Villa 5, Fantine, Antonio José & Jesús Mendoza: Latin Stars On the Rise

Villa 5 2015
Courtesy Photo

Villa 5

Billboard's "On the Rise" is a roundup of Latin music's most promising new acts, poised to break through in a big way.

Villa 5

Age:  Lizbeth Villa, 25 (vocals & guitar); Vanessa Villa, 22 (bass); Iliana Villa, 21 (drums); Jasmeen Villa, 18 (bajo sexton); and Joel Villa, 23 (accordion)

Sound: norteño for millennials, mixed with pop and rock

Chart Success: none yet

Key Track: “Se Acabó el Amor”

Why We Should Care: Making music together is nothing new for this band of Mexican American siblings from Simi Valley, California. Their norteño-inspired act went over so well in an elementary school talent show that they decided to pursue it as a career, even though they hardly had the means. For years, they performed at local community events like fairs and weddings, but also, like most acts of their generation, used YouTube to gain a much larger following. And the effort has paid off: recent gigs include opening for Luis Coronel and Intocable and high profile appearances on Hispanic television. The quintet is currently working on a debut album, Es Mi Vida, via Toro Music. First single “Se Acabó el Amor” has an undeniably catchy chorus and an accompanying video that was shot at the iconic Hollywood sign, in homage to their hometown. Managed by music industry veteran Miles Copeland (former manager to The Police and Sting), they’re well poised for success. Copeland has said he was drawn to the idea of a mostly female norteño act – and so are we!

Fun Fact: The Villa patriarch, who instilled his children’s love for music from an early age, was once driver to Tejano singer and TV host Johnny Canales.


Age: 31

Sound: modern-day Miami Sound Machine with hints of jazz and soul

Chart Success: “What a Day” is in the Top 10 of the Dance Club Songs chart

Key Track: “What a Day”

Why We Should Care: It doesn’t get better than an endorsement from Emilio Estefan, who signed this Australian singer/songwriter of Russian and Dominican descent to his label in 2013. Then again, nothing about Fantine is ordinary. With a  rich, powerful voice and looks like Diana Ross, she stands out in a sea of pop dilettantes. Steadily grinding since 2010 in Australia, she now makes Miami her home, which is super convenient, considering her frequent studio sessions with Emilio and Gloria Estefan, both of whom have co-written tracks for Fantine’s forthcoming album, I Am Fantine. New single “What a Day,” featuring Wyclef Jean and El Cata, tells the story of an exotic dancer just trying to survive. It also samples The Lafayette Afro Rock Band’s famous saxophone riff in “Darkest Light” (also employed in Wreckx-n-Effect’s ‘90s hit “Rump Shaker”).

Fun Fact: She was named after a character in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.

Antonio José

Age: 20

Sound: flamenco-flavored pop balladry

Chart Success: none yet

Key Track: “De Que Manera”

Why We Should Care: Earlier this summer, José was declared the winner of The Voice Spain’s third season. And it should come as no surprise, since he was coached by fellow Spanish balladeer Antonio Orozco, who emphatically said of his protégé the night of the finale, “Spain needs your voice!” Orozco has said he related to José’s story as an artist who has fought for his dreams since he was a child, with the support of his family. José’s rendition of Alejandro Sanz’ “Aprendiz” won over hearts that night, and he continues to conquer audiences while touring Spain in support of his new album, El Viaje. And while it’s tempting to compare him to Orozco and Pablo Alboránj, José is carving his own identity, telling Telecinco recently, “I am honored [by the comparisons], but I’m Antonio José.” Well said!

Fun Fact: José is a veteran of TV singing competitions. In 2005, he represented Spain in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, and came in as runner-up.

Jesús Mendoza

Age:  22

Sound: romantic norteño

Chart Success: none yet

Key Track: “Aún Te Sigo Amando”

Why We Should Care: A native of Michoacán, Mexico, Mendoza is an exciting prospect for regional Mexican music. A fan of the late banda singer Valentín Elizalde and balladeer Adan Sanchez, he recorded his first demo at 16, and has since gigged extensively in the music festival circuit. To date, he has around 15 separate fan groups on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook combined. And he writes his own music. New single “Te Llevaré” is a tale of puppy love, sprinkled with cute ad-libs of “Chiquita.” Signed to regional Mexican giant Fonovisa/Universal Latin Music Entertainment, he’s got the momentum to make it big.

Fun Fact: An upcoming new version of his 2015 breakout single “Aún Te Sigo Amando” features Latin urban sensation J Alvarez, positioning him for crossover success.

See Also: Pirulo y la Tribu, Dasoul, Matisse & Victoria 'La Mala' Ortiz: Latin Stars On the Rise