In the midst of the quarantine and social distancing, Frankie J (real name: Francisco Javier Bautista, Jr.) is focusing on his health, spending time with his family, and making home renovations at his San Diego residence. He’s also keeping busy at the studio, releasing today (May 15) his latest album Canciones Que Recuerdo (Songs That I Remember).
In the beautifully-crafted production, Frankie J revamps 15 timeless hits by José José, Juan Gabriel, Vicente Fernandez and Selena, to name a few, showcasing his powerhouse vocals as he taps into the bolero and mariachi genres.
Changing the game one song at a time, the Mexican-American singer kicked off his career in the late 90’s/early 2000’s as part of the wave of new Latinx artists producing pop-R&B songs in both Spanish and English. He gained international success with hits such as “Obsession,” “Suga Suga,” and “How To Deal,” which form part of The One, his third studio album that debuted and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart dated April 9, 2005, and spent 36 weeks on the chart.
Now, Frankie J returns with Canciones Que Recuerdo, marking his comeback production following his 2013 Grammy-nominated Faith, Hope y Amor and Sangria, a duet album with Baby Bash released in 2017.
Billboard caught up with Frankie J to talk all about his new album, today’s Latinx artists and future plans. Read the Q&A below:
Frankie, you were one of the first Latino artists doing R&B and now you’re returning with something completely different. Tell us about this new route you took for “Canciones Que Recuerdo”?
I think being an artist means not being afraid of creativity. It’s natural for me to go from R&B to a ranchera to a bolero or a pop ballad. I’ve been around all types of music all my life and I’ve always been curious about hearing my voice in another genre. It just felt like a hand in a glove.
On this set, you have songs like Jose Jose’s “El Triste,” Selena’s “Buenos Amigos” with Lupita Infante,” and Vicente Fernandez’s “El Rey.” How was the process of picking these tracks?
There was a connection there already. That’s why I decided to do it. I’ve always loved hearing these kinds of songs, from Juan Gabriel, Jose Jose, Vicente Fernandez, Javier Solis, Pedro Infante. I’m paying a tribute to a lot of artists that I grew up listening to because of my parents and my grandparents. These were the records that they were always listening to.
I’m curious to know if this album was recorded before or during the quarantine?
This album was recorded way before the quarantine. My business partner Charles Chavez, CEO of Latium Entertainment, and I have been talking about putting this album together for almost four years. We just didn’t know what songs to cover so I decided to take initiative on that and it took me about two years to finalize everything. When the whole quarantine hit, I had just finished the last song which was “No Valio La Pena” by Jose Jose. Three weeks before the quarantine, I mixed and mastered the album and released it now. It wasn’t planned this way.
Speaking of that, which was the first song that you recorded for this album?
I’m glad you asked! The very first song that I recorded was a song called “La Farsante” by Juan Gabriel. I went out jogging in my neighborhood, I was listening to Juan Gabriel’s greatest hits album and one of the songs that hit me was “La Farsante.” I always love it when I hear a singer reach the highest notes and the most potential with his or her vocals. When I heard Juan Gabriel sing “La Farsante,” I was blown away by his vocal abilities. I was like “man, I have to record this song, I have to start somewhere,” and it just so happens that it was the first song I recorded for the album and it paved the way for the whole album.
Your album “The One,” which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, just celebrated its 15th anniversary. Looking back, how do you think this production made an impact on Latin music history in 2005?
Oh man, well you know, I think that during that time there weren’t many of us Latinos doing pop-R&B music or having major success when it came to urban music, particularly R&B. I feel that it made an impact by encouraging more Latino artists to not be afraid and dip into that genre that not too many of us were in. I remember in the late ‘90s a group called Nu Flavor had success with “Heaven,” “Sweet Sexy Thing” and also the Barrio Boyzz. These are some of the groups that influenced me and gave me that push. My team is also a big part of the success because they pushed these records. I honestly feel that all of those records, like “Don’t Want To Try,” “Obsession,”and “Suga Suga” made an impact on the Latino community.
You were definitely one of the first Latinx artists singing bilingual music. How do you perceive today’s generation of Latinx artists like Becky G and Prince Royce?
I feel that we were that grain of influence that has now flourished into what it is now. We gotta remember Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan… I mean, these guys were doing the big pop records in two languages. Then came our generation. Seeing the evolution of how these younger artists are coming out and doing what we were doing back then, it makes me feel good because I was a part of that wave of Latinx artists that helped push our culture into what it is today. I feel good and proud, we need to continue doing this to influence these upcoming artists.
Many of your hits, such as “Suga Suga,” were in collaboration with Baby Bash. Have guys been keeping in touch during quarantine?
I just finished doing a song with him actually. He’s got a new project coming out, where I’m involved. We talk a lot, we do. We’re like brothers. We check-in every now and then to see how the family is doing, we discuss music. Yea, we’re constantly in touch.
We’re obviously living uncertain times with the global pandemic, but now that you’re back in the scene, what’s next for you?
I think when all of this passes, I cannot wait to get back on the road and perform for my fans. The next step would be to sing the songs on “Canciones Que Recuerdo” and mix in the classics, really give my fans what they want to hear. I’m excited, I’ve been working out, eating healthy and trying to maintain myself sane so when this all over. I know the world is going to be different and there will be a lot of changes but I’m excited. This is all temporary.