La Lengua: Frankie J's new single features Mannie Fresh and Chamillionaire.
Frankie J stumps for higher chart position and higher education
By Chuy Varela
FRANCISCO JAVIER BAUTISTA navigates two worlds—blending R&B vocals with the lingo of his Mexican heritage. His debut album, What's a Man to Do?, in 2003, scored five hit singles. The One in 2005 made him a platinum-selling star. "Un Nuevo Dia" is the title track of his latest all-Spanish album and shows the crossover potential. Now his highly anticipated English-language record is positioning the one-time Kumbia King for megasuccess.
"We're just finishing up," says Frankie, taking a breather from rehearsal. "It's all English, and it comes out Oct. 17. We just filmed the video to the single, a song called 'That Girl.'" Frankie J. headlines the McDonald's LoMcXimo de la Música concert—a national tour benefit for Hispanic higher education. The fast-food giant contributes $3 from the proceeds of each ticket to its scholarship fund. Joining Frankie J. are Luis Fonsi, Nina Sky, Orishas and Jeannie Ortega.
Normally, a tour like this would be a record company's doing. Instead it's left to a fast-food corporation, a situation that Frankie has no beef about. "It's my first time getting involved with McDonald's," says Frankie, "and I feel good about it because the tour is going to help out kids. Helping out my community is a big thing for me. Nobody helped me when I was growing up so this is my way of giving back."
Frankie was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and raised in San Diego, and both his father and older brother were involved in music. His dad led combos around Tijuana and his brother was a DJ and rapper. "My father was a singer back in the day, and I had an aunt who almost got signed when she was my age. With all that around me, I realized how my family tried to do something in the industry but never could. So I thought maybe I could be the chosen one and make music a lifetime career. And here I am today."
The move to San Diego exposed him to American influences, which he mostly gleaned by watching TV. Frankie started singing professionally at age 15, and in 1999 he was asked to be the lead singer for A.B. Quintanilla y Los Kumbia Kings. From Texas, the group was led by Quintanilla, the brother of slain Tejano superstar Selena. Their debut album, Amor, Familia y Respeto (Love, Family and Respect), was a fusion of cumbia, rap and dancehall disco that sold more than 500,000 copies. Frankie was just 21.
"That experience taught me about the business," he says. "I found myself in the group and realized I was going to be dealing with all sorts of different people and challenges. You grow up quick in this business. It's brutal, and you have to watch every move you make."
Un Nuevo Dia shows his versatility and potential as a Latin pop crooner. Knowing two tongues has proven to be a blessing for Javier. While his type of brown soul has been criticized as formulaic, its sweet, syrupy and innocently sexy sounds are the soundtrack for teen girls from both sides of the border who have made him a phenomenon. He can take it where he wants it now but hopes that in a few years he can transition to acting and working in film.
"You got to give the people what they want. "Don't Wanna Try" was my very first single, and it did very well for me. 'Suga, Suga' was worldwide. 'Obsession,' of course. 'How to Deal' and 'More Than Words' are the songs keeping me alive on radio. It's going to be a great show especially for me seeing the fans smiling, laughing and just having a good time."
LoMcXimo de la Música with Frankie J, Luis Fonsi, Orishas, Nina Sky and Jeannie Ortega happens Saturday at 7pm at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose. Tickets are $45 and available at Ticketmaster and APEConcerts.com.
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