On July 23, Christian book banner Zondervan will broadcast The Latin Hitmaker, a account by Latin ambassador and songwriter Rudy Pérez.
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Pérez, one of Latin music’s best acknowledged and abounding producers, has formed with abounding of Latin pop’s better names — including Luis Fonsi, Alejandro Fernandez, Christian Castro, Christina Aguilera, Los Temerarios and Julio Iglesias — in a career that spans about three decades. Pérez was so appreciably acknowledged in the aboriginal 2000s that he was Billboard’s Hot Latin Advance Ambassador of the Year for four afterwards years, and in 2010, he was alleged Billboard’s Ambassador of the Decade for accepting the best top 10 hits on the blueprint amid 2000 and 2010.
Beyond his assignment with Latin acts, Pérez was additionally a cardinal bulk in the movement of English-speaking artists singing in Spanish, bearing aboriginal Spanish-language advance for the brand of Beyoncé and Aguilera, in accession to bearing abounding albums for the brand of Michael Bolton. Pérez additionally produced Natalie Cole’s 2015 En Español album, her aftermost afore her death.
But it’s Perez’s beforehand assignment in that realm, apprenticeship English-speaking singers how to accent in Spanish, that’s best clear-sighted to what the bazaar is today. In this absolute extract from the memoir, Perez accommodation how he formed with Christina Aguilera on her 2000 Spanish-language anthology Mi Reflejo.
The extract beneath begins aback Ron Fair, then-head of RCA, asked Pérez to aftermath Aguilera’s Spanish-language set, afterward the huge success of her admission anthology in 1999.
But there was aloof one issue: Christina was not chatty in Spanish. Speaking and compassionate abundant of a accent to acquaint is one thing, but singing and appropriately interpreting an absolute anthology is actually another. I had my assignment cut out for me, because if she was so focused on able pronunciation, she ability not be able to do what Christina is so amazing at doing—singing like no one else.
After Ron talked with me about the eyes for the album, RCA’s Latin analysis started casting him added producers. At one point in the process, he was at my abode and told me that the abutting morning, at 10:30, he had to go accommodated with addition producer, to whom the characterization was blame him. Alive all too able-bodied how the bold is played, I aloof put the aftereffect in the Lord’s hands. I acquainted no charge to try to advertise myself to Ron or RCA. As with all my projects, if God wants me to assignment with someone, He will accompany it about in His time and His way.
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The abutting morning, by 11:10, Ron was already aback at my house. Surprised, I said, “That was quick. Did you accommodated with the added producer?” Frustrated, he responded, “Yes, but he was all wrong. He wouldn’t apperceive what to do with Christina, and she wouldn’t like him. Rudy, you charge to aftermath this record.” I’m not assertive what discussions transpired amid Ron and the label, but from that point, the back-and-forth with added producers concluded and I was the guy.
Christina would charge to be acceptable to the Latino apple in how she sang the lyrics, and I was activity to do whatever it took to achieve that happen. Because so abundant absorption was on her career at that time, her activity was activity to accommodate the befalling for the American boilerplate music bazaar to see what a Latin absolution could accomplish. Needless to say, there was a abundant accord benumbed on her album, and no one accomplished that added than me.
After we acclimatized on the songs we would be recording, I wrote out all the lyrics phonetically in Spanish. Yes, phonetically. I spelled out every chat the way she would accept to say it, so she could alpha to acclimate the articulate performance. I additionally devised a adjustment to advise her how to cycle her r’s. This created an absurd bulk of added assignment for me and for Christina. Recording an anthology for a above characterization is already an backbreaking and demanding task, and accepting to cross a altered accent on top of aggregate abroad makes for a accurate challenge.
On Christina’s aboriginal few trips to Miami, RCA put her up in a adjacent best hotel. Because she didn’t like actuality abandoned in her auberge room, our oldest son, Chris, 16 at the time and additionally a musician, would go breach with her to accumulate her company. Because of the time they spent blind out together, the two became acceptable friends. We would apprehend belief of them acclimation every distinct account on the allowance account menu. Needless to say, Chris admired it and had so abundant fun with her. And I anticipate she had a lot of fun too. Hey, if you’re affairs millions of records, why not go crazy on allowance account with your producer’s kid, right?
Two Strikes and a Admirable Slam
One day in the studio, we took a abbreviate breach and Christina larboard the room. To bright my head, I absolved over to the admirable piano, sat down, and started to comedy and sing an old Cuban accepted alleged “Contigo en la Distancia” (“With You in the Distance”), a beautiful, addictive carol accounting in the mid-’40s by agreeable fable César Portillo de la Luz. I acutely admired and admired all of his work, but of advance the American admirers acceptable would not apperceive of his songs.
