That is, until Shakira shimmied onto the floor and the two traded Spanish and English rhymes from her smash hit "Hips Don't Lie."At that point, the crowd roared for both.A few years ago, the big Latin crossover involved Spanish-speaking performers making it big by singing in English _ including sensations such as Ricky Martin, Shakira and Marc Anthony. Nowadays, stars like Jean, Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez are kicking it the other way _ singing and rapping in Spanish for the hemisphere's Hispanic market.
Wyclef Jean has sold millions of records as a solo artist and as a founding member of The Fugees. Still, few in the mainly Latin crowd seemed to recognize the Grammy winner when he leapt onto the stage at a recent sold-out concert.
It's not hard to see why. Salsa, boleros, cumbia, alt-rock, reggaeton _ Latin music offers a little something for everyone. Then there's the state of the declining music industry. As more fans illegally download music and selectively purchase singles instead of entire albums, record labels are desperate for new listeners. The estimated 32 million Spanish speakers in the U.S., not to mention another roughly 400 million Spanish-speakers in Spain and Latin America, are markets screaming to be tapped.
"It's hard to ignore when 11 million people watch the Latin Grammys," said Jose Cancela, author of "The Power of Business en espanol" and a 25-year veteran of Spanish-language radio and television."What more and more artists are seeing is that the growth of Spanish-language media, especially in the top 25 markets in the country, is having real impact on airplay and on viewership," he added.
This week, Beyonce is reissuing her multiplatinum, Grammy-winning album "B'Day" with seven tracks in Spanish, including a duet with Shakira. The idea for the Spanish side of the album was born with a duet her group, Destiny's Child, recorded with Spanish pop singer Alejandro Sanz four years ago.
"A lot of my Latin fans said, `Oh, you should do more songs in Spanish,'" Beyonce said during a recent press conference in her hometown of Houston.Beyonce took them to heart, recording Spanish versions of hits such as "Irreplaceable" and "Listen" from the film "Dreamgirls."
Jennifer Lopez just released her first complete Spanish album, "Como Ama Una Mujer" or "How a Woman Loves." Lopez has said she did her first demo in Spanish, but back then, the labels weren't interested. Now she'll likely sing one of her Spanish songs when she appears in an upcoming episode of the Fox network's "American Idol."Pop musicians have recorded songs in other languages before, but in recent years the number of top U.S. artists rolling that Spanish "r" seems to keep growing.
The benefits go both ways. Jean's duet with Shakira, "Hips Don't Lie," became a global hit and boosted sales of her English album, "Oral Fixation Vol. 2." Meanwhile, Beyonce recently recorded a duet with Mexico's Alejandro Fernandez for a telenovela version of "Zorro," which is sure to cross-pollinate fans.
Miami-based music producer Rudy Perez, the go-to man for Spanish lyrics, adds that even second- and third-generation Hispanic fans like the idea that artists are reaching out to them, validating their heritage by singing in their parents' or grandparents' language.Perez often writes out the Spanish lyrics phonetically for the artists. He spends hours playing with words to make each line end with a sound similar to the English version to keep the music familiar.
Beyonce worked with Perez and has received rave reviews for her accent. Even though she doesn't speak Spanish, Beyonce said growing up in Texas, she was influenced by Hispanic friends and culture and vowed to work hard on her pronunciation."I really wanted to respect the language," she said.