This summer, Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” dominated Latin radio airplay — until bachata singer Romeo Santos dropped “You,” an infectious, heartfelt ballad that quickly crushed everything else in rotation. With the release of his debut solo album, “Formula Vol. 1,” Santos seems poised to save an even broader swatch of listeners from mediocre radio tunes.
As the frontman of uber-successful Bronx-based bachata group Aventura, Santos added a bit of New York swagger to the music from the hills of the Dominican Republic, broadening its appeal. As a solo artist, he continues in that vein, and is courting pop and R&B fans as well with a crossover effort that includes some English-language verses and cameos from R&B and hip-hop superstars.
So far, it’s working: “Formula Vol. 1,” released this month, sold more than 65,000 copies during its first week — giving it the biggest sales week of any Latin album since Daddy Yankee’s “El Cartel: The Big Boss” was released in June 2007, according to Billboard. And the album’s singles, which have dominated Latin charts, also have done well on pop charts.
Part of the reason for the album’s success is that Santos, in his quest for mainstream appeal (a grand plan that also includes a starring role in a new, still-untitled ABC comedy series), doesn’t sell out bachata die-hards. “Promise,” the album’s latest single, a duet with Usher, is a prime example. Santos refuses to meet the R&B star halfway — with its soulful, twangy bachata guitar, bongos and Santos’s Spanish-language lyrics delivered in a crisp falsetto, the singer manages to team up with a pop star without “going pop.” Even on “All Aboard,” an English-language track with Lil Wayne, the bilingual star stays true to his style.
While such collaborations are obviously meant to pull in folks who’ve never heard of Aventura, Santos or bachata, interestingly enough, “Formula Vol. 1” may redefine crossover in that the English tracks may not be what ends up being embraced by a wider audience: The tortured love songs Santos writes and composes, including “La Diabla” and “La Bella y la Bestia,” are impossible to resist, whether one understands all of the lyrics or not.
“You,” “Promise,” “La Bella y la Bestia,” “La Diabla”