November 29, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST


Current Status
In Season
Enrique Iglesias
World, Pop
We gave it a B+

The pop public may be tiring of crossover Latin heartthrobs by now, and that would be too bad for Enrique Iglesias. The monstrously popular son of crooner Julio is poised for U.S. domination with a slick, undemanding self-titled record that gently sambas its listeners over to hit radio’s ”isla bonita,” that musical neverland of breezy tropical rhythms and sinuous Latin guitar touches.

Long established as ”el rey del mundo” in Latin America, Europe, and the Spanish-speaking U.S., Iglesias doesn’t have Ricky Martin’s goofy supermodel charm or Marc Anthony’s solid salsa credentials. What he does have is an alluring voice, rich and controlled, with appealing scratched-up edges, and a masterful sense of musical balance.

The modern-pop-to-south-of-the-border-trad ratio is impeccable throughout Enrique. Pensive, swooning Latin guitar underscores vows of undying ”amor,” like the fast-paced, soft-rock ”I’m Your Man,” and combines with castanets and a sturdy salsa beat for the hit ”Bailamos.” ”I Have Always Loved You” is Spanish in mood but not execution — its melody has a classic Latin rhythm absent from the instrumental support.

As with most crossover cuties, Iglesias includes Spanish-language versions of three songs — ”I’m Your Man,” the more Mediterranean ”Rhythm Divine,” and his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ”Sad Eyes.” But such is his instinct for the pleasurably poppy, mid-tempo love song that the straight-ahead adult-contemporary radio offerings dovetail smoothly with their Latinized content — they’re heartfelt and romantic, making dance-floor demands somewhere between a samba and a sway.

”You’re My #1” overcomes its silly title with earnest lyrics and convincing singing; even Diane Warren’s gloppy ”Could I Have This Kiss Forever” (with Whitney Houston) benefits from Iglesias’ slight rasp and hint of an accent — soft D’s, a lisping Castilian S. If audiences aren’t all samba’d out from a bon-bon-shaking summer, Iglesias may find gold in the middle of the road.

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