The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 5)

This is The Story of Pop: 2002. It’s our weekly retelling of all the hits and the stars behind them that made up the UK singles chart as it looked 20 whole years ago. This week: one of Spain’s biggest musical exports is reborn a chart hero – literally….

  • Artist: Enrique Iglesias
  • Song: Hero
  • Released: 21/01/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Enrique Iglesias / Paul Barry / Mark Taylor
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #1
  • Weeks On Chart: 33

Before 2002, the most people in the UK knew of Enrique Iglesias was back in 1999. Around the time that Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and er… Geri Halliwell were burning up the charts with all things Latino, the son of Julio Iglesias, who had already had had two successful Spanish language albums, had scored a big success with “Bailamos”, his debut English language crossover release.

Included on the soundtrack to the Will Smith blockbuster Wild Wild West, it topped the US Billboard chart and peaked at #4 here in August of that year, staying in our top 40 for a seven week run. And then came the follow-up single, “Rhythm Divine”.

In truth, it lacked any of the crossover appeal of his international debut, not to mention being released in a week that has now passed into chart legend as a cautionary tale of what risks are at stake when you release a single exceptionally close to Christmas.

Bombing out at #45 that December, in one swift move all the good work of “Bailamos” in breaking Enrique on British shores was undone, and although his next single, “Be With You”, was also a US Billboard chart topper, the option to release it here in the UK was passed over altogether. Save for a guest vocal on Whitney Houston’s “Could I Have This Kiss Forever” (a UK #7 hit in October 2000), Enrique had very much been confined to one hit wonder-dom where British audiences were concerned.

Still, he remained a big priority in the States, and anticipation was high there for the release of his second album, Escape, in the last quarter of 2001. The first single, “Hero”, a stirring and emotive power ballad co-written by Enrique with his long time collaborators, UK based songwriters and producers Mark Taylor (Shania Twain, Cher, Kylie Minogue) and Paul Barry, had been released across the pond at the start of September.

It was slowly gaining traction on airplay, whilst its dramatically styled video starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Mickey Rourke was also becoming a music channel fixture. But fate – or rather, catastrophic global events – was to play a hand in elevating it’s immediate success in the US. Just a week after its release, the world watched in sadness and disbelief at the events of 9/11, and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

In a move that was only comparable to when UK radio stations had ripped up their playlists in favour of playing sombre, reflective music in the wake of Princess Diana’s death four years previously, it was a similar story across the Atlantic, as stations from Mississippi to Montana cleared their current playlists to replace it with any suitable music they could find in the wake of the tragedy. Amongst these was Enya’s “Only Time”, Destiny’s Child’s “Emotion”, and Enrique’s “Hero”.

A version of the song played on radio that was interspersed with audio clips of police, firefighters and civilians at Ground Zero, as well as Enrique performing the song at the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert a couple of weeks later, saw to it that the single eventually peaked at #3 in the US, and spent 15 weeks at the top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. With this in mind, Interscope in the UK saw an opportunity to relaunch Enrique Iglesias here.

To say it was a turn around in fortunes is an understatement; upon its UK release at the end of January 2002, “Hero” shot straight to number one, whilst his Escape album also topped the chart. At the time, it became only the third single to spend as many as four weeks at the top in the 21st century (following Atomic Kitten’s “Whole Again” and Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”), and save for two massive records we’ll meet over the course of the next few months was one of the biggest hits of the year. As of 2015, it has now sold over 1m copies in this country.

Newly reborn in the UK, more success followed for Enrique over the course of 2002, with the album’s title track “Escape” (#3 in May) and top 20 hits in September and December with “Love To See You Cry” and “Maybe”. But it was “Hero” that undoubtedly raised Enrique from the clutches of post-summertime craze obscurity to become one of the most consistently popular male solo artists of the 00s.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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