Born Luis Miguel Gallego Basteri on April 19, 1970, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Addresses: Record company--WEA International, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019; 5201 Blue Lagoon Drive, Suite 200, Miami, FL 33126.
An adolescent singing sensation and teenage Grammy Award-winner, Luis Miguel went on to record a series of successful albums that made him the preeminent Spanish-language singer of the millennium. His traditional bolero albums of the 1990s not only defined him as the standard-bearer of contemporary Latin music, but helped him to set both sales and concert records as well. A romantic crooner with matinee-idol looks, Miguel also branched out into film roles and sent the tabloid press into overdrive with his relationship with pop star Mariah Carey. Setting his own standards for Latin music, however, Miguel bucked the trend toward crossover success with his music, consistently refusing to record his songs in English. "I am doing a good thing by giving more Spanish to the world," he explained to Billboard. "Spanish can express 'I love you' in so many ways. Onstage, I need to believe what I am saying and to feel that the audience is really feeling what I am singing."
Luis Miguel Gallego Basteri was born on April 19, 1970, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to parents of Italian and Spanish heritage; during most of his career, however, the singer was based in Mexico. His musical training began early, as his father was a guitarist, and when he was 12 years old, Miguel recorded his first album as a vocalist. The young singer came to international prominence with a duet recorded with Scottish pop star Sheena Easton in 1984. The track, "Me Gustas Tal Como Eres" ("I Love You Just the Way You Are"), won the singers the Grammy Award for Best Mexican-American Performance. That same year, Miguel also collected prizes at music festivals in Chile and Italy. While still in his teens, the singing sensation recorded six Spanish-language albums, highlighted by 1987's Soy Como Quiero Ser (I Am as I Want to Be) and the following year's Un Hombre Busca una Mujer (A Man Looking for a Woman) , both of which earned gold and platinum sales awards throughout Latin America.
Miguel made the transition into adulthood with the 1990 album 20 Años (20 Years), which reflected his age at the time of its release. A collection characterized by romantic, mid-tempo ballads, the album's glossy production values and impeccable arrangements called to mind Miguel's English-language contemporary Luther Vandross, who was then dominating the American record charts with a similar sound. 20 Años set the tone for Miguel's achievements for the next decade. Commercially successful, the release set a slew of sales records throughout Latin America. Six of its singles entered the charts in Mexico simultaneously, and the album sold more than 600,000 copies in its first week. After its release, Miguel was recognized as the leading male vocalist in Latin America.
Miguel turned to more traditional material for three of his albums during the 1990s, releasing a series of acclaimed albums in the bolero style. A genre characterized by romantic and sentimental themes delivered in a passionate, yet generally languid style, bolero perfectly suited Miguel's own distinctive vocal delivery. The first of his bolero albums, 1991's Romance, not only earned dozens of sales awards throughout Latin America, it received a gold record in the United States as well. The follow-up, 1994's Segundo Romance (Second Romance), was equally popular. As Hispanic applauded, "Miguel's voice is pleading and seductive. Segundo Romance is another irresistible winner from the talented vocalist." The album went on to set another record for Miguel, entering the Billboard album chart in the top 30 upon its debut. It was the highest position for a new Spanish-language release up to that time, and a sign of Miguel's international appeal beyond the Latin American market. A third album, Romances, completed the singer's bolero cycle in 1997.
With Miguel's phenomenal success came criticism. While he invoked passionate responses from his mostly female concert crowds, his precise singing style and musicianship earned him a reputation from some reviewers as a predictable, old-fashioned crooner. A 1994 Billboard review of a Miami concert concluded, "So while the present burns brightly for Luis Miguel--and deservedly so--his future might become a bit dimmer if the only thing he has to offer fans is an occasional dollop of nostalgic romance." A 1998 concert review in the Los Angeles Times offered a similar sentiment, commenting that "Miguel treads a dangerous pop-rock path that can easily sidetrack into corniness. The performances were highly energetic, but the songs per se didn't offer much more than a few catchy choruses and disco-like synth effects." Even his detractors admitted, however, that Miguel's albums had set the standard for quality in Latin music with their crisp arrangements and superb vocals.
In addition to the criticism of his music as staid and florid, Miguel also faced pressure to join the trend toward recording in English that swept the Latin music scene in the late 1990s. After Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony achieved major success in the United States with English-language releases, many eagerly awaited Miguel's first release aimed at the American market. Despite pleas from his record company to follow the crossover wave, however, Miguel insisted on sticking with his own musical vision. "I love my language, and I am proud of Spanish," he told Billboard in 1999. "Now is not the right time for me to sing in English--maybe in the future, who knows?" Instead, Miguel pushed his artistic boundaries by acting in the movie Fiebre de Amor, appearing on the soundtrack as well.
In addition to the bolero albums, Miguel continued to record a series of successful romantic-themed releases in the 1990s, including Aries in 1993 and Nada Es Iqual (Nothing Is the Same) in 1996. Like his previous works, the albums cemented Miguel's commercial status while receiving mixed critical receptions. A 1996 Los Angeles Times review admitted that "there is no better singer in Latin pop," upon the release of Nada Es Igual, but nonetheless insisted that "such corny, one-dimensional visions of love are hard to swallow." It seemed impossible for Miguel to please both his fans and the critics, but for the moment, he seemed content to set new sales records.
