Saturday, May 1, 2010
Luis Enrique: The Artist Currently Known as the Prince..of Salsa
Salsa music, like salsa, needs the right ingredients: sleek production, hot Latin beats, and a firey, passionate singer to bring the sexy lyrics to life. Since his 1987 debut with the saucy “Amor de Medianoche” (“Midnight Love”), Luis Enrique has brought his unique brand of salsa to the table with classics such as “Mi Mundo” (“My World”), “Lo Que Paso Entre Tu Y Yo” (“What Happened Between You and Me”), and “Darte Un Chance” (“To Give You a Chance”). Now the “Principe de la Salsa” (“Prince of Salsa”) has returned with Ciclos (“Cycles”) , and it's first single “Yo No Se Manana” (“I Don't Know Tomarrow”) has put Enrique back on top.
“Yo No Se Manana” is one of this year's winners for Best Tropical Song for the Latin Grammys and Ciclos has garnered the award for Best Salsa Album. With a total of four, overall, Latin Grammy nominations under his belt for “Yo No Se Manana” and Ciclos, Enrique's career is hotter than ever, something that humbles the star. “It's a privilege to be nominated by my peers and by my friends, thats something that you always would like to come at a certain time in your careers, being recognized by the people who do the same work as you do and I'm very grateful for the opportunity that life has given me to come back and come back in such a strong way,” Enrique says on his nominations.
“Yo No Se Manana,” the song of the hour, which Luis Enrique describes as “one of those songs that not only represents who I am and what I think about life, and how I try to live my life everyday. It's a constant reminder how important it is to be in the moment and how important it is to embrace every moment that comes across in your life and that you go through. If there's a song that can give you this sense and essence of who I am, it's probably the most recent one. It's probably “Yo No Se Manana.”
To be nominated for Grammys is one thing, but to for Luis Enrique, there are more important things. “To have the album that I have, have the things that I have, and for the most part and most importantly, have the fans that I have that also have maintained my music alive for the time that I haven't been around musically speaking,” Enrique lists. Before the nominations and awards come the hard work and creative processes for Luis Enrique. “The production itself was very pleasant, simply because Sergio (George) was charge of all that went on,” Luis Enrique says. “It was very different for me to work this for because for the most part I've always been co-producing my albums or producing my albums. But this time we have the best of the best. We have Sergio George. I wanted to give myself a break to enjoy the process of the recording,” Enrique continues.
A long time fan of producer Sergio George, Enrique says, “I always wanted to work with him on a full album, not just a few songs, but a full album. I always had a feeling that if we did that, we would be successful. I don't say success, as we achieved success in this record, but successful because I knew it was gonna be good. “And according to Enrique, the sessions were as energetic and incredible as the music itself. “We were having an incredible time recording, and I think that vibe comes across in the recording.”
The end result? Ciclos, perhaps one of the best salsa albums of the past ten years. Combining heart, soul, and the searing rhythmic heat of salsa, Ciclos, along with it's first single “Yo No Se Manana” have already set the charts on fire. “It's probably the best record I've had in my career. It's cohesive. We have songs that, more than likely, it would have been difficult for any other artist in the salsa genre to pick up, including “Yo No Se Manana.” “Yo No Se Manana” is a pop song, it's totally pop and I knew that I could do something with it, but never came close to the idea that it was going to be so successful, and so fast, as it has been,” Enrique says.
While he is a songwriter, Luis Enrique does perform material not written by him, and to select those tracks, there is a special process. “I think that for the most part, are songs I pick up for a reason. I never pick up songs just because I just like them, I feel that in order for me to convey the idea and the message behind any song, even if it's a love song, it has to be something that I truly believe in,” he explains.
Like any artist, picking songs that would fairly represent him in the future is a difficult task for Mr. Enrique. Just a few: “'Asi La Vida' (“That's The Way Life Is”), I can give you 'Darte Un Chance,; 'Mi Mundo' obviously is a song that represents who I am. And definitely “Yo No Se Manana,” Enrique says.
While his own solo career has spawned many hits, Luis Enrique is also known for working with other artists, including Gloria Estefan and Ricky Martin, behind the scenes. “Working for Mi Tierra (“My Land), especially the track “Mi Tierra” where I played percussion in the track was a great experience. It was so good to hear “Mi Tierra” and still hear “Mi Tierra “today. It's such an amazing thing to be part of such a huge song and such a huge record for Gloria (Estefan) and Emilio (Estefan), Enrique says. “In terms of Ricky, I've had the privilege of working on many of his tracks, especially at the beginning of his huge success in the United States like on “Maria” and many other tracks we worked on. It's always a privilege,” Enrique says. “ I've had a great time. I've had the opportunity to work with many artists; Collective Soul, Foreigner, Cheyanne, Franco de Vita, many artists as a musician and it's always been a joy for my to be able to do those songs, Enrique continues.”
Staying musically relevant is one thing, but having older material that remains fresh and new is another. Many 80's salsa acts have fallen through the cracks of time, but like Jerry Rivera, Luis Enrique's older material sounds just as good today as it did then. “In terms of sound, you can't really pretend not to be dated. It was a different sound in the 80's as it is today in this new millennium. What I try to do for the most part, we do songs that can stand time, but in terms of the arrangement, in terms of how I sing the songs, in terms of what the musical view of it all is.” Enrique finds inspiration in other acts that remain fresh over 40 years after their peak. “You know you hear the Stevie Wonder in the 1960's and 70's and you hear it today, it still sounds great man. And what I mean by sounding great I'm not talking about the sound. It's about the whole concept of the music. How he was able to be ahead of his time without really trying and just by doing music. That's what I try for the most part in my recordings, especially in songs that I know are gonna be very important like “Yo No Se Manana,” he explains.
With so much success as a solo artist, it's hard to imaging what Luis Enrique would be if he weren't a superstar. It's hard to imagine the “prince of salsa” being an television psychic or something else. “My thing was to be able to play music, to create music, to write music. If I hadn't gone this far as a solo artist, I would've still probably been a musician and just getting better at my craft like I still do today.”
Even after millions of albums sold and endless classics produced under his belt, Enrique still has the fire inside, as hot as the music he makes, to make better records. For Enrique, his goals are to “try to get better everyday. For me it's a challenge to do an album every year or every two years, to try to sound and get better at it. I'm never totally satisfied for what I do. I feel happy, I feel content, but I'm not, I won't be able to say 'wow, man I really, I have excelled all my expectations.”
It's been that drive inside of Mr. Enrique that has kept him on top of his game since the 1980's. What's next for the prince of salsa? In his own words, “Yo no se manana! So I don't know man. I'm just gonna write it, I'm gonna write the moment, I'm gonna live the moment.”