Growing up in Cuban Miami, I was exposed not just to Latin American pop music but also artists from the “mother country” across the pond, and I’ve more or less kept up with my little Spanish Europop habit over the years, from Mocedades to Mecano to Melendi. The quality is fully as good and diverse as anything that comes out of London, L.A., or Nashville – and every once in a while there’s even a novelty breakout on the Anglo charts (anybody remember the absurdly infectious Aserejé, aka “The Ketchup Song”, from 2006?).
Anyhow, in addition to keeping up with the charts, whenever I fly Iberia, I always like to listen to the Spanish pop channel to see what’s current. And I thought the music fans out there might be interested to get a glimpse of what’s bangin’ on the pop music front in the land of Enrique Iglesias.
Pablo Alborán This 25-year-old started performing as a kid with a flamenco band in a restaurant in his home town Malaga, had great success promoting his songs on YouTube, released his first album in 2011, and has been nominated for three Latin Grammys. The song below, Solamente Tú (Only You), hit number one in Spain back in 2010 and made a lot of noise in Latin America and even the States as well. Kid’s definitely an up-and-comer.
Amaral A Zaragoza-based pop rock duo, with Eva Amaral doing the warbling and Juan Aguirre banging away at the guitar, they’ve been in the game since the early 1990s and are one of the most successful Spanish groups of all time. After several years without a new album, they’re planning to release one later this month, from which the song below is from, called Ratonera (Mousetrap).
David Bisbal Hailing from Almería, Andalusia, this 35-year-old took the TV-reality-show route, coming to the national attention in 2006 as a runner-up on a show called Operación Triunfo (Operation Triumph). and has become one of Spain’s most successful singers internationally, won several Latin Grammys, and has done duets with the likes of Rihanna and Jessica Simpson.
La Oreja de Van Gogh I admit, Latin-Grammy-winning Van Gogh’s Ear is among my special favourites. And despite its kinda creepy moniker, the sound of this San Sebastián group of four chaps fronted by a female vocalist (they’re on their second one now) is sweet and smooth. Since 1996 they’ve cut six albums, of which my favourite is 2003’s Lo Que Te Conté Mientras Te Hacías la Dormida (What I Told You While You Pretended to Be Sleeping). But nostalgia aside, here’s one of Oreja’s latest hits, El Primer Día del Resto de Mi Vida (The First Day of the Rest of My Life):
Leiva Aka José Miguel Conejo Torres, hailing from Madrid, is the 34-year-old former leader of the band Pereza. Since 2010 he’s had a pretty respectable solo career, with one album in 2012 and another this year. Check out this hit, Terriblemente Cruel, from the latest one:
Xoel López Kind of an alternative cat, this one – a bearded, bespectacled Galician from A Coruña who used to go by the stage name Deluxe, started out in 2001 and in the years since has released a half-dozen albums – the first two of which were actually in English. Here’s one of his more recent hits, Tierra (Earth) – run, Joey, run!
Love of Lesbian Don’t you just love the name? And the thing is, the six members of this indie band out of Catalonia (photo at top) are all blokes. They got their start in 1999 and have cut nine albums, with their last, La Noche Eterna. Los Días Vividos (Eternal Night. Days Lived), hitting number one in Spain in 2012. Get a load of this strange track (and even stranger video) from that one, Si Tú Me Dices Ben, Yo Digo Affleck (You Say Ben, I Say Affleck):
Malú A 32-year-old pop diva from a famous flamenco dynasty (her dad is singer Pepe de Lucía and her uncle the late guitarist Paco de Lucía), her real name is María Lucía Sánchez Benítez. She’s not only recorded more than a dozen albums but has collaborated with a who’s who of pop musicdom in Spain and occasionally beyond, with the likes of Tony Bennett. This is a catchy number from her latest, Sí, called A Prueba de Ti (So Over You):
Dani Martín A 34-year-old Madrid native who previously had a stage, TV, and film career and was also one of the principals in a successful pop band, El Canto del Loco (Song of the Nutter). Since the group broke up in 2010 so its members could pursue solo careers, that’s what the dude has been doing, and doing pretty darn well at it. Here’s his latest single, Emocional.
Melendi Full name Ramón Melendi Espina, 36, he’s from Oviedo, Asturias and before getting into the music scene spent some time as a race car driver and a pro footballer. He’s got a new album coming out in November 2014 called Un Alumno Más (Just Another Student). Here’s one of the hits from his last album; it’s called Lágrimas Desordenadas (Messy Tears).
Pitingo There’s a significant subgenre of Spanish pop that’s flamenco flavoured, and one of my favourite exemplars is this half-gypsy 34-year-old (real name Antonio Manuel Álvarez Vélez) from Huelva who melodically melds flamenco and soul (sometimes dubbed soulería). Fun fact: before he went pro as a musician in the mid ’00s, his day job was as a baggage handler at Barajas Airport! Following is a selection from his latest album Cambio de Tercio (Changing the Subject):
Russian Red Indie artist Lourdes Hernández took her stage name from a colour of lipstick and sings pretty much exclusively in English. Born in Madrid, she’s 29, has been performing since 2007, mostly in a folk style but in her latest album, Agent Cooper, experimenting more with alt-rock. Here’s one of her most famous songs, Cigarettes, from the 2009 album I Love Your Glasses:
Vetusta Morla Perhaps Spain’s foremost alt-rock group was formed in 1998 by six guys from the outskirts of Madrid and named after a turtle character Morla the Ancient One in the young adult fantasy The Neverending Story. Forceful and intense, they’ve been making plenty of inroads abroad, too – and not just in Spanish-speaking countries; in 2012 the lads sold out London’s Coronet Hall. Have a look/listen to the title track of their latest album, La Deriva (Drift):
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