Another romantic album, Amarte Es un Placer (Loving You Is a Pleasure) was released in 1999. Miguel had also produced the album, which featured his trademark smooth vocals combined with top-notch production efforts. While some critics were disappointed in the effort--with the Los Angeles Times commenting that "this guaranteed blockbuster continues Latin pop's disheartening search for the glossiest production imaginable"--the album won Miguel another set of Grammy Awards. At the first-annual Latin Grammy Awards ceremony in September of 2000, the singer took home awards for Album of the Year, Best Pop Album, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
By the end of the 1990s, Miguel had earned dozens of sales awards for his albums--with an estimated 35 million sold by 2000--while achieving numerous concert records as well. In addition to his success in Latin America, Miguel also gained a sizable audience in Spain and the United States. In the latter country, the tabloid press took an avid interest in Miguel's relationship with pop superstar Mariah Carey, eagerly reporting the details of his gift-giving habits to the acclaimed diva after their meeting in late 1998. While the couple guarded their privacy, Carey told USA Today that "It's really interesting for me to be in a place where there are thousands of girls running up to him, speaking in Spanish, and I'm not the focus of attention.... It's nice to be with someone who's secure with who they are."
Miguel attracted criticism for his refusal to appear at the Grammy Awards in 2001, which some industry observers attributed to arrogance. The charge was particularly damaging to the singer's reputation, considering that the separate Latin Grammy Awards had just been established specifically to increase awareness of Spanish-language music among a broader audience in the United States. "By pulling out at the last minute, he not only made his point but also compromised the image of Latin music to TV viewers worldwide," carped Billboard's Leila Cobo. "Frankly, if Luis Miguel finds the Grammys so contemptible, he simply should not submit his music for consideration (as some labels have done). In this way, not only would he show some integrity, but he also would open the field to other competitors and the show to other performers."
With the Grammy controversy just the latest in a series of tempests, Miguel brushed aside the critics and continued to be embraced by audiences around the world. Taking an active role as producer and songwriter in addition to offering his own singular voice, Miguel has fashioned his own place as Latin America's most popular male singer. Deferring crossover ambitions to concentrate on his Spanish-language releases, Miguel also continued to define Latin pop on the contemporary music scene.
by Timothy Borden
Luis Miguel's Career
Released first album at age 12; released a series of successful Spanish-language albums, 1980s-1990s.
Luis Miguel's Awards
Grammy Award, Best Mexican-American Performance (with Sheena Easton), 1984; Grammy Award, Best Latin Pop Album, 1993-94; Latin Grammy Award, Album of the Year, 2000; Latin Grammy Award, Best Pop Album, 2000; Latin Grammy Award, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Soy Como Quiero Ser , WEA Latina, 1987.
- Un Hombre Busca Una Mujer , WEA Latina, 1988.
- 14 Grandes Exitos , Capitol, 1989.
- 20 Años , WEA Latina, 1990.
- Romance , WEA Latina, 1991.
- America: Live , WEA Latina, 1992.
- El Idolo de Mexico , Capitol, 1992.
- Aries , WEA Latina, 1993.
- Los Idolos de Mexico , Capitol, 1993.
- Segundo Romance , WEA Latina, 1994.
- (Contributor) Duets II , Capitol, 1994.
- El Concierto , WEA Latina, 1995.
- Nada Es Igual , WEA Latina, 1996.
- Romances , WEA Latina, 1997.
- Fiebre de Amor , EMI, 1998.
- Amarte Es Un Placer , WEA International, 1999.
- Vivo , WEA International, 2000.
November 3, 2005: Miguel won the Latin Grammy award for best ranchero album for Mexico En La Piel. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Music/11/04/latin.grammys.list.ap/index.html, November 10, 2005.
February 8, 2006: Miguel won the Grammy Award for best Mexican/Mexican-American album for Mexico En La Piel. Source: Grammy.com, http://grammy.com/GRAMMY_Awards/Annual_Show/48_nominees.aspx, February 9, 2006.
April 27, 2006: Miguel won the Billboard Latin music award for Latin tour of the year. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bbcom/awards/index.jsp, April 30, 2006.
- Broughton, Simon, et al., editors, World Music: The Rough Guide Volume 2, The Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
- Billboard, September 24, 1994, p. 10; October 22, 1994, p. 42; October 2, 1999, p. 24; September 23, 2000, p. 87; May 10, 2001, p. 54.
- Hispanic, January/February 1995, p. 126.
- Los Angeles Times, August 31, 1996, p. 6; February 28, 1998, p. 6; September 17, 1999, p. 6; February 5, 2000, p. F-1; September 14, 2000, p. A-26.
- USA Today, November 2, 1999.
- Hispanico, http://www.hispanico.com/article.php?sid=14 (July 2, 2001).
- Latinoise, http://www.latinoise.com/news/pop/luis%20miguel/luismiguelvivodvdeng.htm (July 2, 2001).
- 2000 Latin.com, http://www.2000latin.com/luismi/bio/bioluismi.htm (July 2, 2001).