Despite moving to the United States from Spain at an early age, Enrique Iglesias still bleeds "La Roja." And every four years, when the World Cup is on and Spain is playing, mostly everything else stops in Iglesias' life. And that includes attempts to postpone a worldwide media tour promoting his ninth studio album, "Euphoria."
The album (presale available at Amazon), which hits stores Tuesday, is Iglesias' first effort to mix Spanish and English and features collaborations with hip-hop big hitters Akon, Usher and Pitbull.
And while he couldn't delay the media blitz, he gladly took the time to talk with The Life about the World Cup, his native Spain's chances at glory, and of course, LeBron James' free-agency decision.
The Life: First off, congratulations. Spain is in the quarterfinals with a hard-fought win over Portugal. How did you watch the game?
Iglesias: I actually got to see it here at my house [in Miami]. It's the first time I got to see a game in the comfort of my own living room, sitting on my sofa with nothing to interfere.
The Life: Is this the World Cup the Spanish finally break through?
Iglesias: It was a little frightening in the beginning. I felt good heading into the last Euros, and people would say, "Yeah, but Spain is always so unfortunate. They never get through. They always have a tough time. They always promise so much." For some reason that year, I felt like it was good. I was a big fan of [Fernando] Torres, [David] Villa, the whole defense of Spain is so good, from [Carles] Puyol to [Gerard] Pique to Sergio Ramos, [Iker] Casillas, the amazing goalie.
On paper, they are just too, too good. If they play as a team they are great. Ever since winning the Euros the team has been on. You have Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta. If you look at it, technically they should be the team to get to the final, but anything can happen in the World Cup, you know how it is. Look at Spain, who was doing so well last year, and they got beat by the U.S. when they had an unbeatable record.
The Life: Now did you take any heat from some U.S. soccer fans for that?
Iglesias: I took a lot of heat for that.
The Life: What was the worst that someone said to you?
Iglesias: Not many people watch soccer in the U.S., so it wasn't that harsh.
The Life: Well, it might make you feel better to know that David Villa is carrying my World Cup fantasy team. The dude is absolutely killing it right now.
Iglesias: He's so good. He's been killing it for the last three years. He goes to Barcelona next year and he gets to play with [Lionel] Messi. It's Messi and Villa as the guys in the front of the team scoring the goals. I can only imagine. It will be unbelievable.
The Life: Are you a Madrid fan being born there?
Iglesias: You know what, everybody from my household is from Madrid, and when I was a kid I used to want to go against the household, so I kind of rooted for Barca. I'm a big Messi fan. I like watching Barcelona just to see what he's going to do. …
What do you think of the World Cup? Who do you think gets to the final?
The Life: You don't want to hear this, but it's hard to pick against Argentina. There's that semifinal where it could be you guys and Argentina. What do you think about you versus Argentina, and I read you're a big Diego Maradona fan as well, so what would that be like?
Iglesias: I was actually with Maradona three weeks ago. He's probably one of only two people actually that I've seen up close that I get starstruck. One is Bruce Springsteen, the other is Maradona. It's like the third time I've seen him. Every time I see him I become a little kid. I see that guy and what he means to me in soccer is just, I grew up with the guy. He's a hero.
He's got like a guardian angel because everyone was giving him s--- that they didn't almost qualify for the World Cup. You know how it is for qualifying, it doesn't mean anything. You could have the toughest time qualifying, look at Uruguay. They went all the way to the end against Costa Rica and look how good they are doing now.
I just had a feeling with Argentina. You have [Gonzalo] Higuain, [Diego] Milito, Messi obviously, you have [Carlos] Tevez, you have [Sergio] Aguero and Aguero doesn't even play. You have amazing players, though the defense is probably a little weak. I actually think they are going to have a really tough time with Germany. Which is funny because all my German friends before the tournament were saying, "Oh no, we're not good this year." They are probably the most consistent team. They always get to the semifinals or finals.
The Life: Is it true you tried to delay the release of your album until September to accommodate your viewing of the World Cup?
Iglesias: That's a 100 percent true story that I called up the record company. I actually begged them to move the album back to September, and they told me if I did that they would never speak to me again.
The Life: You went with the money decision then?
Iglesias: The thing is I went, "Man, the World Cup only happens once every four years." And they go, "Yeah, and your albums happen once every three years, so shut up and keep on working."
The Life: Did you get caught up in the United States' dramatic run, at all?
Iglesias: I did. The thing that was tough was that I was in England when England was playing Slovenia at the same time U.S. was playing Algeria. You have to give [it] to the U.S. All my friends that I spoke to, and not necessarily Americans, they said, the U.S. was going to be the team to surprise everyone. And they were actually surprising. They did really good. They were unfortunately a little unlucky in the last game against Ghana. I think in part that it was horrible that the U.S. lost because I think it would have been great for soccer in the U.S. I feel like the minute that the U.S. aren't in the World Cup people aren't going to care as much.
The Life: Do you root for any stateside teams in other sports?
Iglesias: I like the NBA and the Miami Heat because I live in Miami.
The Life: You say you've been in London for a little bit, have you heard the pipe dream talk that LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade could all play in Miami together?
Iglesias: They're saying LeBron James is coming to Miami or Wade leaving somewhere else?
The Life: They're talking about all three of them coming to Miami. Bosh and LeBron with Wade staying.
Iglesias: That would be sick. I love LeBron James. Actually after the Heat, I watch the Cavaliers just to watch him play.
The Life: So, it could be a two-birds-one-stone thing if he signs in Miami for you. You'd only have to watch one team.
Iglesias: Yeah, but I read an article yesterday that said he was going to the Nets, Bulls or the Knicks.
The Life: I mean, no one knows right now. They say the Bulls, the Nets, the Clippers maybe. It'll be fun to watch the next few days. Almost as fun as the World Cup. Almost.
All right, enough about LeBron, we've got to touch on your new album. This is your first album to feature English and Spanish. What was the reasoning behind that?
Iglesias: I always wanted to do it. I felt confident of doing it because there are two versions. One that the fans could pick with more English and one they could pick with more Spanish. So I was OK with that. I thought that was cool that they had a choice of picking one or the other. But for me, I kind of needed it. I grew up in Miami speaking Spanglish. I've always said, I don't speak perfect Spanish and I don't speak perfect English. I've had to make it more eclectic. It helped me artistically a lot to write songs. For me it made the album a lot more interesting.
The Life: What was it like working with the likes of Pitbull, Akon and Usher?
Iglesias: It was great. Usher and I have been talking for a while about working together and we were finally able to do it on this album. Akon was one of those instantaneous things where he went by the studio and he just started laying vocals and we thought it was great. And Pitbull, we both grew up in Miami, we have a lot of friends in common. He's a go-getter man. He doesn't take anything for granted. I feel like every time he raps, every time he lays a melody, every time he cuts something, he does it like it's the last time he's ever going to do it. He's a guy I truly respect.
The Life: You're scheduled to feature on "The Today Show" four days after the final. If Spain wins it are you still going to be bleary-eyed?
Iglesias: If Spain wins the final, I'm going to do "The Today Show" naked, painted in red and yellow [laughs]. I'm kidding. I don't know what I'll do. I probably won't have a voice from screaming too much.
The Life: Are you going to put on a Torres jersey or a Villa jersey or something like that?
Iglesias: I'm going to put on a red and yellow Speedo and probably not sell anymore records for the rest of my career if they see me in that.
The Life: You look that bad in a Speedo?
Iglesias: Yeah, I probably would. I couldn't pull off that Vanity Fair cover that these guys do.
Matthew Glenesk is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis.