18th October, 1997

As if to prove that Enrique Iglesias isn't the only son of a famous Latin singer of the 70s and 80s who can command attention, respect, and screaming devotion, here's another extremely recognizable last name. Although we did, if briefly, meet Julio Iglesias early on in this chart voyage, we never directly encountered Vicente Fernández. This is more or less an effect of when the chart began; if it had been running in the 70s and early 80s, he would have waged serious siege to Iglesias' domination. Fernández pére was (and still is) the greatest ranchera singer of his generation and arguably of all time, comparable perhaps to George Jones' position in country music, and if his music didn't always have the transnational appeal of Julio Iglesias pére's, the devotion of his Mexican and Mexican-American fanbase was, and remains, a force to be reckoned with.

Fernández fils began his career following in his father's footsteps, with ranchera and mariachi albums in the early 90s, and had moderate-to-high levels of success. But in 1997 -- and I can't imagine he didn't have one shrewd eye on the stunning success of baby-faced Iglesias fils -- he joined up with Emilio Estefan and Kike Santander, the twin forces behind the throne de la Gloria, and recorded an album of modern bolero, not unlike what Luis Miguel has been doing, but more dynamically arranged. If he was attempting to challenge Enrique for top-of-the-chart supremacy, it worked: "Si Tú Supieras" ("if you knew") was the biggest Latin hit of the second half of 1997, with Fernández' strongest advantage over Iglesias -- his polished, resonant voice -- front and center.

The song itself is only so-so; a languid bolero with flamenco touches on the guitar, it's a ballad of romantic longing, as the title suggests. The most remarkable thing about it is the chorus, in which he expresses a desire "para sembrar mil rosas nuevas en tu vientre" ("to plant a thousand new roses in your womb"), an arresting image that (though I believe it's a spin on an existing Spanish idiom) has become something of a touchstone for online Hispanophone flirtation. It's a strong production, as you would expect from the Estefan machine, and if Fernández still sounds a little formal, a country Mexican singer feeling stiff in these city Miami duds, he'll doubtless grow into them.

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