After conquering the Spanish-language market, Chayanne is chasing pop
stardom in English as well
BY JORDAN LEVIN
You'd think Chayanne has everything he could ever want.
He's got money, fame, good looks and a loving family. He's made a career
of recording hit records, performing before soldout arenas and starring
in movies and television shows.
But still, he admits, two things elude him:
One is knowing the sex of the child soon to follow his first son.
``We don't know if it's a boy or a girl,'' he says, smiling his disarming,
gleaming white smile. ``In every single photo the legs are crossed so
we can't see. I think it doesn't want us to know.''
His other desire is crossover stardom in North America. Despite starring
in a Hollywood film (1998's Dance With Me opposite Vanessa L. Williams);
despite surreally perfect square-jawed and square-shouldered good looks;
despite sexy moves and abundant charisma; despite an energetic dance-pop
musical style that has yielded hit after hit; despite all that, he has
not been able to crack the consciousness of the English-speaking public.
Toward this end, he is working on two songs in English with Rick Wake,
a producer who has helped the likes of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. Although
they didn't make it onto his latest album, Simplemente, Chayanne says
it's just a matter of time.
``You have to go little by little,'' he says. ``But there's a very large
Latin community and musical culture in the U.S., and it's going to infiltrate
the rest of the culture bit by bit until it explodes. I think what we'll
start to see is an
international [Latin] sound that will be listened to like any other.''
For Chayanne, the ultimate goal, then, is to grasp that brightest of golden
rings -- the American pop market.
``Because I want everything,'' Chayanne explains in Spanish. ``Because
I want to keep going up in my career. Because I always have a new goal.
Because I love, adore, am fascinated by what I do. Because I don't want
to lose what I have.''
And for the practical reason that where America looks, so does the world.
``This is the country that sets the standards,'' Chayanne says. ``People
follow what happens here in music or in movies.''
As he sits upstairs at Big Time photo studios on South Beach, publicists
and record company flacks swirl around him while impatient journalists
line up for their chance to enter the curtained alcove where Chayanne
awaits them like a crown prince.
A consummate pop creature, Chayanne has been onstage since age 10, when
he joined the boy group Los Chicos in his native Puerto Rico under his
given name, Elmer Figueroa. By 17, he had adopted the name Chayanne --
borrowed from a popular English-language TV show his parents watched during
a brief time living in
New York -- and embarked on a solo career that included singing and soap
And last year, when U.S. audiences oohed and ahhed for Ricky and Enrique,
Chayanne should have been there beside them. He had the big-screen visibility
and he'd gathered some crossover attention in the early 1990s when he
appeared in Playgirl magazine and on People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful
He also appeared on TV with Regis and Kathy Lee and made a commercial
for a soft-drink company that received numerous prime-time airings on
But last year he was off touring Europe and Latin America in support of
his album Atado A Tu Amor (Tied To Your Love), forcing him to decline
offers to meet with
Hollywood producers of the film Woman on Top and of another project with
Musically, the decision proved wise, as Atado sold 3 million copies worldwide,
according to Sony, making it Chayanne's most successful album yet. Yo
Te Amo (I Love You), the single from the current album, is No. 1 in radio
airplay and fourth in sales, according to Billboard.
Sony shares Chayanne's goal of crossover success.
``He is one of the superstars on the label,'' said Jorge Pino, senior
vice president for Sony Latin. ``He is an act that is going to go very
fast to the next level, and he's a big priority for us because we know
he can deliver a lot more.
``He's strong in Europe, so now the U.S. market is a natural next step.
I think it's an evolution that has to happen. He's ready.''
Chayanne says his family keeps him from being too consumed by his career,
which is why he works so hard to keep his two worlds separate. Ask him
how long he's been married, and he just smiles and says ``long enough.''
Does his wife call him Chayanne? ``Sure,'' he says. ``And my love. My
love. My heaven,'' he says with a laugh.
``I don't talk about my family,'' he finally says, ``because I want them
to be free. If my son goes to play in the park, I want him to be left
alone. If my wife goes to the supermarket, she shouldn't have to do an
interview. They have a normal life, and that's how I want it.
``I'm the pop singer -- that's my work, but that's it. The artist is in
public and is for the public. . . . The artist is out there.
``The man with a family, he's here.''
Thanks to Barbara! Gracias a Barbara!