Think about it: Although there's a long list of Latino stars who've crossed over to sing in English (Shakira, Ricky, Paulina...) what non-Latin star has successfully done the reverse? We can't think of anyone, which is why Beyoncé's new all-Spanish EP, Irremplazable, is such a big deal.
We caught up with B while she was in NYC promoting the Spanish project to find out why she took that risk—and which Latin stars she thinks are hot!
Latina: So, your name has French roots. You could have easily pursued singing in French, but you've chosen to sing in Spanish on this album instead. Why was that?
Beyonce: Well, I did actually sing a song in French at the Oscars. It was very hard. But that gave me the confidence to sing in Spanish because if I can do that, then I felt like, well maybe I can sing in Spanish. I've always loved the way Spanish sounds with music and with melodies. It's just so beautiful and so passionate. I also grew up in Texas and I remember listening to Selena all the time.
Latina: How did you learn to sing in Spanish?
B: I only took classes for a few years in middle school, when you learn to say things like, "Where's the bathroom?" But, even that helped me with my pronunciation when I got in the studio. I still get a little nervous when I have to do it live, but I'm getting pretty good at it, especially when it has a melody attached to it. I take a lot of time and focus because I want to do it right.
I go through everything with [songwriter] Rudy Perez who rewrote my songs in Spanish—he is so incredible and he completely gets it. So I don't have to correct anything because he's right on it all the time. Then I learn each line phonetically, how I would say it. It's hard—my songs are hard enough to sing in English!
Latina: We all want to know: What was it like to work with Shakira on "Beautiful Liar"?
B: She's amazing. The day we did the shoot, she had been on tour and I was doing a promotion also, so we only had two hours to rehearse. Usually you have two or three days to prepare, but we were so busy we hadn't even seen each other since we recorded the song. We ended up both freestyling some moves and that's how we came up with the choreography. She taught me some things and I taught her some things. But, it was so great because she was so easy to work with and so supportive, such warmth. There was no negativity or competitive energy, just love and respect.
Latina: What was it like working with Alejandro Fernandez?
B: Oh! I told one of my best friends—she's Cuban—that I was working with him. And she was like, "You're lying!" And I'm like, "No, I am!" And she's like, "You know who that is?" She schooled me so I would know.
When I met him, he sang in the studio and I was like, 'God! He's incredible.' He has soul and passion and his voice sounds like a man, a very masculine man. I loved it!
Latina: You've also worked with Alejandro Sanz, when he and Destiny's Child sang "Quisiera Ser" during the 2002 Grammy Awards.
B: That was my first experience singing in Spanish, and that actually was the reason why I did this project because we got a great response from the fans. It took a couple years because I was scared. But I'm a little older now and I'm not as afraid to try uncomfortable things.
Latina: Who would you love to work with?
B: Well, I love Luis Miguel, but I still have to get educated, you know? I love merengue, but I don't know the names of the artists. I just know that I love to dance to the music. Good music is good music, you know? It doesn't matter what type.
Latina: Which Latin artist do you think is cute?
B: I think, Alejandro Sanz and Alejandro Fernandez.
Latina: Have you ever considered touring in Latin America?
B: I have to go. I've never performed there before. But now, I have this album, so maybe I'll take a month off and visit some places in Latin America at the end of the year. There are certain trips I've been saving, so I have something to look forward to—and Brazil is one of those places. I'd love to go there.
Latina: Do you plan to keep singing in Spanish?
B: I don't know, I'm trying to see how this goes. But do I enjoy singing in Spanish. I think it's so cool. I want to learn more, but right now I don't have time. I'm always so busy—I haven't had a real vacation since I was about 13. So when I finally get a break, the first thing I want to do is learn how to cook, and the second thing is to learn Spanish.
Latina: What's one thing that you'd like to tell your Latina fans?
B: I would thank them for embracing me. I did radio (promotions) this morning for hours and hours and I noticed a big difference between speaking to all of the Latino stations and speaking to the pop stations or the other stations. With the Latino stations, there was so much love and everyone is so genuine. I'm just jealous that I wasn't born Latina. I wish I had been because the culture is so beautiful. I'm very grateful Latinos are embracing me.