Like fellow Latin heartthrob Ricky Martin (his most obvious rival), Enrique Iglesias wasn’t satisfied with being a huge star in the Spanish-speaking world, so he switched to English lyrics and struck gold. In fact, Iglesias’ popularity has outpaced Martin’s, and he currently stands as the world’s top-selling Latin artist. Of course, the cost of cracking the English-speaking market is that there’s not much that is “Latin” about Iglesias’ music anymore. The son of suave Spanish singer Julio Iglesias admits as much on his official website, saying, “I’m Latin and always will be but my music is not. Even when I sang only in Spanish, it was still pop.”
Unlike the American-born Christina Aguilera, who struggled to learn Spanish so she could record an album for the Latin market, Iglesias isn’t out to prove his authenticity as a “Latin” artist. What he does seem to want to prove with his second English-language album, Escape, is his artistic merit. Even the cover artwork shamelessly says as much: In a couple of photos, Iglesias, in a ski cap that is distinctly more Badly Drawn Boy than Latin lover, helms the controls in the studio; in others, he holds a guitar, again in aforementioned ski cap. It’s worth noting, too, that Iglesias is listed as co-writer on all of the album’s tracks and is the “executive producer”.
According to comments on his website, Iglesias sees the album as a real risk-taker, claiming that it incorporates his ‘80s guitar rock influences, such as Dire Straits and U2. To give credit where credit is due, there are a few interesting musical twists on Escape. Some heavy guitar turns up on “Don’t Turn Off the Lights”, and the high-pitched screams and female vocals that pop up midway through the song are flat-out surprising. That’s about as far as the “rock” influences go, but there are other musicianly flourishes on other tracks, such as the unusual voice-distorting synth effects on “Escape” and “If the World Crashes Down”. Also to his credit, Iglesias incorporates a more European-flavored dance sensibility into his music. The modernized disco of “Love to See You Cry” is a far cry from anything American-born heartthrobs have turned out. Aside from a few Latin guitar flourishes, “Cry” almost resembles some of Robbie Williams’ Sing When You’re Winning material, as does “I Will Survive”, which is sadly not, as the title implies, a Gloria Gaynor cover.
Unlike so many other heartthrob vehicles, Escape is refreshingly short on the sappy ballads. “Maybe” and “Hero” are the only offenders, but it’s pretty telling that Iglesias’ label has chosen the latter as the lead single, overlooking the fun, spirited dance numbers. Perhaps they don’t have as much confidence in the material as Iglesias does, but they needn’t worry—it’s not as risky as Iglesias seems to think. Rather, Escape is pretty standard dance music with lots of clever touches, enthusiasm, and commercial potential.