Chip Off the Old Pop

Like father, like son. Those are words for music industry execs to live by. Especially if good ol' Pop still has what it takes to sell albums and his last name can help launch his offspring.

Of course, show-biz lore is full of children of famous parents who made it (mom Judy Garland, daughter Liza Minelli), those who didn't (dad Frank Sinatra, son Frank Sinatra Jr.), and those on whom the verdict is still out (Bob Dylan and Jakob Dylan).

In the Latin music industry, the phenomenon has been just as prevalent, from Luisito Rey and Luis Miguel to Vicente Fernandez and Alejandro Fernandez, Enrique Guzman and Alejandra Guzman, Yolandita Monge and Noelia. And of course, the Iglesias clan.

Whether a famous last name helps much or not, though, is a matter of debate. One label banking on genes is Sony Discos, which on July 2 released Todo Lo Que Tengo, the debut album from Alejandro Montaner, son of beloved Argentine-born, Venezuelan balladeer Ricardo Montaner. And on August 20 the company will release its first album from Jordi, son of popular Spanish singer Dyango (whose other son, Marcos Llunas, is a singer too), titled Tú No Sospechas.

Jordi had made a name for himself in the late 1990s with an extremely well-received album, Desesperadamente Enamorado, and its followup Jordi. Inactive for the past three years, he got out of his Fonovisa contract and switched to Sony Discos. For Montaner, though, Todo Lo Que Tengo is his first album ever, and he's well aware of the pressure that entails.

"I know that I have a great responsibility to live up to. It was my father who sweated off his name and made it famous, not I," says the 24-year-old Montaner, who studied marketing and music business at the University of Miami. "My dad is my role model. I grew up accompanying him on tour, being with him at the recording studio. He gave so much to his career that he sacrificed his first marriage, so I know of the dangers ahead. But I can understand why he did it."

After promising his grandfather Lino he would finish college, Montaner threw himself into recording a demo and making music his life -- with Dad's advice and help. One of the eleven songs on Montaner Jr.'s new album, for example, is "Un Mar De Llanto," penned by his father.

"The relationship between my father, me, and my brother [21-year-old Hector, who will be releasing an album with Universal Music Latino] is perfect," says the Maracaibo-born singer, who sports a laid-back attitude and a surfer look. "We have this pact where we vowed to work as a team. I know some people will try to pitch us against one another, but nothing will come between us. At the end of the day, we will just go home and laugh it off."

Renowned producer Alejandro Jaen (Gilberto Santa Rosa, Jaci Velasquez, Marc Anthony, Isabel Pantoja) trusts that Alejandro Montaner will follow in the footsteps of his father, who is back on the charts with his latest album, Suma. Otherwise, says the industry veteran, he wouldn't have taken on the project.

"His songs are a very important component of this album, since he wrote about half of them," says Jaen. "But once I met Alejandro, I was also enchanted by his presence and humanity. In spite of being so young, he's very mature."

The producer agrees the Montaner name probably opened doors for the young singer, "but in the end, if the artist doesn't have great qualities and an extraordinary charisma, nothing will happen. And I believe Alejandro has what it takes."

Veteran star publicist Angela Rodriguez cautions that "carrying a famous name can be a double-edged sword." Rodriguez, whose AR Entertainment clients include Luis Fonsi, Tito Nieves, Maria Conchita Alonso, and Alejandra Guzman, elaborates: "You have the fans of the parent who say, 'Oh, let me see what his kid sounds like' and go out and buy the album, but then you have those who say, 'He sounds nothing like his father,' or 'He can't sing, so I'm not going to buy it just because he is his father's son.'

"It can help you in the sense that, if your father or mother has sold millions of records, you can get to the labels, you can work out the deals, you can get the attention you need, all in the company's hopes that you will be as successful, or more, than your parent," says Rodriguez. "The negative side, though, is the pressure that exists on you as an artist to be as good as your father or mother. And of course ego is always a problem, no matter how swell the relationship between the two. I don't care what anybody says. We are all human, and there will always be an underlying tension."

Singer Jordi, however (whose new album's first single, "Tú No Sospechas," was co-written by Alejandro Jaen, with industry stalwart Rudy Perez handling most of the production), had a different experience when his father Dyango produced his first album in 1997.

"Whenever I would sing as a child, he would say, 'Try to do it better here' or 'This needs work.' My dad was my teacher," remembers the 24-year-old, Barcelona-born Jordi. "When I hit seventeen, eighteen, I started to record some stuff. My father heard me and said, 'I will produce this for you,' and the next thing you know, he was shopping around what would become my first album, Desesperadamente Enamorado."

His rapid success, says Jordi, "made my father so proud."

But that scenario was not as harmonious for Spanish romantic megastar Julio Iglesias and son Enrique, at least as it played out in the media. When the young Iglesias burst onto the music scene in 1996, managed by Fernan Martinez (previously Iglesias Sr.'s press agent), he achieved almost overnight what it had taken his father years to accomplish. And when he reached the coveted crossover into the Anglo market in spite of harsh criticism of his vocal abilities, he overshadowed much of what his father and siblings, Julio José (who had an ill-fated music career and is attempting a second go) and Chabeli (once a TV host), had accomplished.

Publicist Rodriguez, who worked with Julio Iglesias in the early 1980s, believes that a lot of the alleged rivalry was hyped. Still, she grants, "maybe there was something weird between them, but the love and nurturing that Julio feels as a father for his son has not been affected."

According to Martinez, who in spite of legal problems between them speaks fondly of his former protégé, the Iglesias name was something he played down to focus on Enrique the singer and not Enrique the son of Julio.

"We had to be really tenacious in getting our message across of who he was," says Martinez, currently managing Colombian singer/songwriter Juanes. "Julio's enemies would say, 'Well, Julio doesn't sing, so what does his son know about singing?' And the friends would say, 'Oh, he's riding on his father's coattails.' And those were the friends! That's why Enrique did his first album on his own, without his father knowing. And when we shopped it around, we didn't use his last name. Some people even thought it belonged to a new Central American singer."

What does he make of rising talents such as Alejandro Montaner and Jordi?

"In the short run there will be some positive publicity created by the name," says Martinez. "But in the long run the artist will have to prove that he's not a marketing product. Radio, the public, the media, will be curious, then something will have to come through to demonstrate he's worthy of the name, of having a career, and of people going out there to buy his album."

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Juan Carlos Perez-Duthie

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