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Unbeknownst to me, Christina had absolved aback into the allowance and over to the piano. I was singing with my eyes closed, so I wasn’t acquainted that she was continuing there, alert intently. As the final ambit faded, she asked, “Rudy, what was that song? It is actually beautiful. What do the lyrics say?” I told her the name and history of the songwriter and explained the acceptation of the lyrics, which are about the affliction of actuality abroad from a admired one.
As I spoke, tears abounding her eyes and she bidding how the admirable words reminded her of her mom and her sister and how abundant she absent them aback she had to be abroad on the road. I could acquaint the song affected her soul, as it had abundance for so abounding years. That affiliation of the affection to a bulletin is what an artisan consistently seeks.
What Christina said abutting absolutely afraid me and created a bind at the aforementioned time. Wiping her eyes, she said, “Rudy, I adulation that song and what the lyrics communicate. I appetite to almanac my own adaptation on this album.” As a ambassador assassin by a above characterization that adapted a bright administration for the project, I befuddled my head. “Christina, ‘Contigo en la Distancia’ is a archetypal adventurous Latin standard. RCA assassin me to actualize a Latin pop anthology that sounds musically and stylistically like your English record. We can’t almanac this. They won’t acquiesce it. They would be bent with me. They ability alike blaze me.”
But to her credit, alike at a actual adolescent age Christina has consistently accepted what she wants as an artist. She was insistent. So I went adjoin my gut and went with her. We abiding a admirable adaptation and, as always, she nailed an absurd articulate estimation of the song.
Sure enough, aloof as I predicted, afterwards I beatific in the final mix of the record, I got a alarm from the label, and they were actual agitated about our including an old standard. I explained the bearings and what had occurred. Christina additionally pushed aback and—long adventure short—fortunately for us all, RCA relented. The clue fabricated it on the final adaptation of the album.
I can’t possibly acquaint the adventure of this activity afterwards including how the affiliation on the almanac came about. My acquaintance Eddie Fernandez at Universal Annal had active a adolescent macho artisan to a development deal. (A development accord is aback an artisan signs with a label, the absorbed actuality to assignment against a almanac contract. Some end in success, while abounding aloof achromatize away, with annihilation anytime materializing.) This adolescent Puerto Rican accompanist was unique, because while he sang in Spanish, his appearance was audibly R&B (rhythm and blues). As anon as I heard him sing, I was all in on this kid. He was phenomenal. I offered to assignment with him in any capacity. Timing-wise, this affiliation began afterwards Christina’s activity had already started.
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I had accounting a song alleged “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido” (“If I Hadn’t Met You”). I planned for the song to be a duet. I had laid bottomward the macho articulate aloof as a adviser for Christina as she formed on her part, alive that aback we landed on the appropriate macho artist, my clue would be replaced.
Wanting the song to be on the almanac and accordant that a affiliation was a abundant abstraction for this project, the characterization started attractive at macho Latino superstars to sing the part. Because so abounding of the above Latin recording artists lived in Miami, the characterization beatific several to my abode to accommodated Christina and sing with her. Because of her absurd success, anybody who was anybody capital to be on the record. (Because they weren’t chosen, I will abstain giving their names.)
After anybody on the account had appear and gone, I asked Christina, “Do you appetite to sing with addition acclaimed or addition who can authority his own with you? You accept such a different style, with your articulate riffs and inflections. These guys are all abundant singers and abundant guys whom I love, but are you activity to accept to acclimate to them, punch aback your own articulate to not outsing them, and bout their performance?” She responded that she capital to be accurate to who she was and sing at her actual best. I said, “Well, the best accompanist for this song is a kid you don’t apperceive yet.” Christina asked, “Who is he?” I replied, “His name is Luis Fonsi.” She said, “Well then, can I apprehend him?”
While Luis’s admission anthology had appear out in 1998 and he’d had success in Latino markets, he was not yet accepted to the American record-buying admirers or to radio. I played her one of Luis’s singles, a song I had accounting blue-blooded “Imagíname Sin Ti” (“Imagine Me Afterwards You”).
When the song ended, Christina said, “Wow! He’s great. I appetite to accommodated him.” As any good, able ambassador should, I had Luis sitting in his car alfresco the house. I alleged him in, and they bound hit it off. We went in the flat and recorded their vocals. And of course, with Christina and Luis actuality the amazing talents they are, the takes were arch and the allure was incredible.
Taken from The Latin Hitmaker by Rudy Pérez. Copyright © 2019 by Rudy Pérez. Used by permission of Zondervan.
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You can pre-order The Latin Hit Maker here.
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