Initially molded as a traditional Latin balladeer, one who sings romantic songs with much dramatic flair over sweeping string arrangements, Luis Fonsi enjoyed much success as such, but it hardly sums up the totality of what he does musically. Fonsi is a chart-topping, multi-platinum-selling and multiple Grammy-winning recording artist, actor, and television host. Since the release of his 1998 debut Comenzaré, each of his albums and singles have landed on the charts in an unbroken string. The video for his and Daddy Yankee's massive 2017 single "Despacito" racked up more than five billion views on YouTube; the song topped nearly every Latin chart and became the most viewed video in the world. An English remix featuring Canadian singer Justin Bieber reached number one and stayed there for 16 weeks. The Anglo singer promoted the remix at one of his shows in Puerto Rico, inviting Fonsi on-stage to perform a duet with him. In 2019, Fonsi joined Wisin, Alejandra Guzmán, and Carlos Vives as coaches on the first Spanish season of La Voz on Telemundo. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Orlando, Florida, Fonsi dove into show business at a young age, singing in a school vocal group called the Big Guys that also included future *NSYNC star Joey Fatone. Following high school, Fonsi studied singing at Florida State University and scored a contract offer from Universal Latino. He debuted on Universal in 1998 with Comenzare, which did well, peaking at number 27 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart and spawning four hit singles: "Si Tu Quisieras," "Perdóname," "Dime Como," and "Me Iré." His follow-up album, Eterno, released in 2000, did even better, peaking at number six on the Top Latin Albums chart and spawning another four hit singles, among them the chart-topping "Imaginame Sin Ti." And so it went for the next few years, with more releases and more commercial success. Amor Secreto topped the Latin album chart in 2002 and Abrazar la Vida came close in 2003, both of them carried by numerous hits. The only mishap for Fonsi during this remarkable run was an English-language crossover attempt, Fight the Feeling, that came and went very quickly in 2002, a clear miscalculation. When time came for Fonsi to record his sixth album, to be released in 2005, he went out on a limb, recruiting producer Sebastian Krys, who had previously worked with the likes of Carlos Vives, Obie Bermúdez, and JD Natasha. The resulting album, Paso a Paso, was still a Latin pop excursion through and through, but in general, it featured guitars in the forefront rather than sweeping strings. It also explored different kinds of rhythms and arrangements, resulting in Fonsi's most distinct and creative album to date. Critics, who hadn't always been kind to Fonsi, were mostly positive and liked what they heard. Moreover, and more importantly, the public loved the lead single "Nada Es Para Siempre," and lined up in droves to buy the album when it was released in late summer. Paso a Paso debuted at number two on the Top Latin Albums chart, setting up yet another great run for Fonsi, who now found himself more aligned with successful yet inventive Latin stars like Juanes than the generic balladeers he had previously kept company with. His 2008 effort, Palabras del Silencio, was essentially a continuation of all that Fonsi accomplished with Paso a Paso, with the singer co-writing all of the 13 songs. The album earned double-platinum status in the U.S. and Venezuela, along with gold status in Spain, Mexico, Colombia, and Central America. Featuring the hit single "Gritar," the album Tierra Firme followed in 2011. Three years later, Fonsi returned with his eighth album, appropriately titled 8, and followed it with a lengthy tour. In a stylistic turn, he collaborated with Puerto Rican rapper/singer Daddy Yankee on the reggaeton-influenced single "Despacito," which topped the charts upon its January 2017 release and remained there for nearly six months. The tune also won Latin Grammys for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Its remix (that also featured Justin Bieber) won the award for Best Urban Fusion/Performance. At the Anglo Grammys, it was nominated as Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for the 2018 Grammy Awards, while the original version earned a nomination for Song of the Year. 2018 also saw the release of a flurry of high-profile singles, including "Echame La Culpa (feat. Demi Lovato)," "Calypso (feat. Stefflon Don)," and "Imposible (feat. Ozuna)." His tenth studio offering, Vida, was issued in early 2019 and featured the original mix of "Despacito" as well as the Bieber remix, "Imposible" (feat. Ozuna), and another version of "Calypso" with Karol G. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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World - Released February 1, 2019 | UMLE - Latino
Vida has been a long time coming. Luis Fonsi's ninth studio album is also his first in five years. What's more, it follows the release of his global record-breaking chart topper "Despacito (feat. Daddy Yankee) by two years. That's an eternity between hit and album, but Fonsi's hardly been idle. Two other high-climbing collaborative tracks were issued in the interim -- "Imposible" (featuring the silky-smooth voice of Ozuna) and "Calypso" (feat. East London's Stefflon Don). Both of these are included on Vida, as is the Justin Bieber remix of "Despacito." While some might find this marketing overkill, the inclusion of these hits adds depth to this ambitious, yet balanced offering. Album-opener and current single "Sola" (Spanish and Anglo versions bookend the set) underscores Fonsi's long-established reputation as one of the finest ballad singers that pop of any stripe has to offer. Its midtempo groove underscores the passion and pathos in the lyric, which he delivers with requisite commitment. It reminds us why, for the past decade, Fonsi has been such a Latin pop pioneer, he injects his version of the age-old tradition of cortavena (pathologically emotional songs) with dance, pop, bachata, reggaeton, vallenato, cumbia, and even rock & roll. Other power ballads on the set include the soaring "Le Pido al Cielo," the nearly processional "Dime Que No Te Iras," and "Ahi Estas Tu," with its layered acoustic guitars and sweeping strings that bind together romantico, Latin, and Anglo pop. The set's biggest surprise, however, is a duet with Demi Lovato on the bilingual vallenato/pop cumbia fusion "Exchame la Culpa" (Put the Blame on Me). Lovato invests the song with an uncharacteristic abandonment of empathy for searing emotion while simultaneously making room for the playful weave of rhythms and melody. Fonsi underscores every line with his own culpability and resolve, his phrasing trailing the backbeat for emphasis. Another highlight is "Tanto Para Nada," a tune that commences as a dramatic, polished ballad but unleashes cumbia and reggaeton in the chorus before skittering synthetic drum'n'bass breaks claim the bridge and outro. "Mas Fuerte Que Yo" finds Fonsi at his most dramatic, infusing a power ballad with reggaeton beats, slithering electric guitars, swelling strings and fat bass drums as he climbs above the heavily atmospheric mix to communicate the brokenness and devastation in the lyric. Remixes of "Calypso" and "Despacito" follow before the Anglo read of "Sola" closes the set. Vida displays all of Fonsi's gifts as a singer and songwriter. It's an impeccably sequenced collection that allows the wealth of conflicting emotions in these songs free rein amid catchy melodies and resonant dynamics, all carried by infectious beats. ~ Thom Jurek
World - Released January 1, 2003 | Universal Music Latino
After three increasingly successful albums of lightly R&B-influenced Spanish-language pop, Puerto Rican crooner-heartthrob Luis Fonsi tried his hand at U.S. stardom by creating a dance/hip-hop persona for FIGHT THE FEELING. His fifth record, ABRAZAR LA VIDA, finds Fonsi not only returning to singing in Spanish, but to his familiar musical background-the ultra-catchy romantic pop that initially launched him into the public eye. Fonsi's pop is more a throwback to the blue-eyed soul-pop of the late-1980s-think George Michael at his most sincere-with lush production and heartfelt, emotive vocals wholly confident in their ability to caress a lover's soul. Fonsi opens ABRAZAR LA VIDA with the plaintive torch song "Quien Te Dijo Eso?," akin to Babyface's country turn on "When Will I See You Again," followed by the more R&B-flavored, but still torch-laden, title song. However, the dance floor is not ignored, as Latin horn touches snake in infectiously on the frenetic "Yo Te Propongo," an almost dizzying number. On ABRAZAR LA VIDA, Fonsi reveals himself to be most comfortable in the modern crooner dye, and casts a satisfying pop shadow with his fifth album.
Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Universal Music Latino
When one thinks of Puerto Rican artists, the word that has generally come to mind over the years -- at least before the rise of reggaeton -- is "salsa." Salsa as in Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Rodriguez, Hector Lavoe, and Willie Colón. Salsa as in el Gran Combo, la Sonora Ponceña, and el Conjunto Clasico. But while many Puerto Ricans (along with Cubans, who invented salsa rhythms like son, cha cha, mambo, guaguancó, and danzon) have made valuable contributions to salsa, being Puerto Rican doesn't automatically mean being salsa-oriented. There are Puerto Rican popsters as well, including Luis Fonsi. Instead of catering to the tropical market, Fonsi has gone for an across-the-board appeal in the Spanish-speaking world -- and he continues in that Latin pop vein on Paso a Paso, which is definitely one of his stronger, more consistent releases. Fonsi hasn't always had great material to work with (his first English-language-oriented album, Fight the Feeling, was a disappointment), but this time, the songs (many of which he co-wrote) are above average. Paso a Paso is, by Latin standards, Top 40 fare -- and while the disc has a lot of adult contemporary appeal, Fonsi brings a bit of a rock edge to some of the tunes (especially "Por una Mujer," "Para Mi," and the soaring "Arropame"). Paso a Paso (which was mostly produced by Sebastian Krys) has some light ballads (including "Vivo Muriendo" and "Me Lo Dice el Alma"), but there are plenty of up-tempo items as well. Fonsi opts for variety, and it serves him well on Paso a Paso -- which, for all its sleekness and pop gloss, has plenty of meat on its bones. Those who have found some of Fonsi's previous albums to be uneven and inconsistent will be glad to know that Paso a Paso is a keeper. ~ Alex Henderson
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