Monday, June 17, 2024

Things Mexicans love: Luis Miguel

Luis Miguel’s music evokes childhood road trips in my grandparents’ car listening to boleros like “El Reloj” or “No Se Tú.” High energy pop songs like “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar” take me back to late-night parties or the dance floor at Mexican weddings. Now in my mid-30s and living abroad, his mariachi songs make me appreciate Mexican regional music even more.  

No matter the setting and no matter the audience, Luis Miguel has stayed relevant to every Latin generation — and in many music genres — since he began his career in 1982. From pop to jazz to boleros and, of course, mariachi, Luis Miguel, 54, has secured hits in every single genre. 

I mean, is there anything he can’t sing? 

Luis Miguel in concert, decade of the 90's.
A young(ish) Luis Miguel in the 1990s, at the height of his powers.

A versatile and prolific career 

With a voice that spans three octaves (comparable to Freddie Mercury), Billboard has named him “one of the top voices of our generation.” 

On tour since last year (including the United States) despite not having released a single album in seven years, Luis Miguel kicked off 2024 with the No.3 spot on the first LIVE75 chart of the year. By the second issue, Luis Miguel moved to No. 1 based on a 17-show ticket average of 20,808 per night. 

With those numbers, “El Sol de México,” (The Mexican Sun) surpassed singers like Madonna (13,880) and U2 (16,585). Moreover, Luis Miguel’s México Por Siempre Tour (2018-19) was the highest-grossing Latin tour in Boxscore history until Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee in 2022. 

He became the youngest artist ever to win a Grammy at age 14, for his duet “Me Gustas Tal y Como Eres” with Sheena Easton. He maintained this record until 1997 when LeAnn Rimes won the Grammy for Best New Artist (also aged 14). 

Cover of one of Luis Miguel's CD's
1988’s “Busca un Mujer,” complete with the sort of haircut that mercifully stayed in the 1980s where it belonged.

He has since won 5 more Grammys and over 100 national and international awards. He was also the only Hispanic artist invited to perform at Frank Sinatra’s 80th birthday celebration.

Furthermore, Luis Miguel has consistently made the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart since his debut in 1987 with the hit “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar.” Since then, he’s scored 15 more No. 1s, including “Tengo Todo Excepto a Ti” and “La Media Vuelta.” He’s also the artist with the most entries among Latin pop acts on Hot Latin Songs, with 58. 

But despite his massive fame, “LuisMi” is incredibly reclusive.

A tumultuous personal life 

Over his career, he has granted only a handful of interviews, always being careful around sensitive subjects like his paternity of model Michelle Salas, 35 – which he only acknowledged when she turned 18, the disappearance of his mother, or his true birthplace, which turns out, is not Mexico (although has since naturalized as a Mexican).

Luis Miguel and his mother during the 1980s.
Luis Miguel and his mother during the 1980s. The singer has been notoriously secretive about his private life.

Born in 1970 in Puerto Rico to Spanish singer Luisito Rey and Italian mother Marcela Basteri, the family moved to Mexico City in the late 70s due to Luisito’s music career. But when Luisito discovered his son’s talent, he set aside his career to focus on Luis Miguel. 

This is vividly portrayed in the first episode of Luis Miguel La Serie, a three-part Netflix biopic released in 2018. Reportedly, deeply private Luis Miguel only agreed to the series to settle a multi-million-dollar debt.

Showing his many romances (including his relationship with Mariah Carey) and a highly vulnerable LuisMi amidst a dramatic family life and a controlling and dominant father, the series satisfied Mexican fans’ curiosity over Luis Miguel’s life — and made them (us) love him even more. 

It also brought the Sun back to the center of the universe.  

A resounding success, the series revived Luis Miguel’s dormant career after years of absence and questionable concerts during which he appeared drunk or unable to properly sing (something that the series helped us all forgive him for). With the release of Season 1, Spotify reported that “Culpable O No” was the second most played song in Mexico. Moreover, plays of Luis Miguel’s music soared by 200% in the weeks after the series premiered. 

Concert in Guatemala, 2019
LuisMi live in concert, Guatemala 2019. His popularity is enormous throughout all of Latin America, even if he is primarily identified with Mexico.

But with 34 albums in total, we must acknowledge the hidden heroes behind Luis Miguel’s successful career. After all, he sings songs other people write. 

A revival of romantic Latin music

Not much of a songwriter himself, Luis Miguel has collaborated with many talented Latin songwriters and musicians. One of the most famous collaborations was with Mexican Armando Manzanero, who died aged 85 during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Composers of some of the most iconic songs of Latin America, Manzanero and Luis Miguel worked together on four albums. These were: “Romance” (LuisMi’s first Gold Album in the US) “Segundo Romance,” “Romances” and “Mis Romances.” Each album included songs written by Manzanero, including “Somos Novios” or “No Sé Tú.” 

Thanks to these albums, Luis Miguel turned the world’s attention to Latin romantic music, including the world-wide famous “Bésame Mucho.”

Luis Miguel - "No Sé Tú" (Video Oficial)

 

Bésame Mucho is indisputably one of Latin America’s most famous songs, written by Mexican songwriter Consuelito Velásquez in 1932. Luis Miguel’s interpretation of the song is one of the most recognized worldwide.

Another blast from the past was “Solamente Una Vez,” by one of Mexico’s most famous songwriters, Agustín Lara.

Thanks to the Netflix series, we learned that Dominican bachata songwriter and superstar Juan Luis Guerra wrote the romantic ballad “Hasta Que Me Olvides.” This song has even become a trend on TikTok, where users pick Luis Miguel as their ultimate favorite singer with the song as the soundtrack.  

Other songwriters included Francisco Céspedes, Jorge Alfredo Jiménez, María Grever and Roberto Cantoral, amongst others. 

As for musicians, one that stands out is Kiko Gibrán, Luis Miguel’s loyal guitarist and Mexican music producer who has collaborated with the artist since the ‘90s.

With an array of Hispanic and Latin collaborators and never having ventured into the US market to increase sales, Luis Miguel is one of the best-selling and most loved Latin singers of all time — and, as you could probably tell, my favorite. 

Gabriela Solis is a Mexican lawyer turned full-time writer. She was born and raised in Guadalajara and covers business, culture, lifestyle and travel for Mexico News Daily. You can follow her lifestyle blog Dunas y Palmeras.

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