Marc Anthony in the Dominican Republic

Marc Anthony's Crossover Mastery: Inside His Salsa Return & Future Plans

Marc Anthony stands at the foot of the stairs backstage at the AmericanAirlines arena, jumping from one foot to another, like a boxer, feet clad in black, patent shoes, his frame slim under a starched white shirt, black tailored pants and a fitted tux jacket.

He stares at the floor, at nothing, adjusting his black aviators, dimly aware of the deafening din outside—the roar of 15,000 people who have paid good money for the second of his two sold-out shows kicking off his “Vivir Mi Vida”tour—but focused now only on the music, on the cue from the 14-piece band that is already onstage. He hears it and his head snaps up. Anthony briefly raises his hand to touch the silver rosaries around his neck and blesses himself—in the name of the father and the son and the Holy spirit—kisses his thumb, and climbs up the stairs onto the stage.

He stands there for what seems an eternity, until the roar has subsided just a touch, and then he begins to sing. There are no dancers, no special effects, no moving sets. It’s just him, alone, with a microphone, his band and the tiers of LED screens and the lights behind him and the crowd in front, and there are no distractions between him and them, this slip of a man—5 feet seven inches, 120 pounds, size 0—with a torrent of a voice who with the flick of a finger commands the band and the crowd, conducts them like the best symphony orchestra, makes them bend to his will for over two hours—makes them dance, sing, hush--until they are as delirious, as sweaty, as exhausted as he is.

"There's nothing physical about it," he tells me later after that August 2013 tour debut, when asked how he prepares for his onstage marathon. "I have a beer and a cigarette before I go onstage. Once I put on the sunglasses it's almost like a football player putting on his helmet. The preparation is in my dressing room. I go over the set and decide where I can push. I change my set on the fly depending on how I feel and what I feel the audience wants."


It's the essential word to understand an artist who started out singing salsa, then pop, then crossed over to mainstream, then went back to his Latin roots, and finally branched out into film and TV — the projects seemingly disparate, but all personal.

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"I call him a 360," says his longtime concert promoter and business partner Henry Cardenas. "The guy sings salsa, sings ballads, sings in English, the guy screams. He has all the ingredients no one else has. I always tell him, 'Marc, you are blessed.' "

And he may be in his best moment yet. Anthony has been on the road for a full year — almost from the moment he premiered his single "Vivir Mi Vida" (Live My Life) at the 2013 Billboard Latin Music Awards last April. "Vivir" exploded, spending 18 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart, the first tropical single in a decade to top the tally and the longest-running No. 1 tropical song in the history of the chart.

The track ushered in "3.0," Anthony's first salsa studio album in a decade, which longtime label Sony Music Latin released in June 2013. The set, produced by Sergio George, would go on to become the biggest-selling Latin album of that year, according to Nielsen SoundScan. And Anthony, 44, is in the midst of his longest, most lucrative tour ever.

The Vivir Mi Vida world tour, which was supposed to end in December, has already made more than 60 stops. All told, Anthony has sold 1.2 million tickets, according to tour promoter CMN. On April 17, Anthony kicked off a second Latin American tour leg. Then he'll head out to Europe and hit the United States again.

"It proves there's still an appetite for good f—ing music," he says. "I haven't been affected by the changes in the industry, thank God. Had the album not been successful it would have been a very, very convenient bullshit excuse."

All artists dream of hits, and Anthony has had plenty since his debut salsa album, "Otra Nota," in 1993. But "Vivir Mi Vida" has become one of those rare tracks that catapults an artist in his prime into a whole new territory.

"He really accomplished a salsa crossover between fans of the music and others," says Marta Artaso, Sony's marketing manager for the Latin region, Spain and Portugal. "We had our regional convention in Miami in April [2013] and all the global label heads came, including Edgar Berger, our president/CEO of international. And Marc had everybody dancing salsa. Edgar said, ‘I've been to hundreds of conventions and I've never in my life seen something like this.' "

"Vivir," a remake of Algerian singer Khaled's "C'est la Vie" (see story, below), transcended languages and territories, and shot to No. 1 in at least 10 countries. "There's a whole new wave of fans and it's fun again," says Anthony. "That's what this record did for me."

The success of the song -- and the album from which it's from, "3.0" -- have reinvigorated Anthony in other ways, too. He has expanded his business ventures, investing in a growing real estate portfolio, a technology company that makes 3D cameras, Mar Azul tequila and a premium hydration drink called Afterparty.

There's also his ongoing partnership with Kohl's, which last year delivered more than $100 million in retail sales, according to CAK Entertainment CEO Charles Koppelman, who brokered the deal in 2011.

A recent Friday afternoon found Anthony in the vacation home he purchased last fall in Casa de Campo — a resort in the Dominican Republic — looking out at a lush backyard surrounded by hammocks and slow-turning fans. And, yes, he was wearing clothes from Kohl's: khaki shorts, grey top and black belt. He's dressed in resort-wear, but this is no vacation trip.

Anthony came to the Dominican Republic to christen a new home and school for 50 boys funded through his Maestro Cares foundation. Like everything else, the project was borne out of instinct and friendship, after Anthony spent Christmas in the Dominican Republic with Cardenas, his partner in Maestro Cares.

The one project sidetracked by his recent success is his next English-language album, which had been slated for last year, and now is expected in 2015. Multiple collaborators have stepped in, from rappers to R&B artists, but he isn't naming any names until he decides which tracks make the cut.

"We have a lot of material," he says. "But I record the songs and I have to live with them for two or three years."

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Now, with the achievement of "3.0," comes additional pressure for mainstream success. But the singer dismisses such talk.

"The opposite is true. I feel more confident than ever," he says. "Sticking to my guns [with "3.0"] and releasing this album gave me more confidence. If anything, it's ‘You're on the right track. Just continue trusting your instincts.' "

It's how Anthony continues to navigate his dual careers, his dual cultures and two languages. He doesn't try to analyze who will like what or why. It simply happens.

This summer, as he works on his new album, Anthony will continue to tour. He'll sing in Spanish and in English, playing new venues and letting his instincts guide him in front of the fans who come to see his shows.

"If you give me a chance, you feel what I do, no matter what language I sing in," he says. "I just sing, man. I dedicate my life to music. If you really want to know who I am, you have to experience it. You should check it out."