March 14, 2018
By William Glanz
Puerto Rican salsa romantica singer Victor Manuelle will celebrate his 25-year career with a new album, 25/7, which comes out next week (March 23).
Manuelle, also known as “El Sonero de la Juventud” (the singer of youths), doesn’t just get better with time. He also is expanding his reach by collaborating with newer artists. Bad Bunny joined him on “Mala Y Peligrosa,” the second single from his forthcoming release.
With his new album on the way, we reached out to Manuelle recently and asked him about salsa, his incredible career and collaborating with artists from outside the genre he has dominated for so many years.
SoundExchange: Congratulations on the recognition you received from Billboard, which acknowledged your many accomplishments over the past 25 years. When you launched your career, did you expect that you would experience the success you’ve had? Or were you simply thinking about releasing that first album and then hoping to build on that?
Manuelle: Well, always when you record your first album, there is an illusion that you want to have a long career, however nothing is ever guaranteed. I never thought I would be celebrating 25 years like I am at this moment, uninterrupted and successful, thanks to the public. I never expected this, I always dreamed and wished for it with all my heart and soul. Every day you work hard, but you don’t know how long a career will last.
SoundExchange: Early in your career, did you have a big break that helped fuel your success?
Manuelle: I feel that I have had two great opportunities. The first, was obviously when Gilberto Santa Rosa, discovered me and brought me to Sony Music to sign my first recording contract. To have someone like Gilberto, with an incredible credibility in the industry in this musical environment… was important… specifically with the record company. He produced by first album.
The second was the opportunity to sing at Celia Cruz’s televised tribute. To me it was a second boom in my career. It was one of the public’s favorite performances and they to this day still have a lot of love for it. I have been so fortunate and blessed by God to have these two great figures part of my career.
SoundExchange: Does it feel like it’s been 25 years since Justo a Tiempo… came out?
Manuelle: You don’t count the years of your career and to me it doesn’t feel like it’s been 25 years… you are joking, right. (lol) Only when you start to compare your album covers, do you see that time has passed. When I look at the cover of Justo a Tiempo… you notice. Also, when you see the photos and videos you realize how you change. When I started my career I was 23, 24 years old and you mature as the time passes but you don’t feel that all that time has passed.
SoundExchange: Do you feel like your music has changed in the 25 years since that release? Or do you consider yourself the salsa romantica singer people identified you as early in your career?
Manuelle: I consider myself the romantic salsa singer that you met when I started, but I feel I have changed a lot. The message has changed over the years and with each album. I believe that the results of my success in all of my new projects has been my incorporation of what has been the new musical trends and the artists who the favorites of the youth at the moment. I have done many collaborations with urban and pop artists. This fusion and evolution of my music has been successful. I do not believe that the music I make today is the same as I made from 1993, but I try to maintain the essence, especially for the fans that like the style and have been following me since the beginning. I still want to please them.
SoundExchange: You will turn 50 this year, you’ve have an incredible career and your name is synonymous with salsa. What project or collaboration haven’t you done that you want to do?
Manuelle: Right now, I am in a great stage of my career, where I am enjoying things more than when I was younger. There are still many projects I would like to accomplish. With the new album, 25/7, I was able to record with Juan Luis Guerra, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Bad Bunny and Glenn Monorig. These are artists I have always wanted to collaborate with. But there is always something more you would like to do. I would love to record with Ruben Blades and Marc Anthony. That is in the future agenda and these are dreams I would love to fulfill before I finish my career.
SoundExchange: Latin music has seen explosive growth over the past few years. Some of that is due to streaming, which makes access to music easier. Did you expect music fans to embrace Latin music the way they have the past two to three years?
Manuelle: I think that Latin music in general is experiencing its best moment in history. Independently from genre, I am referring specifically to the language, Spanish and our Latino culture. Colombia has been in charge of launching many urban artists and Puerto Rico as well, with artists like Ozuna, Bad Bunny, Maluma and J Balvin. I think we are represented worldwide with a new generation of artists. In this new age especially with the technology and now the growth of streaming, social media, the number of followers and the views on YouTube we have been able to achieve and penetrate our culture on the worldwide stage, us Latinos.
SoundExchange: You were raised in Puerto Rico, which continues to recover from Hurricane Maria. What is life like on the island now? Do you feel as though relief efforts are helping, or is there more to be done?
Manuelle: I was born, raised and have lived in Puerto Rico all my life. I am a person who has made my career here and have had the blessing of being loved by my country. I lived through the hurricane in my home here in Puerto Rico. I have seen other artists raise funds to raise the country and bring help, but we always need more, and we cannot forget. There have been the logistical issues with the help, but there are great intentions of the world, and we are a blessed country. We have love internationally, from our neighboring Caribbean islands, countries of Latin America and many artists both locally and those who have left the country are helping. There has been a lot of people with good faith wanting to help Puerto Rico, and we are grateful for it.