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Finding His Own Voice : Julio’s Son Is the Hottest Newcomer in Latin Pop. But He Isn’t Exactly Following in His Dad’s Footsteps

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Guess what question the hottest newcomer in Latin pop is invariably asked?

Hint: His name is Enrique Iglesias.

“Yeah, all right, I’m Julio’s son,” said Iglesias, 20, during a recent visit to Los Angeles. “But, hey, this is me right here, OK? He is 52, and my world and my music are completely different.”

An easily distracted, hyperactive, talkative heartthrob, the 6-foot-tall singer doodles on a piece of paper during an interview at the Van Nuys office of his record label, Fonovisa, which released his debut album, “Enrique Iglesias,” in September.

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Iglesias wants to hear the questions, but is also diligent about not missing the other conversations taking place in a nearby conference room. In the middle of a question about his formative years, he suddenly explodes into laughter about a joke someone told half an hour ago, then proceeds with the answer.

“I was never spoiled as a child,” he says, speaking in Spanish. “I never had a Ferrari and I never traveled in first class. I was a simple boy. . . .”

According to Iglesias, not even his father knew about his intentions to start a singing career.

“I didn’t want any pressure and I didn’t want an uproar, creating false expectations,” he said. “I wanted to do this for myself and by myself, not because I wanted to be famous.”

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Iglesias began writing songs on his own at home in Miami, eventually collaborating with a friend and recording some demos. Several labels expressed interest, he says, and last December he flew to Los Angeles to sign with Fonovisa. The next morning he was back home. Julio found out four months later, through a third party.

“He was a little shocked, but all he told me was to do it right or not even try it at all,” the younger Iglesias said. “Besides that, so far I haven’t asked him for advice, not a single time.

“Just by observing him I’ve learned all I needed to learn--that as soon as you get famous, the human leeches come to suck your blood, so you better be ready. You don’t have time to know them all well, so you must be able to make an instant conclusion. Beyond that, I want to learn from my own mistakes.”

Even though many sons of Latin pop stars have enjoyed considerable success, none have been able to surpass their parents’ achievements.

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Argentina’s Emmanuel Ortega (son of ‘60s hero “Palito” Ortega, now a politician), Mexico’s up-and-coming Alejandro Fernandez (son of mariachi legend Vicente Fernandez), Cristian Castro (son of actress-singer Veronica Castro) and Spain’s Marcos Llunas (son of Dyango) are only a few of the youngsters who are trying to follow in their parents’ footsteps--with varying degrees of credibility.

While he doesn’t establish himself as an outstanding singer on his debut album, Iglesias shows that he can at least hold his own with a microphone--enough to make it a hit anyway. The album is currently at No. 1 on the Latin charts.

“He will be a superstar in no time,” predicts Seth Briggs, his vocal trainer. One asset: Aside from some trademark Julio inflections and phrasings, his voice does have its own character.

“If my name were Pepe Grillo, you’d never think of Julio Iglesias after hearing my voice,” Iglesias says. “Of course, there are things here and there, because I think my father is the greatest. But my thing is completely different.”

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Mostly written by the singer and friend Roberto Morales, “Enrique Iglesias” was coordinated by the successful Spanish producer-composer Rafael Perez-Botija, who also wrote three of the songs.

“He came up with 20 songs, but I insisted on having at least five songs of mine,” Iglesias said. The album was rounded out by a song written by Chein Garcia and another by Marco Antonio Solis of Los Bukis fame.

Although bilingual, Iglesias is not planning an English-language career right away.

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“I sing English rockers even better than my Spanish ballads,” he said. “If I’m going to succeed, I’ll succeed in any language at any time. But now I was inspired to do this record in Spanish. Then we’ll see.”

As the son of one of the most successful singers ever, Enrique Iglesias is Latin pop’s first son. He knows that helps--but that it isn’t enough.

“You can be the son of the King of the World, but if you are not good, you won’t get anywhere.

“Even my dad--if he makes a bad record, people won’t buy it. I must work as hard as anybody else. But it’s also fair that if I’m successful I get due credit for what I do, not for who I am. The name gives you the opportunity, not the success.”

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