- Bachata music originated in the Dominican Republic and mostly speaks of heartbreak, sadness
- The music is danceable and is heavy on guitar and percussion
- Anthony "Romeo" Santos, a rising star in the bachata world, will play Yankee Stadium
- Santos just released "Formula Volume 2," the sequel to his successful first solo album
You may not even know such a kingdom exists, but it already has a king. Anthony "Romeo" Santos, known to his fans simply as Romeo, is the self-proclaimed king of bachata, and though he remains relatively unknown to the English-speaking world, he is poised to take the music world by storm with his unique bachata fusion.
Bachata, which originated in the Dominican Republic, is music that predominantly speaks of heartbreak and sadness. The sound is a danceable track heavy on guitar and percussion.
With his sultry voice, soulful lyrics and way of mixing the traditional island rhythm with more current hip-hop and R&B beats, Santos is considered a pioneer of the genre, nearly single-handedly making it a mainstream success.
Santos began his career as lead singer of the group Aventura in the mid-1990s but has since ventured on his own.
He just released "Formula Volume 2," the sequel to his hugely successful first solo album, 2011's "Formula Volume 1." While "Volume 1" included vocals from the likes of Usher and Lil Wayne, "Volume 2" expands on these collaborations.
"When I was doing 'Formula Volume 1,' I had so many ideas that I knew one album was not going to be enough. In this album, I'm offering a fusion of bachata with different genres: Jamaican reggae, Bob Marley type of reggae and dance hall," Santos said.
The new album features duos with Marc Anthony, Carlos Santana, as well as Drake and Nicki Minaj, both of whom offer vocals in Spanish. "It's actually great for both of us, for the artist and for myself, because they're also trying to do something unique and different, and these types of collaborations allow that," Santos said.
The album has already released various singles that have quickly climbed to the top of the charts. "Odio," the track that features Drake, has become Santos' eighth No. 1 hit on Billboard's U.S. Hot Latin Songs chart. The track also debuted at No. 45 on the Hot 100, the highest-charting debut for a Spanish language song in the chart's 55-year history.
Santos also recently announced that he will become the first Latin solo artist to headline a concert at New York's Yankee Stadium, and the first Latin act to perform at the iconic stadium since the Fania All Stars in 1973.
"I understand the big responsibility, and I'm honored," Santos said at a news conference at the stadium to announce the performance. "I grew up in this neighborhood, near Yankee Stadium, and I would walk around with my cousin and we were just trying to buy tickets to see a baseball game. I never even imagined that I would be performing, and to just make it to this point in my career as a solo artist is just extremely wonderful, and I'm just like, wow, this is crazy."
It is a big-scale concert planned to meet the ever-growing demand for tickets to his shows.
That's definitely a long way to come for the Bronx-born Dominican/Puerto Rican singer who says he found most of his musical influences on the streets of his old neighborhood.
"I grew up listening to bachata, to some of the greats of the genre. But it was very natural for me to create this type of fusion and to incorporate new beats," he said. "I was born and raised in the Bronx, and growing up here, you would go down the block, and on one corner you would hear bachata, on another corner some salsa, and of course there was hip-hop and R&B all over the place. So for me, it is very organic to have these combinations."
Crossover, however, is not a term Santos is comfortable with. While both solo albums include English language tracks, he says bachata and Spanish are his strong suits, and rather than making an all-English album, Santos said he encourages the English-speaking audience to cross over, too -- into his world. "I'm a bachatero for the most part; that's what I want to do. I offer one or two English language tracks on this album, but 'el fuerte' is always bachata," he said.
"When I reached out to these artists and said, 'Look would you consider singing with me, you don't have to sing in Spanish, but you know it's a Spanish record,' they accepted right away. And I have to say, it was actually Drake's idea to sing in Spanish. Nicki's, too."
Santos also happens to be a major heartthrob. He has amassed a huge fan base, mostly of women who swoon over his suave, romantic vocals, which, in traditional bachata style, speak of love lost and gained. But, he said, it wasn't always that way.
"Growing up, I wasn't the best-looking kid, and you know, I personally don't feel like a sex symbol. I think the girls like me because I'm very passionate, and I'm very romantic with my lyrics," he said, laughing, "I'm not saying I'm the ugliest guy in the planet, but I am definitely no model."
Whatever the formula, it has been successful, something Santos credits to his upbringing.
"Having great parents has a lot to do with the success. Dedication, too. Anyone can achieve anything they want if they are just disciplined, if they have ethics, and then just try to reinvent yourself. Originality plays a big factor in anyone's career."
Are music fans ready for Romeo Santos' original view of the world? The odds look good.