Latin Fever

 Jaci Velasquez? Spanish-language
debut  bows on Sony Discos

by Trisha Hubbs

Jaci Velasquez is diving head-first into the Latin music market. Following on the heels of the recent Latin pop craze that?s hit the U.S., Velasquez released her new Spanish-language album, Llegar a Ti (Sony Discos), Aug. 31. Releasing simultaneously in the U.S. to general and Christian markets, the CD is also planned for release in Mexico and South America in the future.

This album represents a pivotal point in Velasquez? music career, one which could result in major international pop acclaim if Latin listeners respond. It?s an opportunity that follows last year?s complicated negotiations between Velasquez? Christian label Myrrh Records and Sony Discos, a label catering to the Latin music market.

Sony Discos? president, Oscar Lloyd, compares Velasquez to the late Latin superstar Selena and to Celine Dion in her abilities as a performer and vocalist. "She?s young, she?s got a world ahead of her, and we think with the resources that Sony Discos has made available, we can build a very successful Latin music career for her."

"I love challenges, and this is a challenge for me," says Velasquez, who has no plans to leave the Christian music market. "It?s something I?m nervous and very excited about."

Part of the challenge facing Velasquez is the pressure to adjust her standards. "I?m not willing to compromise who I am," she says. "First of all, before anything, I?m a Christian and then after that, everything else follows."

John Lannert, who covers Latin music for Billboard, believes there is plenty of room for Velasquez in the Latin market simply because she is unique. "There are very few female solo artists that have really made much of an impact. It?s (also) a good move for Sony from the standpoint that Christian music or spiritual music is definitely starting to gain popularity in the Latin market."

But Lannert also feels Velasquez must aggressively invest time and energy in her Hispanic audience. "She certainly has the vocal talent to make it big in the Latin market," says Lannert. "It?s just a matter of if she?s got the time to go out and visit all the radio and TV stations and properly promote her CD like she does on the Christian side."

While Sony Discos is not marketing Velasquez as a Christian artist, they aren?t obscuring her beliefs either. Llegar a Ti features five brand new songs as well as Spanish versions of six tracks previously released on her U.S. Christian albums?songs like "DeCreer En Ti" ("On My Knees) and "Al Mundo Dios Amo" ("God So Loved"). The title track, "Llegar a Ti," is saturating Spanish radio stations and is also being played on stations around the U.S. in Miami, San Antonio, Los Angeles and New York.

"I would love to be the (Latin) artist whom parents can buy for their kids and know that what they are listening to is totally and utterly pure and good for them," says Velasquez.

Velasquez is scheduled to head back to the studio next spring to record her third Christian album with Myrrh, which should be in stores by fall.

"Originally published in the October 1999 issue of CCM magazine, copyright 1999, CCM Communications. Reprinted with permission. For CCM subscription information, please call: 800/333-9643."