What to say about Enrique Iglesias? The appropriately titled 7 is his seventh full-length album and his third English release. On this new album, he co-wrote every track and co-produced several. His musical debut was released nine years ago when he was only 20 years old. Iglesias hasn't yet hit 30, and certainly doesn't seem to be slowing down.
But... he's Enrique... son of Julio Iglesias. Enrique's talent should be restricted to sappy ballads and smooth crooning about "making love". "Baby, he's addicted!" Good grief. Is it the very category of shameless pop that makes me and many others scoff at his music and image? What does he need to do to gain credibility? Seven albums in nine years, songwriting ability, relentless touring, a bajillion singles and videos, and a slew of awards including a Grammy, five AMAs, several Billboards, and even a couple of ASCAP songwriting awards -- it all potentially adds up to a respectable and successful recording career. The big question: can Enrique Iglesias be considered a respectable and credible artist?
Let's take a quick look at Mr. Iglesias's career path. In 1995, he left the University of Miami to pursue music. By the end of the year, he'd released Enrique Iglesias on Fonovisa Records. By 1998, he'd released two more Spanish albums on that label and had received two Composer of the Year awards from ASCAP. His English debut on Interscope Records, Enrique, hit stores in 1999 and went Platinum, selling 4 million copies abroad. Escape followed in 2001. Iglesias released Quizas in 2002, an album entirely in Spanish. Quizas charted #1 on the Latin Chart and crossed-over to reach #12 on the pop chart. And finally, in 2003, Iglesias won a Latin Grammy for Best Male Pop Album.
Like I said before... not even 30 yet.
So, the guy's obviously got the experience and know-how to not only enter the music industry, but to stay, for all intents and purposes, on top for upwards of a decade. And his dad is Julio Iglesias. That can't hurt.
Why, then, is it so difficult to admit that Enrique Iglesias is more than a teen heartthrob who'll be gone in a couple years? Well, there's the music to consider. Just because he's produced a lot of it doesn't make it great stuff. Case in point: 7. Coming in at just under 55 minutes, this record flows smoothly from beginning to end, no one song standing out amongst the upbeat and danceable tunes and the slick-but-tender ballads.
"Not in Love" starts with Iglesias's signature whisper asking us, "Are you ready?". Boasting a catchy Latin shuffle that firmly lodges the hook in the listener's memory, the song is an appropriate second single to the melodramatic first single, "Addicted". The beat sounds totally synthetic, however the electric guitar adds a simple and believable rock element to the tune.
This willingness to use such a traditional instrument continues on "The Way You Touch Me". Iglesias's vocals are so thickly layered with and surrounded by his backup vocalists that it's difficult to differentiate his voice from the studio musicians' during the chorus. Again, the beat sounds too much like a drum machine, however the song successfully straddles pop and rock. Iglesias even throws in a few Michael Jackson-esque "Wooo"s for good measure.
"Say It" is a simple ballad, and while Iglesias and his co-writers have succeeded in creating an uncomplicated and melodic hook, the cheese of the instruments takes away from any genuine emotion in his impressive vocals. However, regardless of what's backing him up, he's got pipes.
"California Callin'" is a throw-back to Enrique's "Be with You". This is actually a compliment. Despite what you may think of the genre, that song's throbbing beat and Iglesias's flawless falsetto made it one of the biggest hits of 1999. The same elements are here in "California Callin'". The hook, "California callin' / 20 miles to go, and I don't know / Should I turn around or should I leave you alone? / I don't know", bounces along at a reckless and jubilant pace.
After the single, "Addicted" -- a shameless exhibit of Iglesias's voice as well as his ability to write pop songs with huge "Naaaaa na na naaa na na" choruses -- the album blurs together. A couple songs could be used for aerobics routines, a couple mourn separation from a loved one, and all espouse the joys of freedom and self-expression. Here's something interesting: "Wish You Were Here (with Me)" has the same strumming beat as Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire", and "You Rock Me" appears to be the Iglesias rendition of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long".
7 closes with "Addicto", the Spanish version of the single. The end doesn't come a moment too soon. By the last track, I was having a real hard time with the endlessly peppy rhythms, the synthesizers, and Iglesias's voice. But my irritation doesn't take away from the fact that this man has written and released his seventh unabashed pop album. He's good at what he does, and knows exactly how to make the girls scream -- a definite talent. Whatever people think of his music or his genre, he does pop and does it well. So, there are three questions, really. Is Enrique Iglesias a credible recording artist? Does it matter? And finally, what has Ricky Martin done since "Livin' la Vida Loca"? Hmm? Anybody?