"I like being underestimated," says Enrique Iglesias. "That's what pushes me, drives me to make a great album. I keep having to prove myself."
With six albums--five platinum or better, the other nearing platinum; two in English, four in Spanish; the rare artist to score a U.S. multiplatinum English-language album (2001's triple platinum Escape) followed by a U.S. multiplatinum Spanish-language album (2002's double platinum Quizas)--one might think Iglesias would feel satisfied. If he thought merely in terms of pop stardom he would. But there has always been more to Iglesias than meets the eye, including a songwriter's obsession with lyrics.
"I wanted to concentrate on the lyrical content this time," he says of Seven (Interscope Records), released November 25, 2003. "At the end of the day a great melody is great but the lyrics are what makes a song timeless. I try to be as honest as possible in my music so I write about what goes on in my life. This album reflects the last year-and-a-half--including relationships, though there are more songs than usual not about love. But it is a personal album. I find that the less I make up the story the better the song. When I make up a story, the lyrics aren't so easy to write. When it's real, they pop out. I don't want to feel stupid singing a ridiculous song years from now."
Much of Seven was written on the road, a first for Iglesias, who co-penned every song and co-produced a handful. The album's first single, the emotional, passionate ballad "Addicted," was composed during a stop in the former East Germany on a 100-date 2002 tour that took him throughout the U.S. and Europe as well as Mexico and the Middle East. "The weather was bad and depressing," he recalls. "So I set up a little studio and started writing. It's dark; I've never written a song like that. But I thought it was cool." (The Spanish version, "Adicto," is also on the album.)
The song's video, starring Iglesias and Mischa Barton from the TV series "The O.C.," is equally provocative. "It's an idea I had," he explains. "I'm in a holding cell but you don't know why I'm there. I'm taken to another room where there's a girl. I see flashbacks of when I was free and with her. Then at the end you discover that being in that cell was in my mind. It's about that feeling when you're in love that you'd go crazy if you never saw this person again, about how you can be addicted to someone, insane for someone."
For Seven, Iglesias once again teamed with writers Paul Barry and Mark Taylor ("Hero," "Bailamos," "Be With You," "Rhythm Divine"), with Taylor producing the majority of the tracks, including "Addicted," the powerhouse "Not In Love" (with Fernando Garibey), and rockers "California Calling," "Free," "You Rock Me," "Be Yourself" and "Wish You Were Here (With Me)." Also returning was Kara DioGuardi (Celine Dion, Luis Fonsi), who co-wrote "Roamer," produced by Steve Morales and co-writer Tony Bruno. A new partnership debuted with Alex Ander (Michelle Branch) and Rob Davis (Kylie Minogue), which resulted in the ultra romantic "Say It" as well as "Live It Up Tonight" and the dance rockers "The Way You Touch Me" and "Break Me, Shake Me (You Can't Make Me)."
Co-writing his songs has been an important milestone for Iglesias, and his talent in that arena is one of those elements greatly underestimated.
"When I was first signed by Universal I felt I could write in English but I hadn't done it yet. I thought I needed help so I told them, 'Find me songs.' But they couldn't find enough that I liked--I'm the one who found 'Bailamos.' It was the same with Escape: I said, 'Send me songs.' But I didn't dig any of them. Finding a hit song is really difficult. I think for a great career you have to depend on yourself. Thank God I write or else I wouldn't know what I'd do. I'd be completely screwed." He laughs. "With Seven, they stopped sending me songs." With Escape, Iglesias boldly returned to his '80s arena rock influences just as the Latin music explosion he had instigated a few years earlier subsided. The balladeer showed he could rock. Now Seven takes his evolution one step further. "Those '80s roots still show but they're not as obvious. I think this is a more complete album. It's actually not as polished vocally, some of the vocals are one takes and from the demos. But that just makes it more real for me."
On an even more practical note, the songs on Seven expand his catalog in English. "The last tour was the best yet. Because Escape had so many upbeat songs, like Seven does, instead of just ballads, there was a different edge and it was so much fun to be stage. But in Europe, outside of Spain obviously, you can't sing every song in Spanish. It doesn't work. Now I have a lot more songs people can sing along with."
At the end of the Escape tour, an exhausted Iglesias did promotion for Quizas but no concerts. In fact, though Quizas was released in 2002, the entire album had been written before Escape. "It's the only one I've kept in the closet. I don't like to do that because the world changes, music changes and I change." There will likely be many English-speaking fans who don't even know there was an album after Escape (Quizas was issued on Universal Music Latino). That's one reason Iglesias decided to name his new album Seven: "A lot of people probably don't realize this is already my seventh album. They think I've only done two or three."
Iglesias has been conquering expectations all along, from shopping his first demos under a pseudonym to his Spanish-language triumphs which blazed the trail for others to follow to being one of the few pop artists in any language who co-writes most of his songs to escaping musical borders by rocking out.
