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.
As a result of these, and other considerations, standard practice calls for crossover acts to alternately release Spanish- and English-language albums, with the latter often including a Spanish version of the single that is worked to radio by a sister Latin label. Witness Shakira's English-language album, "She Wolf" (Epic), which included the Spanish version of the single, "Loba," worked to Spanish-language radio by Sony Latin.
On the other end of the spectrum is Marc Anthony, whose new Spanish-language album, "Iconos," doesn't feature any English songs. Instead, Anthony is planning an all-English release later this year.
Although he's gone down both roads in the past, Iglesias chose not to take either of these paths.
"I wanted both [languages] to be on the same album," he says, even as he acknowledges the dangers of swimming into uncharted waters. "It's a risk," he adds, "but it's a risk I wanted to take. I was sick of coming out with one English album and one Spanish [album]. And the market has become a single-unit market where people pick and choose their music."
The market has also changed from when Iglesias first began recording as a Spanish-language crooner who sold millions of albums in the mid-'90s. Back then, with few exceptions (Gloria Estefan and Jon Secada, among them), the market was firmly compartmentalized by language, until Ricky Martin burst into the mainstream with "Livin' la Vida Loca" in 1999 and changed the paradigm. Later that year, Iglesias released his first English-language album, "Enrique," which included Spanish-language versions of three singles. "Enrique" sold 2.1 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and set Iglesias on a path of recording alternately in English and Spanish.
"When Enrique began to record in English and hit, we all knew he could more easily reach many countries where being successful in Spanish was more complicated," says longtime manager Fernando Giaccardi, who was Iglesias' label manager in his early days with Fonovisa. "So the label always wanted more English, but Spanish is so important to Enrique and things got complex."
The back-and-forth started to lose its luster as far back as three years ago. At that point, Universal's Lopez says, "we began talking a lot about the reality of his career. He's a rare bilingual, bicultural artist. Releasing an album in English and then waiting two, three years to release one in Spanish, or translating his hits from English to Spanish made us lose touch with his fan base and made it very hard for a global act like Enrique to live between two worlds. That's what led us to record a collection of songs in both languages."
With that decision in place, it was logical, Lopez says, to release the album as a joint venture with a mainstream label. Iglesias, whose contract to record in English with Interscope was up, chose to go to Republic, a label whose track record he's closely followed on the charts and which he feels "has broken new artists in a very difficult environment."
"The marketplace is becoming more sophisticated," says Republic president Monte Lipman, who's worked bilingual albums before, but never one so evenly divided between languages. Still, he says, "we have to educate the audience so they understand what they're buying. You don't want the Spanish-speaking fans thinking this isn't their record or vice versa."
Spelling out exactly what "Euphoria" is boils down to details like the album sticker, which will identify both singles. Each album version, too, is differentiated. The basic, budget version includes six tracks in Spanish and four in English. The deluxe version, which will be sold exclusively at Target, features seven tracks in English and six in Spanish. In exchange for the exclusivity, Target will promote the album in a radio, TV and print campaign in both English and Spanish media. Still, Lipman says, the key piece of marketing is Iglesias himself, a superstar who has remained singularly accessible in multiple languages.
Born to megastar Julio Iglesias in Madrid but raised in Miami, Iglesias has transcended his pedigree, amassing 21 No. 1 hits-more than any other artist in the history of the Hot Latin Songs chart-and selling more than 50 million albums worldwide, according to Universal. In the mainstream, Iglesias' credentials are less flashy but still impressive, with four top 10 tracks on the Hot 100. In the digital realm, he's sold 3 million-plus downloads in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and he boasts the fourth-best-selling Latin download of all time, "Do You Know? (The Ping Pong Song)/Dimelo."
But Iglesias is self-effacing about his success. Perennially dressed in jeans, hoodie and baseball cap, he still conveys the image of the cute boy next door; if one lives in Miami, there's a strong likelihood of running into an unguarded Iglesias hanging out with friends. The openness extends to his attitudes toward the music business. He has a reputation for being a shrewd artist who stays on top of minute details in his career and has no qualms about picking up the phone to contact label staffers with concerns. But he's also an intuitive artist who acts spontaneously and is disarmingly self-deprecating.
At a recent press conference to announce Juan Luis Guerra's benefit concert for Haiti, for example, fellow artists spoke about how they quickly responded to Guerra's call to perform in his show.
"Well, in my case, I had to call Juan Luis many times to get him to invite me, and I finally made it in," Iglesias said at the time.
It was Iglesias himself who personally invited each of the artists on "Euphoria," an album of uptempo dance tracks and whimsical pop ballads whose collaborations he wrote without specific artists in mind, save for "Heartbeat," penned for Scherzinger, a longtime friend and labelmate. Akon, for example, entered the mix after he stopped by the studio to visit and asked if he could record vocals.
Iglesias was most worried about Guerra, an idol of his but someone he barely knew.
"I didn't think he was going to say 'yes.' And he didn't," Iglesias recalls. "He said, 'I really can't give you an answer unless I hear the song.' "
This in itself was a challenge, as Guerra only records his own songs. But to Iglesias' surprise, Guerra not only accepted, but also agreed to participate in the video for the song, which was released to radio roughly at the same time as Guerra's own single. That two such different artists could co-exist in the charts' upper echelons with such different tracks is a testament to Iglesias' ability to deliver catchy pop hits with key differentiating factors that help them stand out from the pack.
"It's not terribly complicated," says Universal Music Latino president Walter Kolm, who says the second Spanish-language single will be "No Me Digas Que No," featuring Wisin & Yandel. It's part of iTunes' Countdown leading up to the album's street date. "Our goal is to have four to six Enrique Iglesias hits playing by year's end so that there's no perception that this is a one-hit album."
Most important, Kolm adds, is Enrique's standing as an easy-to-promote global brand. "He's willing to work, and his name is synonymous with ratings," he says.
Still, Iglesias says, if he'd proposed an album like "Euphoria" five years ago, "I don't think the record company would have let me." Today, however, "the Hispanic market in the U.S. doesn't mind listening to songs in English. You already see it happening [on radio]."
As for the mainstream market, he says, "If there's a hit song, why would they mind listening to a few sngs in Spanish as well?"