REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/13/2009
The movie Lambada let us all know what we were in for. Not to mention that infernal song “Macarena…” Yep, it was the Latin invasion of 1999 and nothing could have made Gloria Estefan happier. Suddenly, we had Jennifer Lopez (who starred in an earlier Latina biopic Selena), former Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera, and the hotter-than-hot sensation who was “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” Ricky Martin. Hell, with so many Latin acts on the radio, the Academy even started the Latin Grammys. In retrospect, that was overdoing it just a tad. As with all trends, the Latin music trend would be a short-lived one.
When it came to the clubs at the time, no Latin artist was more popular than Julio Iglesias’s son Enrique. This guy had an edge to his personality, and it was clear that he wanted to be known as his own man. The Iglesias name would carry with it a looming accusation of nepotism, which is probably why he had his undue share of critics. You couldn’t really compare him to his father, though, because he had his own distinct singing voice that sounded nothing like Julio’s.
Enrique’s English speaking debut Enrique had all the safe Latin elements in place, from the romantic Spanish guitars to the sweeping strings and dewy synths. If Harlequin romance novels ever needed a soundtrack, they needed to look no further than this album. The bold anthems that bookend the package, “Rhythm Divine” and the #1 hit “Bailamos,” are perhaps the most memorable cuts that you’ll find here. My pick for best tracks have got to be “Be With You” and “Oyeme,” with the former becoming a second #1 single on both the pop chart and club play chart.
Whitney Houston brings out the vocalist in Enrique with the sterling duet “Could I Have This Kiss Forever.” When he attempts to sing ballads solo, however, Enrique shows his limitations. His misplaced inflections and earnest plaintive pleas inspire giggles rather than admiration. These mistakes would be corrected on future releases, though only his most loyal fans (the squealing teenage girls) would be along for the ride from 2001 on. Try as he did, Enrique couldn’t maintain his popularity in the US, though they loved what he did overseas.
As debuts go, Enrique is a cleanly produced product, one that was designed to attract an audience. Therefore, there are no risks taken, making it the most predictable album Enrique has ever recorded. His English would improve on the follow-up Escape, which is also a more effective artistic statement than Enrique by a mile. Enrique must have been caught off guard with the insurgence of other Latin artists flooding the marketplace in 1999, making it even harder to stand out and compete. His father’s shadow would be miniscule in comparison, and there’d be plenty of other blame to go around.