In 1996, Enrique Iglesias, already a Latin star, was shuttled by helicopter to a live show hosted by romantic station KLVE Los Angeles. As the chopper hovered over Westlake Park, Iglesias looked down in surprise at the crowd of approximately 150,000 that waited below.
"I was so shocked," he recalls. "I thought, 'Oh, my God, all these people listen to Spanish music on U.S. soil.' "
Today, as one of the world's biggest stars, Iglesias no longer marvels at the possibilities afforded by two languages; he revels in them.
On July 6, Iglesias will release "Euphoria," a potentially trailblazing album for both Iglesias and the Latin market. Whereas most Latin artists will record an album with Spanish- and English-language versions of a particular song (or songs), or record separate Spanish and English albums altogether, Iglesias has chosen a new route: "Euphoria" features six songs written and recorded in Spanish and four completely different songs written and recorded in English.
The album will be released in standard and deluxe versions as a joint venture between Universal Republic and Universal Music Latino, with each label simultaneously working different singles to different markets and formats. The album will be released in every Universal territory-more than 70 countries-with a third, international version with eight English-language tracks specifically designed for markets like the United Kingdom that have small Latin audiences and where Iglesias is a major seller.
This has lent itself to an Iglesias sonic wallpaper of sorts. While his current Spanish-language single "Cuando Me Enamoro," featuring Juan Luis Guerra, has spent four weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart-a spot it hit only five weeks after its release-his English-language single "I Like It," featuring Pitbull and Lionel Richie (who rerecorded parts of "All Night Long" for the song), is scaling the Billboard Hot 100 and stands at No. 26 this week.
And as of June 23, "I Like It" was No. 14 on iTunes' Songs chart and No. 1 on the iTunes Latino chart, where Iglesias has four of the top 10 songs, including "No Me Digas Que No" (featuring Wisin & Yandel) at No. 5, "Cuando Me Enamoro" (featuring Juan Luis Guerra) at No. 6 and perennial favorite "Hero" at No. 7.
Overseas, Iglesias has been on promotional visits to Mexico, the United Kingdom, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Finland, Spain and Germany all prior to the album's release. As of June 22, "I Like It" was in the top 10 on iTunes' charts in Australia, Belgium and Spain and in the top 20 in Mexico and Norway.
In addition, two versions of the "I Like It" video were filmed. The first, made for the U.S. market, features the cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore" and premiered during the MTV Movie Awards. A second version, minus the reality show stars, is being programmed on channels that don't air "Jersey Shore."
"The effect on media and the Web is doubled," says Jesus Lopez, chairman/CEO of Universal Music Latin America/Iberian Peninsula. "Both singles are playing at the same time in several countries and it allows us to globalize the album faster."
Releasing an album with distinct English and Spanish tracks should be commonplace for bilingual, crossover acts. But actually, this has never been the MO for labels, in part because marketing and distributing to Hispanic and mainstream audiences are two different processes. And coordinating two marketing campaigns for two distinct audiences has proved a challenge when a release falls under the jurisdiction of one label.
A major drawback is English-language radio: While youth-leaning, Spanish-language stations tend to play big, mainstream hits, only a handful of mainstream stations nationwide, like KIIS-FM Los Angeles and WPOW Miami, will spin Spanish-language songs.
And then there's retail. Where does a bilingual album go? The Latin section? The pop section? Both would be logical, if only there was space, particularly when it comes to developing acts that are a challenge to get into big accounts to begin with.