-Y and their label understand their core audience and how to make the most of it. With this pop serenade for a girl's 15th birthday party, traditionally the biggest celebration in the life of a Latin teenager, the artists have created an anthem that will be played at quinceañeras for years to come.
"It's such a special moment for girls that we wanted to honor it," says RKM, aka Jose Nieves, "and to give them something special from RKM & Ken-Y to celebrate this special day."