The Ambiguous, Profound Miguel Bosé

by Ana Leonor Rojo


He’s entertained millions of devoted fans throughout Latin America and Spain for more than fifteen years. He’s recorded more than twenty albums in four languages, he’s played host to his own variety show and he’s been directed in film by the enfant terrible of Spanish cinema, Pedro Almodóvar. But in spite of his versatility and undeniable magnetism in the Spanish-speaking world, Miguel Bosé has been unable to break through the cultural barrier that divides Latinos in the United States from Latin Americans.

The United States “is a country that has such peculiarities, good things and bad things,” says Bosé, commenting on why he hasn’t become as famous in this country as he has in most Spanish-speaking lands. But Bosé, a veritable chameleon of pop sound, likes to answer with ambiguous sentences that steer him away from strong opinions.

From Miami, where he was doing a promotional tour, Bosé speaks of his new production, “The Best of Bosé”, a compilation of sixteen songs that include his greatest hits such as “Amante bandido,” and his new creations “Hacer por hacer,” and “No hay ningún corazón que valga la pena.”

Bosé is no stranger to the United States. Multifaceted and hyperactive, Bosé studied dance under Martha Graham in New York back in the early 80s. His albums “Bajo el signo de Cain” and “XXX” were recorded in English, even thought their productions did not crystallize into fame for the Spanish singer. But he still keeps on trying.

The son of the famous bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín and the Italian actress Lucía Bosé, Miguel keeps a careful tie around his tongue when speaking with the press. In spite of the fame that has always surrounded him, he’s never let it penetrate beyond his music, the only place where the songwriter allows the presence of those outside his world.

In spite of his hermetism (or maybe because of it), gossips have long tried to speculate about his life. His songs “Salamandra” and “Duende” were believed to be confessions of his sexual preferences, a topic that has caused much commotion in the homophobic Latin American cultures. Bosé, always reluctant to say much about himself, says his stories have nothing to do with him.

“I write very little about me, you know? I always bring to life other characters, almost like a ventriloquist does with his dolls,” Bosé says forcefully. “I write about character who tell tales, who have emotions. Maybe from that point of view there are personal elements that escape from me.”

Perhaps it is the empathy his music exudes that make his fans doubt his stories are a product of his imagination. “Partisano,” the story of a deserter, is a poignant account of war and the human sacrifice it demands. It’s almost as if Miguel himself had gone to the front to defend some ideals often difficult to grasp.

Not all of his lyrics are as straightforward. “Sara,” the story of a woman who takes off one day, leaves a lot to the imagination. Where does she go? It appears like she’s made a very important decision, a decision that has changed her life, but the clues don’t lead to a clear trail. And that’s precisely what’s so fascinating about Bosé: the ambiguity of his lyrics bestows on them an aura of depth rarely found in pop music. He says much and explains little, reflecting to a certain extent the contradictions of his generation.

Miguel has developed a post-modern sound through the use of traditional instruments combined with synthesizers and electric guitars, oboes and a shamanic chorus. His innovative and adventurous spirit inspires in him passions that are not satiated by past achievements but are pushed into unexplored territory.

Every new recording signifies reinvention for the Spanish singer. First it was “Salamandra,” in which he completely broke away from his established sound. Most recently it was “11 maneras de ponerse un sombrero,” a compilation of eleven renowned songs such as Carlos Varela’s “Muro,” and Jaques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas.” But he puts his personal seal on the performances: from the orchestral arrangements to the new-agey choruses, the musical selection is a good sample of Bosé’s progressive politics and his preference for love songs.

Miguel Bosé will return to the United States in May to tour with his new material. These days, when love for Latin pop seems burning, maybe the poetic soul of this chameleon can find a place where his colors match the flames.

© 2000 El Andar Magazine