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Prince Royce: Bronx Bachata Superstar’s Long Road to English-Language LP

 

“What’s up, baby?” asks Prince Royce at the beginning of his latest single, “Back It Up,” featuring Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez. “It’s your new boyfriend.”

For many, Royce is the same boyfriend they’ve imagined having for years. At 26, he’s already a bachata and Latin-pop superstar, with videos that have racked up nearly half a billion views and a collection of albums packed with romantic hits like “Darte un Beso” and his cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” With Double Vision, his fourth LP and first in English, Royce is preparing to reintroduce himself and, hopefully, reach a bigger audience than ever.

“I’ve been working on this album for almost three years now, even though it sounds kind of crazy,” he tells Rolling Stone. “Originally, when I released my second Spanish album, there was talk of me doing an English album, and it’s been kind of a long process. . . . I didn’t really have a clear mind on what sound I wanted to come out with,” he says. “Now [I see] more clearly in mind exactly what I wanted to do. This is what I want to represent as a Dominican guy coming from New York that also sings in Spanish.”

Born and raised in the Bronx as Geoffrey Royce Rojas, the singer has always lived his life bilingually. “The reason why I gave [this album] the name Double Vision is because I always felt like I’ve lived life with two perspectives,” he recalls. “[I was] speaking Spanish at home but then speaking English with my friends in school. I was listening to Latin music and eating Latin food but also still feeling very American when I was hanging out at school or at parties.”

As a kid, he became obsessed with R&B artists like Usher and would serenade girls with the song “U Remind Me.” He has taken cues from Nineties and early-millennium male R&B stars who appealed to adult women as much as teenage girls.

“When I’m writing a song, [I] definitely take that into consideration,” Royce says of his largely female fan base. “I always think to myself, ‘Will the girls like it?’ I’m grateful for all the girls that are connecting with me. The ladies definitely play a big part in my story.”

Royce’s story began with 2010′s “Stand by Me,” a bachata take on the Ben E. King classic that breathed new life into the oft-covered track. From there, he flew to the top of the Latin-pop ranks, ruling bachata alongside his friendly musical competitor Romeo Santos (who sold out Yankee Stadium last summer). On Double Vision, Royce steps out of the genre briefly to experiment with the pop, R&B and hip-hop undertones that have long existed in his sound. “My intent is never to leave Latin music,” he says. “I definitely still want to release bachata albums. In fact, now that I’ve done the English one, I’m starting to work on my next Spanish album. My dream goal would be to do both.”

While Double Vision is being labeled a crossover, Royce wouldn’t be quick to agree. “English was always my first language and my first single in Spanish was a cover of an English song, so I kind of [crossed over] to Spanish first with an English song on Latin radio,” he says. “I think [this album] is just Prince Royce in English. It represents this new generation of Latinos in America where there’s people just like me who speak Spanish because their parents came as immigrants but they all grew up in the States, whether it’s Texas or Chicago or New York or L.A. This is another side of me that a lot of people never got to hear.”

For Royce, an English-language album also means greater exposure outside of the Spanish-speaking communities where he has thrived. An opening slot on Ariana Grande’s Honeymoon Tour will surely help his cause. “As a Latin musician, I understand that there are so many places where people don’t know who I am,” he says. “My albums never came out in Australia or Japan. ‘Stuck on a Feeling,’ the first single, played a lot in Australia and now my album is coming out in Australia. It comes out in Japan in September. [Double Vision] is just a door to represent where I’m from and reach new audiences around the world that I haven’t gotten to yet.”

While Royce does feel some pressure when it comes to representing his community in these new markets, he mostly feels excitement now that he’ll be opening more doors for Latin artists, like his predecessors Shakira and Ricky Martin have done in the past. “I feel like it’s been so long since we’ve had [a Shakira or Ricky Martin],” he reflects. “I just want to open up this new creative side and get the world to find out about me and learn a little bit more about what artists have been doing in Latin music.”

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