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 its Latinized content—it’s heartfelt and romantic, making dancefloor 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. B+