Singer and songwriter Alejandra Guzmán is simultaneously regarded as the "Queen of Mexican Rock" and the "Bad Girl of Latin Pop," well-known for her frank, explicit lyrics and scandalous stage shows, and beloved for her big, raspy contralto, which is capable of delivering rock songs, pop ballads, dance club anthems, and show tunes with power and conviction. She has sold over 12 million records in a career spanning three decades. Known internationally as "La Guzmán," she is also a television, film, and stage actress.
Guzman was born into a performing family; she's the daughter of Mexican actress Silvia Pinal and Mexican rock star Enrique Guzmán. She made her first television appearance when she was just two months old. She spent her childhood preparing to be a performer in her own right, taking singing, dancing, and acting lessons, and she traveled with her mom's theatrical troupe. She reluctantly submitted to her mother's wishes that she not pursue a performing career until finishing high school. Upon graduation, the 17 year-old Guzmán appeared in a production of Mame with her mother, and she was also a cast member on the popular TV soap opera Cuando los Hijos Se Van in 1987.
Her first professional singing job was as a backing vocalist with Kenny y Los Electricos, and she did as much session work as she could procure. It was during this period that Guzmán auditioned for veteran Spanish producer Miguel Blasco and convinced him to produce her first album. He signed her as a client and got her a record deal with Fonovisa. Her debut album, Bye Mama, was issued in 1988. Its title single topped the Mexican charts within days of its release; the album followed shortly thereafter. The success of the recording opened doors for her and she appeared on the long running variety TV show Siempre en Domingo.
Her second album, Dame Tu Amor, was greeted just as enthusiastically, especially her compelling covers of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" and "House of the Rising Sun." The single "Poptitos" hit the top spot on the Mexican pop charts. But it was her tour that got the most attention. Modeled on Madonna's risqué stage show, Guzmán's was shocking by Mexican standards. She displayed a number of tattoos and was clad in a bikini for most of it.
She shifted musical gears on 1990's Eternamente Bella, the single best-selling recording of her career to date. Her tour debuted at the prestigious Arena Mexico before continuing on to the United States and Central and South America. The recording remained on the charts longer than either of her previous albums, and opened avenues to a new audience. The same year, she appeared in the film Verano Peligroso. Its soundtrack (made up primarily of her songs) topped the charts as well.
She followed it with Flor de Papel in 1991, her fourth album in as many years. This marked the beginning of her reign as a mature artist. She was nominated for a Grammy for Best Latin Pop album, and won the Eres Award in Mexico for Album of the Year. Guzmán also announced to her Mexican audience that she was pregnant out of wedlock (causing a tabloid scandal), and toured until her fifth month. She gave birth to daughter Frida Sophia in March of 1992.
Guzmán moved to BMG-Ariola (RCA) for 1993's Libre. Its single, "Mala Hierba," hit the top spot. Blasco was executive producer, but Guzmán contributed several songs and provided considerable production, arrangement, and sequencing input. The album focused on more intimate songs dealing with the topics of everyday life. It was the first of her albums to be issued throughout Central and South America, as well as in the United States and some European countries.
Interestingly, she went the other way for 1994's Enorme, a recording of big production numbers and songs about major life events. Its single "Despertar" has remained a concert staple. Guzmán managed to cause more controversy at home that year by posing semi-nude in the Mexican edition of Playboy magazine.
Guzmán's unrelenting work ethic -- issuing new albums combined with a grueling touring and appearances on television and in film -- may have made her an international star, but it also took its toll. The mid- to late '90s proved a difficult period. Even as her musical ambition expanded on 1996's Cambio de Piel to include Middle Eastern and Indian instruments in her Latin rock and pop songs, and her sales in North America increased, her life was under siege.
She underwent treatment for drug addiction and got married and divorced after her husband was convicted of drug trafficking charges in Germany (she claimed she knew nothing of his activities). In addition, her daughter was the target of a kidnapping attempt.
The tabloid attention was a major distraction. Guzmán tried to shift the focus of the popular narrative by appearing on-stage with her mother in the musical Gypsy, but to no avail. When she released 1999's Algo Natural, co-produced by Carlos Calderon and Oscar Lopez, the negative attention was so widespread that her label -- undergoing a reorganization at the time -- distanced itself from her. They put only minor effort into promoting the record. Though it won widespread critical praise and a Latin Grammy nomination, it sold poorly. La Guzmán was undaunted. Without label support, she toured to promote the record and restore her reputation.
Even after the fiasco surrounding Algo Natural, Guzmán re-signed with RCA. For 2001's Soy she proved ever the adventurer and controversially enlisted producer Desmond Child. He co-authored the song "Todo" with guitarist Jonny Lang, brought in heavyweight guitarist Joe Satriani as a guest, and got Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to write her a single. Guzmán translated the song into Spanish as "Soy Tu Lluvia." She also co-authored the party-anthem opener "Diablo." The album earned her a Latin Grammy award in 2002 for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, though critical notice was mixed. She had gained redemption with the larger public: She was selected as a guest anchor for Mexico's Televisa network at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. She toured to support Soy throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
She stuck with Child for 2004's Lipstick, along with co-producers Jules Gondar and Will Edwards. It was her first recording to feature an English-language track -- the funky, hard-rocking, title track single bookended the album in Spanish and English versions. While most of the date contained uptempo dance tunes, there were standout ballads as well in the atmospheric "Salvame" and the soulful, country-ish "Tengo Derecho a Estar Mal." During its supporting tour, Guzmán made a concert appearance with her father at Mexico City's National Auditorium.
La Guzmán moved over to Sony for 2006's Indeleble and acted as her own executive producer. Within days of its 2006 release, its first single, "Volver a Amar," went gold, and was followed by another in "Quiero Estar Contigo." The album received two Grammy nominations.
In 2007 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Undergoing treatment immediately, she beat it and became a spokeswoman for Iniciativa Ser, a Mexican organization devoted to awareness about the disease and fundraising for further research. Guzmán seemed invincible. By the end of the year she had signed with EMI and released the new album Fuerza. Its charting single, "Hasta el Final," detailed her battle with the illness.
In 2008, Guzmán began recording in studios in Nashville and London. The end result was 2009's Único, the album she lovingly referred to as her "British rock album." Not only did it chart, but it achieved gold status. That same year, after undergoing a cosmetic procedure, Guzmán fell gravely ill. The surgeon had injected her with an infected implant. He was prosecuted but Guzmán intervened on his behalf and he was acquitted.
In 2010, she and singer Ricky Martin openly discussed a romantic relationship they shared in 1992. Shortly thereafter, she joined the television program Mira Quién Baila as a panel judge. This was short-lived. She left the show under a shroud of controversy and rumor before the season ended.
Guzmán released the live CD/DVD package Con Moderatto: 20 Años de Éxitos en Vivo in 2011. She toured to support the recording for nearly two years. She released the single "Mi Peor Error," a new song for the best-selling, more intimate live album Primera Fila. She also joined the cast of La Voz Mexico as a coach.
In June of 2015, La Guzmán surprised fans with the pre-release single of "Adios," a reggaeton collaboration with Puerto Rican singer Farruko. It failed to chart. A second single, "Qué Ironía," -- whose video was shot in Iceland -- fared better. In September of 2015, back with Sony, she released A + No Poder, her first studio album in six years. Guzmán co-wrote its songs and co-produced the record with José Luis Pagán. Other than the urban single "Adios," its balance of material marked a return to the rock & roll and power ballads that established her reputation. ~ Thom Jurek