Spanish singers and bands have always caused a commotion in non-Spanish speaking countries such the United States, Canada, Australia and England. In fact, the impact of Spanish music has been so great that many English-speaking artists have released at least one song, if not entire albums, in Spanish, including Bon Jovi, Roxette, Madonna, and others. However, this site is solely devoted to past and present Spanish and Latin American singers and musicians. Needless to say that pop music in Spanish as we know it today was greatly influenced by Spanish singers such as Raphael, Julio Iglesias, Dyango, Braulio, Victor Manuel, Miguel Bose; and more recently by bands like Mecano, Heroes del Silencio, Hombres G and La Oreja de Van Gogh. Latin America has also produced its fair share of best-selling artists though, the most important coming from Argentina (Sandro, Soda Stereo, Fito Paez, Sui Generis, Enanitos Verdes, Fabulosos Cadillacs), Mexico (Jose Jose, Luis Miguel, Mana) and Colombia (Aterciopelados, Shakira).
The Original Boy Band
Much has been said, both good and bad, about such acts as the New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and the like, but the one that arguably started not only the boy band trend but also opened the US market to Latin pop music, was a Puerto Rican group called Menudo, which was formed in 1977 and only recently disbanded in 2009 (albeit with none of the original members). Furthermore, this band kick-started the career of Ricky Martin and spawned a successful spin-off called MDO. The menuditis was comparable to the Beatlemania, as they branched out into movies and could even afford their own private jet. They also appeared in many American shows, including but not limited to The Love Boat.
The Latin Frank Sinatra
As has been hinted, in order to stay current, Menudo had a revolving door policy in which members would be substituted when they turned 16 or when puberty ran amok on their bodies. This means that most members are nameless and faceless, but at least one is easily recognized today, even if people don’t know he was in Menudo: the aforementioned Ricky Martin. However, when it comes to solo artists, Luis Miguel is still at the top of the game. Born in Puerto Rico to a Spanish singer and an Italian actress, this Mexican crooner is a bonafide superstar in Mexico, Spain and beyond. Even though he has never been known for crossing over to the English Language, as most of his peers have, Luis Miguel is the only Latin performer to have two Spanish-language records reach platinum level in the United States, the only Latin artist to be featured in the Sinatra: 80 Years My Way show and the first to be awarded a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Although he has released a bunch of successful up-tempo hits, Luis Miguel has also gained a lot of recognition thanks to his romantic ballads, especially his Romances series of albums that breathed new life into many well-loved boleros, as well as tangos, rancheras and other genres. This kind of effort was imitated but not duplicated but lesser artists like Charlie Zaa.
Spanish Rock Bands
Fortunately, Spanish-language music is not limited to singers who do not play any instruments nor write their own songs, and is also graced with many bands from both sides of the Atlantic. Spain and Latin America have a sort of England-USA relationship when it comes to rock’n'roll, with many seminal European acts that have influenced their counterparts in the New World. Essential in all of these proceedings is the Movida Madrilena countercultural movement that occurred mostly in Madrid (but also Barcelona, Bilbao and Vigo) after the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Among many art forms, the Movida also affected the music scene, allowing many bands to freely exploit their creativity, including Radio Futura, Nacha Pop, Siniestro Total, Golpes Bajos, and more. Contemporary to, but not usually associated with the Movida, Spanish band Mecano, creatively driven by brothers Nacho and Jose Maria Cano and led by singer Ana Torroja, was one of the biggest breakthroughs to the Latin American market. The combination of songs written from a male perspective being sung by an angelic female voice gave it an appeal that has been hardly been matched by any other band with a similar line up.
When it comes to Latin America though, one of the most representative bands is without a doubt Soda Stereo. Paralleling the Movida Madrilena acts, Soda Stereo was formed in 1982 right after the end of the Falklands War that signaled the downfall of the Argentinian dictatorship. Both trend-setting and experimental at different times, this band is one of the few legendary Latin American rock acts, if not the only one. Going from overwhelming success to band break-ups to massive reunion tours to a stroke that has kept lead singer Gustavo Ceratti in a coma for severals months, this band’s history is truly the stuff legends are made of.