Gloria Estefan Striking A Pose
Cuba Latin Pop

Gloria Estefan

Real Name : Gloria Maria Milagrosa Fajardo Garcia
Nickname : La Madre del Pop Latino
Born : September 1, 1957
Birth Place : Havana, Cuba

In an industry increasingly dominated by disposable artists and short-term careers, Gloria Estefan continues to thrive and firmly command the ardent praise of fans worldwide. With the release of “Greatest Hits, Volume 2,” she ascends to a rarified plateau that affirms her status as one of pop music’s true and enduring originals.

“As an artist, you dream about accumulating enough successful music to someday do just one greatest-hits album, but to reach the point where you’re releasing your second collection of hits is beyond belief,” Estefan says. “I’m so proud and so grateful to have reached this point.”

In addition to providing diehard fans with a nicely woven collection of Estefan’s best-loved English-language hits from the past nine years, “Greatest Hits, Volume 2” also effectively illuminates the most creatively plush period of the artist’s career to date. It also leaves the listener appropriately enthusiastic about the next phase of Gloria’s musical career, thanks to the inclusion of the three sterling new tunes: “You Can’t Walk Away From Love,” “Out Of Nowhere,” and “I Got No Love.” “These are songs that allow me to remain true to the sounds and musical concepts that I’ve developed over the last few years, while also experimenting with a lot of fresh, new ideas,” she says.

For added zest, “Greatest Hits, Volume 2” also features a new-millennium take on the Miami Sound Machine classic “Conga.” Renamed “Y-Tu-Conga,” the evergreen tune has been masterfully reinvented into an underground house anthem by none other than Gloria’s son, Nayib, with club veteran Little Louie Vega. “There weren’t all the various current types of dance music back when we first did ‘Conga,’ so there weren’t any different versions of the song.”

Gloria notes”: “So, the song was ripe for remixing. Nayib has always thought it should be done, so he decided to go into the studio and give it a try. He’s been working as a DJ part time, and that’s put him in close touch with the sounds that are cutting-edge. I think he’s done an amazing job of bringing ‘Conga’ up to date, while retaining the original essence of the song. “And I’m not just saying that because I’m his mother,” Gloria adds with a prideful smile. The remixed version of “Conga” provides the perfect bridge between Estefan’s salad days and the new tunes that hint at where the artist is headed in the future.

Among the hottest cuts on “Greatest Volume 2” is the energetic pop-disco anthem “Out of Nowhere.” Produced by Emilio Estefan Jr. and Randall Barlow, the track showcases a decidedly different style of belting from the venerable performer. “The vocals are far more layered than on anything I’ve ever recorded before,” she says. “It was a chance to play with texture, as well as create different vocal personalities. It’s a playful track, kinda sexy. It was a blast to record. And I love that it’s reminiscent of ‘Conga,’ in terms of the percussive feel of the verse and the speed of lyric delivery. It has a nice wrap-around feeling. It just swirls around you.”

Estefan also enjoyed experimenting on “I Got No Love,” another new composition, CO-written by longtime Estefan collaborator Jon Secada. “I’m crazy about the R&B vibe of that song,” Gloria says. “It’s a little more raw, street than people might be used to hearing from me. I love the idea of working on relatively empty tracks, wherein you have to really come up with some fresh vocal ideas. There’s some really nice vocal layering on this song, which I think works well within the rhythmic context that Jon, Emilio and Sebastian Krys, (one of the song’s CO-producers) created.”

If there’s a centerpiece to “Greatest Hits, Volume 2,” it’s “You Can’t Walk Away From Love,” a song that Gloria wrote to accompany the Antonio Banderas/Angelina Jolie motion picture “Original Sin.” The song, an epic ballad showcasing one of Estefan’s most commanding performances to date, takes a stylistic page from the artist’s acclaimed 1996 opus, “Destiny,” in that it relies almost exclusively on authentic Afro-Cuban instrumentation.

“The film is set in the 1800s in Cuba. It was a time when the music that we now associate with Cuba didn’t exist. The culture was steeped more in African rhythms,” Gloria notes. “So, we started with that musical framework, but with an infusion of pop sensibility so that the song would be suitable for modern audiences.”

The process of creating “You Can’t Walk Away From Love,” which Estefan wrote with Emilio, started with the couple viewing a rough cut of the film. “It’s a beautiful piece of work,” Gloria says. “It’s sensual, suspenseful, emotionally enthralling… an incredible combination. It was such a challenge to try to capture all of that in the lyrics of a song.”

The artist started by working from the woman’s point of view in the film, “but without forgetting that there was a very strong male perspective, too.” After several days of digesting the film’s script, she found herself reaching for a guitar on a quiet Sunday morning. “The song was written in one day,” she says. “It just flowed so naturally.”

Although Estefan describes the seemingly effortless experience with a degree of surprise, that’s been a prevailing theme in her musical career. The artist has always worked from the gut, letting her instincts lead the way. “Music has to come from a pure, natural place, otherwise it just doesn’t work,” she says. People can tell when you’re faking it. And the day you reach that point is the day you need to quit making music.”

Part of what has kept Estefan engaged in her musical career is the fact that she is continually testing new ground, as exhibited on “Greatest Hits, Volume 2.” The set opens with a pair of delightful dance anthems, “Turn The Beat Around” and “Everlasting Love,” both of which were standouts on 1994’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” opus. “That was such a fun project for me,” Estefan says with a smile. “It gave me a chance to dig into a lot of great old songs that I’ve always loved. Performing ‘Turn The Beat Around,’ in particular, was such a blast. The original version by Vicki Sue Robinson was always a favorite of mine.”

From there, the project darts into the wonderfully theatrical ballad “Reach,” which Gloria penned with famed tunesmith Diane Warren for the 1996 Olympic Games. “That was a big challenge,” she recalls. “I didn’t want the song to be obvious, yet it was important that the song suit the event. I feel like we found the right balance, and I think ‘Reach’ holds up well as a song separate from the Olympics, which was important to me.”

At the heart of “Greatest Hits, Volume 2” are tunes that draw on Estefan’s Cuban heritage. Although the last nine years have seen the artist record three hugely successful Latin albums (1993’s landmark “Mi Tierra,” 1995’s “Abriendo Puertas,” and 2000’s “Alma Caribeña”), she’s become increasingly cognizant of infusing Cuban elements into her English-language pop material. “You’ll Be Mine (Party Time),” “If We Were Lovers,” “I’m Not Giving You Up,” and “Oye” all deftly pay homage to the artist’s homeland in a way that’s also warmly inclusive of American pop music.

“Music should always be a means of bridging gaps and uniting people,” she says. “The beauty of music is that it can — and should — gather a wide variety of concepts in a way that’s universal.”

Gloria has carried that philosophy into music that is designed to fully mainstream. 1998’s “Heaven’s What I Feel” is a dance bauble that the singer says was intended to “capture the energy of the disco era, when people of all types would gather to dance. It’s a tribalistic ritual that continues to this day, and it’s one that I’m so completely in tune with.”

At the end of the day, Estefan’s dedication to making music that touches the hearts of millions is beautifully displayed on “Music Of My Heart,” a duet with N’Sync that also served as the title theme to the film in which Gloria made her acting debut.

“When you can make music that speaks honestly about you — and it connects with your audience — there’s nothing better,” she says. “It’s the ultimate joy that an artist can feel.”

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