Solís: Quiet Superstar Spreads His Base

Excerpted from the magazine for

In the last 30 years, Marco Antonio Solís has sold millions of albums as a leading Mexican grupero artist.

Now, with the Nov. 2 release of "Razón de Sobra," he hopes to further build on the mainstream pop success he started with 1999's "Trozos de Mi Alma," as well as expand his international following.

The new Fonovisa release is full-fledged Latin pop. The music is adorned with strings, whimsical accordion and Solís' trademark, emotive vocals.

When the title debuts on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart, it will put Solís in a unique position: He will become the first Latin artist to have four albums in two different genres simultaneously on the chart.

Solís' sales record is an anomaly. He is not fond of interviews and does minimal album promotion. He's no longer a youngster, and his songs, while beautifully lyrical, are classic but not groundbreaking.

But Solís, who writes all his own material, connects with his listeners no matter what the genre because of his romantic core.

"I'm a romantic act," Solís says when asked how he describes his music. "I play with other genres-tropical music and mariachi. But my strength is romantic material."

Solís became a household name in Mexico in the 1970s as the lead singer/songwriter of Los Bukis, one of that country's best-selling romantic groups. In 1995, he went solo. Since then, he has had 12 titles on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart, including four No. 1s.

Solís is now a major artist in most Latin markets and has an extensive South American tour planned for 2005 that will include a stop at the Viña del Mar festival in Chile.

"This truly is my most active moment," Solís says in an exclusive interview with Billboard. "The goal was to become international, and we've seen that. I used to do very small appearances [in South America] before. But my two previous albums have really opened doors for me there. And I've been surprised to see audiences also recognize my Bukis material. I see two generations in the concerts: the parents and the kids."

With "Razón de Sobra," Solís -- who produces his own material -- teamed with arranger Pablo Aguirre in search of a more international sound that could further widen his audience base.

"I was looking for a contemporary, pop sound," he says. "Depending on the audience's response, we can play a bit with that. Make the arrangements more contemporary."

Solís' popularity explosion can be traced to 1999's "Trozos de Mi Alma," his first all-pop album, which the Recording Industry Association of America has certified platinum.

Produced by the late Bebu Silvetti, it featured romantic string arrangements and a radio-friendly sound that opened the door for Solís to get airplay on East Coast pop stations, many of which had previously shunned him. Since then, Solís has become a fixture on Latin pop stations.

Solís' first major pop hit was "Si No Te Hubieras Ido," the first single off "Trozos de Mi Alma." The song was subsequently featured in the Mexican film "Y Tu Mamá También" (during the memorable jukebox scene), which led to Fonovisa re-releasing the album in Mexico.

"It was one of those fortunate songs," says Solís, who says he writes his material "on my little slips of paper and my little tape recorder" during his tours.

Indeed, as huge an artist as he is, Solís still approaches the music business from a hands-on perspective. He administers his own publishing company, Crisma; he handles all his business affairs; and he has yet to sign any major sponsorship or endorsement deals.

His songs have been placed in films and soap operas, and many acts -- most recently Yuri, Alicia Villarreal and Jose Luis Rodriguez -- have covered his material. But he does not write specifically for other artists and only records what he has written.

"I'm dedicated to writing, to my albums and to touring," says Solís, who will finish a 20-date U.S. arena tour with Joan Sebastian this month.

Although "Razón de Sobra" will be accompanied by a major TV campaign on the Univision, Galavision and Telefutura networks, Solís does not have plans for marathon TV appearances. "I don't like how I look on TV," he says with a laugh.

Instead, he says, he will rely on the magic of the music to spread his brand of romance. "You have to have the right phrase on the tip of your tongue," he says. "If you're in love, it will never sound corny."

Excerpted from the Oct. 23, 2004, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to subscribers.

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