Enrique Iglesias’ ‘Enrique’ Turns 20
Before Rosalía there was Enrique Iglesias, and before Enrique there was his father, Julio. Let’s focus on the Iglesias with the beauty mark and matinee-idol looks, the one who rose to global renown during the Latin music boom of 1999. In the ’90s, Enrique was still trying musically to stretch beyond the shadow of his Spanish singer-songwriter father—one of the most commercially prosperous artists ever.
Then came the younger Iglesias’ crossover triumph by way of his single “Bailamos,” off the soundtrack to the Will Smith movie Wild Wild West. The predominantly English-language track carried the singer from Madrid to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. With its seductive chorus and flamenco-inspired music video, the track set the stage for Iglesias to become an international sex symbol and superstar.
In 1999, when it came time to produce Enrique, his first-ever English-language album, the singer brought in the dream team that penned and produced “Bailamos.” (The song would also be included on Enrique.) The studio trio—songwriters Paul Barry and Mark Taylor and producer Brian Rawling—was best known for Cher’s smash hit “Believe.” This move would prove key to making Iglesias a household name. From the now-multiplatinum cadences of “Rhythm Divine” to an iconic collaboration with the late Whitney Houston, Enrique helped define Y2K’s Latin explosion.
Iglesias’ post-breakup anthem “Be With You” helped listeners dance through the pain and quickly garnered him his second No. 1 Billboard chart placement. More vulnerable ballads like “I Have Always Loved You” provided a contrast to the album’s uptempo tracks like “Oyeme,” and highlighted Iglesias’ vocal range.
Famed music executive, and then Interscope Records chairman, Jimmy Iovine understood the unprecedented crossover potential of Spanish-speaking musicians and connected Iglesias to a legend he admired, Bruce Springsteen. Iglesias recorded his interpretation of the Springsteen track “Sad Eyes” and doubled down on weighty endorsements by tapping photographer and filmmaker David LaChapelle for the single’s erotic audiovisual.
The music video, a tale of sexual fantasy-turned-reality featuring a porn star, brought some controversy, and Universal Music shelved LaChapelle’s work. Nevertheless, the momentum of the lustful track wasn’t hindered: Iglesias released a Spanish version of the song titled “Más Es Amar,” one of the three Spanish-language offerings on the crossover record.
Creative choices like these, plus Iglesias’ ability to push the envelope lyrically, made him a sensation. When he sang, on “Oyeme,” “Under the influence of your perfume/There is nothing that I wouldn’t do/Let me keep you up all through the night,” Iglesias showed how he’d mastered the art of saying enough without doing too much.
Even so, more wholesome soundscapes achieved popular success just the same. The romantic song “I’m Your Man” played through beautifully a couple tracks ahead of Enrique’s sole collaboration, “Could I Have This Kiss Forever,” featuring Houston. The duet (and its amorous music video) remains a standout moment, and the generation-defining vocalist went on to add the song, written by Diane Warren, to her compilation Whitney: The Greatest Hits.
Songs like “You’re My #1” and “Alabao” boasted thoughtful writing and the musical nuts-and-bolts necessary for Iglesias’ cross-genre dominance. The infectious “Ritmo Total” and “No Puedo Mas Sin Ti” offered the singer’s core fans a glimpse of his musical progression in his native tongue.
Enrique not only earned Iglesias his first platinum plaque in the United States, it also helped him gain RIAA recognition in Germany, Canada, Spain, Italy, Poland and beyond. The album’s bilingual hits eliminated borders with melodies that reflected both the progression of Latinx artists of the era and the European tradition of Iglesias’ beloved España.
Today, in total, Iglesias has sold more than 180 million albums worldwide, surpassed 14 billion views on YouTube/VEVO and exceeded 10 million world-tour ticket holders. The singer-songwriter remains one of the most successful bilingual artists of all time—just like his dad.
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