Elvis Crespo's career has been marked by transformation. From his successful stint as the lead singer of Grupo Mania, he launched an exciting solo career-propelled by a charismatic stage demeanor and

Elvis Crespo's career has been marked by transformation. From his successful stint as the lead singer of Grupo Mania, he launched an exciting solo career-propelled by a charismatic stage demeanor and a handful of catchy singles, including "Suavemente" (Softly) and "Tu Sonrisa" (Your Smile).

At his height, Crespo's hits played on urban and pop radio. He took merengue to the mainstream, playing the music -- in Spanish -- on such shows as "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." What to do with such a winning formula in a format as restricted as merengue? Crespo decided to tinker with it, knowing he had more to offer musically. But in 2000, his ambitious "Wow, Flash!" album faltered commercially.

With "Urbano," due out May 21 via Sony Discos, Crespo returns to his roots. Yet surprisingly, he manages to do so while still evolving his sound. "Artists always say, 'This is my best album [referring to their most recent release],' " Crespo says. "But I'll be objective. My best album, musically speaking, was 'Wow, Flash!' Even if it didn't get the sales, it was my best album, because I was able to mix styles. But people didn't understand it."

People are bound to understand "Urbano," an album that kicks off in vintage Crespo style with "La Cerveza" (The Beer) -- an ode to drinking and dancing -- punctuated by dueling trombones.

As before, Crespo wrote much of the material on "Urbano," relying on his everyday experiences for inspiration. "La Cerveza," for example, came forth after spending a day in Punta del Este, Uruguay, listening to youngsters humming, "Give me a beer."

"I'm very down to earth," says Crespo, who co-produced the disc with Roberto Cora, Joel Sanchez, and Jose Gazmey. "I like my music to be identified with the common people, with people who party and who really enjoy life in a very particular way."

"Urbano" includes its share of love songs set to a merengue beat, and there is also one ballad. By Crespo standards, the album took a long time to make, and in the end, 30 songs were recorded before he settled for the final 14. The pressure, Crespo admits, is intense.

"I won't lie to you. There's a lot of pressure. But that's good. I'm a winner, and I like this kind of challenge. If these challenges, these pressures didn't exist, there wouldn't be any pleasure in doing this."





Excerpted from the May 18, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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