Chayanne Bucks Crossover Trend
Feature stories on artists and the music they make. October 12, 2000.
By Leila Cobo
You could say Chayanne's crossover was ahead of its time. In 1998, before
Ricky Martin made his landmark Grammy debut and before Marc Anthony did
an HBO special, Chayanne was starring in a major motion picture, "Dance
With Me." He was also singing the theme song, "You Are My Home," with
co-star Vanessa Williams.
An English-language album would have appeared to be the natural next step,
but instead, Chayanne put out "Atado A Tu Amor" -- a Spanish album-a mere
month later in what was conceived as a parallel release to match the film.
It was a successful strategy that yielded sales of over 3 million units
worldwide, according to Chayanne's label, Sony.
But the notion of a crossover recording simmered, and this year, it was
said, Chayanne would record in English.
Not so. The Puerto Rican singer's new album, "Simplemente," due Oct. 24,
is entirely in Spanish, save for a couple of Spanglish tracks that will
be included in the European release. That a major star who already has
a foothold in the English market would decline to record in that language
in a climate that is ripe for it may be puzzling to some. However, it
underscores the confidence the artist has in the Latin market and in his
burgeoning following in Europe and Asia.
"I wanted to record this album in English, but you have to go with the
toys that are available to you," says Chayanne. "Originally, the album
was going to include four or five tracks in English and six or seven in
Spanish. As time went by, I thought it wasn't here nor there. I ended
up going toward Spanish, because in Latin America, Europe, and Spain,
they like me to sing in Spanish."
Indeed, prior to being released in the U.S. or Latin America, "Simplemente"
was released in Spain Sept. 18, where it sold over 150,000 copies during
its first week, according to Chayanne's management.
The album has garnered strength from "Boom Boom," an infectious dance
single issued in Europe during the summer, where it reached the top 20
on several charts. The song is included on "Simplemente" as a bonus track.
But in this part of the continent, the single is "Yo Te Amo," a power
ballad written by Chayanne's longtime collaborator, writer/producer Estéfano.
The dichotomy of styles simply underscores the duality of Chayanne himself,
who is as equally popular with ballads as he is with the uptempo tunes
utilized to showcase his remarkable dance moves onstage.
"The album has to portray the Chayanne style," says Patty Vega, director
of Chaf Enterprises, which handles Chayanne's career.
"There's the romantic aspect, which, in my opinion, is what sells the
album," Vega says. "And there's the rhythmic aspect, which is what people
want to see in Chayanne. And of course, his Caribbean and tropical influences,
which are his trademark and is what's opening the market for him in Europe,
but in his own language."
Though the 31-year-old Chayanne has been around for 20 years (at the age
of 10, he belonged to kiddie pop group Los Chicos) and has been signed
to Sony since 1987, his incursion into the European market only came in
1998 with "Atado" and the uptempo single "Salomé."
This time around, "Boom Boom" seeks to mimic that success. The song, originally
written in French with a cha-cha-cha beat, was adapted to Spanish by Estéfano,
who's also collaborated on Chayanne's past two albums.
"It's been a progressive responsibility," says Estéfano, who wrote six
tracks on this album vs. four on "Atado" and who describes this disc as
"When I say aggressive, I mean it's far crazier," he says. "I wrote two
standard ballads, the kind that work well for Chayanne. The others were
different genres of rhythmic music that are kind of wild."
But the standard ballads are what break Chayanne in the U.S. marketplace,
and "Yo Te Amo," which was released to radio Sept. 18, has already gone
into regular rotation in stations nationwide.
As for his English-language endeavors, Chayanne has plans to work with
producer Ric Wake -- originally slated for the project -- as well as Diane
Warren, who's already sent a couple of songs, and Desmond Child, whose
bilingual track "Alive" may become one of the singles launched in Europe
and Turkey. A full disc will probably be released next year, says Chayanne.
What comes next could be appearing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"
as well as on television shows in places as far-flung as Turkey and Australia.
"I sense a real desire from his company to see him triumph," says Vega.
"The most amazing thing about our visits to Europe is that people are
truly surprised to see how he dances and how he handles himself onstage.
He represents what is Latin. And Latin things are big now. He will never
turn his back on that market because it's the market that opened
its doors to him and gave him possibilities."
Thanks to Barbara! Gracias a Barbara!