Born May 8, 1975, in Madrid, Spain, Enrique grew up immersed in three cultures--Latin, European and American--as the third child of international singer Julio Iglesias and Philippines-born ex-model Isabel Preysler. His parents divorced when he was three years old and, when he was 8, following the kidnapping of his paternal grandfather in a ransom attempt, his mother sent him, brother Julio Jose and sister Chabeli to live with Julio in Miami. With his father often on tour, Enrique was entrusted to his nanny, Elvira Olivares. Yet, says Enrique, "My parents did a good job. It's not as if anyone can do a 'Behind The Music' on me." He was not raised in a show business environment. Other than spending summers in Spain with his mother, he appeared to be a typical Miami teen interested in sports. (Another reason his new album is titled Seven is that it was his uniform number playing soccer as a youngster.) He admits he couldn't even get a date for his junior prom. But what his family did not know was that Enrique was secretly writing songs and dreaming of stardom: "This is the only thing I know how to do, the only thing I really love."
After a year studying business at the University of Miami, he decided to follow his passion. In 1995, he sang in person for his soon-to-be manager, who at Iglesias' insistence first shopped his demos as an unknown Central American singer named Enrique Martinez. It wasn't until he earned a record deal with Fonovisa that he told his father and mother of his aspirations. Then he flew to Toronto, where no one knew him and he could concentrate just on music, to record for five months.
His debut, Enrique Iglesias, sold more than a million copies in its first three months on store shelves (he earned his first gold record in Portugal in a scant seven days). To date, the album has sold more than seven million units worldwide. He followed in 1997 with Vivir, which broke into the U.S. pop Top 40 and has enjoyed global sales of more than five million discs. The album also launched his first world tour, a critically acclaimed road trip of 78 venues, including 50,000+ seat stadiums, in 16 countries (19 arenas in the U.S.). His second world tour, with more than 80 performances in support of Cosas Del Amor (1998), was the first ever sponsored by McDonald's.
In a mere three years, Enrique had sold more than 13 million albums, becoming the biggest-selling Spanish-language artist in the world. The U.S. was his biggest market: Enrique Iglesias and Vivir are each RIAA-certified platinum, with Cosas Del Amor gold and nearing platinum. Each also charted at #1 on the Latin charts for several weeks. The singles "Si Tu Te Vas," "Por Amarte," "Experiencia Religiosa," "Trapecista," "No Llores Por Mi," "Enamorado Por Primera Vez," "Solo En Ti," "Miente," "Esperanza" and "Nunca Te Olvidare" went #1 Latin in the U.S. (and #1 in 18 other countries too). In total, Enrique has charted 16 #1 songs on the Billboard Latin chart, more than any other artist in history.
Each album was also Grammy nominated for Best Latin Pop Performance, winning once for Enrique Iglesias. He was honored as 1996's Billboard Artist of the Year and won Billboard's Album of the Year for Vivir, four American Music Awards, several World Music Award, eight Premio Lo Nuestro Awards, two ACE Performer of the Year Awards, and ASCAP songwriter awards in both 1996 and 1997.
In 1999, the European version of "Bailamos" ("We Dance") quickly became the most-requested radio track in the largest U.S. markets, including Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Dallas. Will Smith caught an Iglesias show in L.A. and asked him to contribute it to the soundtrack for Wild Wild West. That summer, "Bailamos" hit #1 pop and #1 Latin--and Iglesias won another ASCAP award.
Then came Enrique, his first Interscope album and first in English. He had now recorded in four languages--Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and English. In the U.S., the album soared to Top 40 pop and #1 Latin, and went platinum. After being seen by hundreds of millions during the 2000 Super Bowl halftime extravaganza, Iglesias followed with another world tour. In the summer, "Be With You" ("Solo Me Importas Tu") hit #1 pop for three weeks, #2 Latin and #1 Dance as well.
Enrique sold more than four million copies outside the U.S., a spectacular success in countries as diverse as Canada (quadruple platinum), Germany (platinum) and Taiwan (gold). The album, which also included the Top 30 pop "Rhythm Divine" (aka the #1 Latin "Ritmo Total") and a duet with Whitney Houston ("Could I Have This Kiss Forever," also on her 2000 Greatest Hits album), achieved gold or platinum status in 32 countries. A truly international artist, he was named both Favorite Latino Artist at the 2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards and Male International Artist of the Year at the CCTV-MTV Music Honors in Beijing, China.
From Escape, "Hero" hit #3 pop and #1 Adult Contemporary (its Spanish version "Heroe" was #1 Latin). Its music video starring Iglesias with tennis pin-up Anna Kournikova was one of the year's most popular. The album's "Escapar" peaked at #2 Latin and an "Escape Remixes" maxi-single shot to #1 Dance. Escape cemented Enrique's status as a superstar in Europe. Escape and "Hero" were simultaneously the #1 album and single on the U.K. charts...the first time since ABBA that the same artist had occupied both slots at the same time. Quizas followed, topping the Latin charts and even crossing over to the pop side at #12 (the highest ever position for a Spanish album in the U.S.) Its title track was yet another Latin #1 as were "Para Que La Vida" and "Mentiroso." The album won him the 2003 Latin Grammy for Best Pop Album.
Though the music business is currently in the doldrums, Iglesias says it's just the right time for Seven. "That's when you can sound different and catch the public's attention. When my first album came out, there was nothing interesting happening in Latin music and in Mexico the business was in trouble because the peso had dropped 50 percent in value. Then boom, my album sounded so different, it suddenly created a trend. I do believe that times like this can be good for artists willing to be different."
Enrique Iglesias may not be underestimated for long.
"I think that will start to fade with Seven. What won't change is always striving for that great song and that great album. That's the challenge, that's the fun, and that's what will always drive me."
--- from the official Enrique Iglesias website