Multi-platinum-selling sonero Eddie Santiago changed the salsa world with the release of his 1986 debut solo offering Atrevido y Diferente. It controversially ushered in the "salsa romantico" movement, and broke sales and airplay records with its pop melodies, hip arrangements, and driving yet laid-back, sensual rhythms.
Santiago began singing salsa at age ten. He fell in love with the classics and sought to become a professional sonero. As a teen, he sang in Generación 2000, La Potente Orchestra, Opus Orchestra, and the Saragüey Orchestra. In March of 1984, he joined Willie González as co-lead vocalist of Conjunto Chaney, led by bongo player Nicolas Vivas. He sang on several of the band's hits including "Desesperado" and "Que Maravilla Fue Sentirte." Interestingly, he and González left Conjunto Chaney at roughly the same time, signed to different labels, and issued debuts in 1986. The latter's Willie González & Noche Sensual Orquesta went platinum and earned awards for Album of the Year and Best New Salsa Artist of the Year. By contrast, Santiago's Atrevido y Diferente on Rodven Records drew the ire of critics and traditionalists for its deliberate attempt at commercial appeal. It didn't matter. It outsold Gonzalez's album and virtually every other salsa recording that year. The two records basically revived salsa music's fortunes from a marketplace dominated by merengue for the previous five years.
Santiago's trade secret was his teaming with producer Frank Torres and arranger Tommy Villariny (both of whom he'd met working with Conjunto Chaney). The singer dominated the charts for the rest of the '80s and into the '90s. His next six albums all hit the top spot on the U.S. Tropical Albums charts, while Sigo Atrevido! was nominated for a Grammy Award. The hits, such as "Lluvia," "Todo Empezo," and "Insaciable," kept on coming and Santiago established a touring presence throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, and Europe. The title track collaborative set with Luis Enrique, Los Principes de la Salsa, topped the Tropical Songs chart for five consecutive weeks.
Santiago didn't sign an international major-label deal until 1999, when he inked a contract with Sony. His debut for the label, Celebración: Epic Duets, showcased him re-recording his biggest hits with Elvis Crespo, Melina Leon, Charlie Zaa, Victor Manuelle, and others; it peaked at number eight on the Latin Albums chart. 2001's Ahora was among his best received critically. 2004's Despues del Silencio did well on the charts and at radio, and was nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award for Best Salsa/Merengue Album. Also appearing that year was Eddie Santiago Interpreta los Grandes Exitos de Luis Angel, a tribute to one of his contemporaries. While his last recording of new studio material -- En Su Estilo Romantico y Sensual -- was released in 2006, dozens of compilations have been issued by a variety of labels since then, and several have charted. 2013's Iconos: 25 Exitos placed at number two on the Tropical Albums chart. ~ Thom Jurek