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Enrique's Great Escape

Iglesias is a hero in many languages

November 28, 2001 12:00 AM ET

Enrique Iglesias is not the lovelorn heartthrob he appears to be. In a Toronto hotel room, dressed in a beige Gap sweater and a pair of Levi's, the twenty-six-year-old Spanish-born son of legendary crooner Julio Iglesias prefers zinging one-liners to sentimental chit-chat.

Last week, Iglesias, saw his second English-language album, Escape -- with help from the smash hit "Hero" -- debut at Number Two on the SoundScan chart, behind only Michael Jackson and ahead of the Backstreet Boys. As evident from this interview, he is clearly enjoying his success.

Your album sold second to Michael Jackson when it was released. Do those type of figures mean anything to you?
It's great. It means people are reacting. [Puts on a squeaky voice of mock excitement] "I was this close to beating him" [laughs]. I think it's the long run [that matters], because you can go in the first week and then disappear the second week. [This week, Escape made another strong showing, at Number Four].

Like the title of your album, do you think music will become more of an escape for people, or will they start gravitating more toward more socially and politically motivated songs?
It's good sometimes to escape. But the reason why I named the album wasn't because of September 11th. What I wanted to create in an album was that people could just enjoy it and forget about everything.

When you co-wrote "Hero," it had a different meaning than what it has come to represent since September 11th.
I wrote that song a year and a half ago. It's just a love song. When it came out three weeks before September 11th, the reaction to the song was good. The song talks about helping the one you love. Everybody needs a song like that sometime in their lives.

The fact that it's in a Jeep commercial, does that dilute the meaning that is moving people?
Ahhh, it's OK. I don't really care about it.

Will it pop up anywhere else?
No, they asked me to do more but I said no. It does change the meaning. And to a point, it's too much.

That song looks like it may be forever linked to this moment in time like John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" was to the Vietnam era.
Every day you think, maybe it will start dropping [down the charts], but it starts getting stronger and stronger. And it's crazy when I look at radio, how the reaction has been, and to what point the song has become so powerful. If it makes people feel better, great, then I feel proud.

"I Will Survive" could have the same impact.
Yeah, but I wouldn't put that out as a single -- thinking, "Oh, yeah, we're gonna survive." It talks about a girl going out there and talking s--- about the guy [laughs].

What was the thinking behind releasing a ballad first?
We made that decision at the beginning of August. We said, "It's a beautiful song, and everybody expects us to go with an up-tempo one." We didn't want to go with what people expected. In a way it was a risk.

I hear you hate the "Latin lover" tag that so often describes you.
It's corny as s---. The word "lover" I just think is corny. "He comes from Spain . . ." [makes a masturbatory hand gesture].

Don't do that on TV.
No! [laughs].

But you grew up in America.
I came here when I was seven.

Why did you decide to do your very first album in Spanish?
First of all, the record company I signed with only did Spanish albums.

Did you approach any English-language labels?
Yes, and I got rejected. So whatever they gave me I signed. If they would have given me Chinese I would have signed!

You've recorded in four different languages, -- Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and English -- are you fluent in them all?
Yes, and I speak Turkish.

How did you come to speak Turkish?
Because I took Turkish for eight years. I'm kidding. I only speak Spanish and English. Sorry. I speak a little bit of Italian.

What would you have said if I had said, "Really? I'm Turkish! Let's finish the interview off in Turkish"?
I would have done it [laughs].

Are you working on a Spanish-language album?
Yes, I did a Spanish album at the same time.

When's it coming out?
I don't know. I have it there in my house.

Is it this material but translated?
No, no, completely new songs that I wrote.

What kind of vibe?
Different.

Latin?
What I did in Spanish was pop. People tend to think, "Latino . . . is it salsa?" It's like saying, "Is it English music?" What does English music mean?

So it's a pop record, but you're singing in Spanish.
Yeah. It's musically different but it's what I think falls into that pop category.

Are you delaying it so you can promote this one first?
Yes, so I have some time and I won't go nuts.

When did you find time to film Once Upon a Time in Mexico? [The upcoming film that stars Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Johnny Depp]
About when I finished the album in May. It's a small role but I was there for twenty-eight days.

What is your role?
Antonio Banderas is the lead actor and I'm his friend, and I help him rescue the President of Mexico. He's kind of like a stud. He's the kind of guy who sings in bars because we're like mariachi gunfighters, and we kind of do anything for money. He's the kind of guy who makes women fall in love with him when he's singing in bars and all he cares about is the money. Once he has them, he just takes their money and doesn't give a s---.

That's not like you in real life?
No [laughs].

Any love scenes with Salma?
There's one love scene with Antonio . . . No, there's no love scenes. I'm not the lead actor. I'm sure he has love scenes.

Will you ever collaborate with your father?
The day I do it, it'll be because it's more of an emotional thing. I won't do it to sell records. I would have to have that right song. I have to write that song that would go perfectly.

Would you want to write with him?
Yes, I'd want to write with him. [Pauses] It would be kind of weird to write with my father. I don't know.

What else do you do besides music?
That's all I do. That's all I have time to do. You really have to have time for nothing else. I end up playing in a different city every single day. What would I have time for?

How do you make the hotel room home?
I put on a red light, I put a pole in the middle and pack it up with strippers [laughs]. No, I'm kidding. As long as the bed is comfortable and the bathroom is clean, I don't care.

Do you get misinterpreted a lot when you make such jokes?
Oh yeah, sometimes. I don't care. I find it funny. I gotta have fun with it. Can you imagine answering the same questions every single day? Boy, if I don't have fun with it, then I would go nuts.

What's the most outrageous misinterpretation?
They said I was a virgin once, and that did bother me.

You and Britney. Don't you two have a pact that if you are still virgins by the time you're thirty you'll get together?
Yeah, I should [laughs]. She's a cutie.

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