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Crooner returns to El Paso with new pop album
By Maria Cortes Gonzalez / El Paso Times

Inside the University of Texas at El Paso Programs Office, Hispanic superstar Luis Miguel is referred to as a "hot ticket."

A regular to El Paso, the performer is known for selling out his shows. He draws more than 6,000 fans. And sometimes, a second show is added.

"He definitely has a following," said Jorge Vasquez, program director for UTEP Special Events.

The fans were there when he started out, a lanky 12-year-old with a toothy grin. At 15, he won his first Grammy for his recording of "Me Gustas Tal Como Eres," a catchy tune with Sheena Easton.

Many of them probably were with him when he entered another decade with a different genre of music - bolero.

"Romances," Luis Miguel's eighth album, sold more than 7 million copies worldwide. In 1994, "Segundo Romances" reached No. 29 on Billboard's Top 200 - the highest entry point to date for an album in Spanish. He was recognized by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling more than 2 million copies of the two albums in the United States.

With a new CD named after his age, the 33-year-old is ready to thrill fans during his 2003 world tour, which will hit at least 21 arenas and amphitheaters in the United States. The tour kicked off Oct. 8 in Palm Springs and rolls into El Paso's Don Haskins Center on Oct. 27.

Fans such as El Pasoan Karla Alantara, 29, can't wait.

"I've liked him since he got started. I remember him doing movies with (another Hispanic star) Lucerito," said Alantara, who said she has been to almost every Luis Miguel concert in El Paso and a few in Juarez.

Alantara was impressed when the performer tackled songs that had been sung by seasoned performers of an older generation.

"I don't know what it is. But he sang songs that others had sung before and it was different - better," she said. "There were songs that others had sung that I didn't even really like. But when he sang them, I started to like them."

Fans such as Alantara are now eager to follow Luis Miguel as he returns to pop music. His new CD, "33," is the first studio album of pop material since he recorded "Amarte Es Un Placer," which earned three Grammys, in 1999.

The superstar recorded and produced "33" earlier this year in Los Angeles. The album features 11 original ballads and up-tempo songs, some written by familiar and legendary artists, including Armando Manzanero, Juan Luis Guerra and Kike Santander.

The first single, "Te Necesito," which features the vocal group Take 6 and was written by famed Dominican singer-songwriter Guerra, seems headed in the right direction. The song debuted in the top chart positions in Latin America, Spain and the United States, according to the singer's publicist.

In El Paso, the feedback has been positive.

"We've been playing it since it came out a month ago, and it's getting good results. It's a good time for him to return to pop," said Mario Castillo, program director at KBNA-FM (97.5).

Castillo said the single is getting played about every four hours each day.

But for those who still crave those older hits, don't worry.

"I just saw him in Las Vegas last week, and it was very good. He does a potpourri of all his old songs," he said.