SOMETHING WILD HAPPENS WHENEVER Luis Miguel gets near a microphone. As he stepped onstage at L.A.’s Universal Amphitheatre last month, he winked at the crowd and drew ear-popping screams. Launching into a funky pop number, shaking and shimmying in a red, ruffled shirt, he had the audience—mostly young and female—on its feet. Which is just the way the 24-year-old Mexican heartthrob likes it. “The crowd, the people,” he says afterward, “I’m going to be addicted to that the rest of my life.”
Latin America’s spiciest pop import won’t be going through withdrawal anytime soon. Revered south of the border as el Idolo—the equivalent of the King—he is now making Americans swoon on his current tour. On top of that, Segundo Romance, his collection of classic love songs, hit the U.S. charts at No. 29 last month to become one of Billboard’s highest debuting Spanish-language albums ever. “The way people react reminds me of the Beatles,” says producer Phil Ramone, who tapped Miguel to sing on Frank Sinatra’s upcoming Duets II album. “He’s got the kind of pizzazz that comes around only once a decade.”
Raised in Mexico City, Miguel was pushed into a singing career at 10 by his manager father, Spanish-born singer Luisito Rey. “I hated it, but I was very afraid of him,” says Miguel, who became a teen idol and had four albums and a Grammy by the age of 14. Driven relentlessly by Rey, Miguel fired him and severed ties with his Italian mother, Marcella, a former model, after his parents divorced in 1986. (Rey died in 1992, and Miguel hasn’t seen Marcella for seven years.) Intent on producing more sophisticated pop, Miguel founded his own record company in 1987 and to date has sold 17 million albums worldwide.
Success has its rewards, including a hacienda in Acapulco (Placido Domingo lives next door) and a red Ferrari. But Miguel—who says he’s too busy for love—does admit to feeling lonely. That may explain his penchant for bittersweet ballads. “I like to be a loser when I’m singing,” he says. “But only when I’m singing.”