His journey to America began when he was just 10 years old, when his mother shipped him — along with his brother, Julio Jr. — to Miami to live with his father, after his grandfather was kidnapped by the Basque separatist group ETA. These days, despite his world-traveler status, Iglesias chooses to remain in Miami, drawn by the relative privacy and cultural diversity the city offers. There, he enjoys speeding around in his high-end cigarette boat and chumming around with gal pal Anna Kournikova. But his passion is his music.

A child of the 1980s, Iglesias was heavily influenced by American performers like Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and George Michael (his first three concerts), and the aforementioned Guerra. Iglesias would eventually combine the pop and funk sounds of the Westerners with the Latin vibe of his Dominican idol. As a teen, Iglesias often sought refuge in music, as his childhood was complicated by his parents’ divorce and the separation from his mother.

Though his father was constantly on tour, young Enrique didn’t mind. In fact, he was paying attention. Iglesias says being exposed to the music business throughout his formative years was invaluable to him later in life. “I always like to think that even if my father wasn’t a musician, I’d be involved in music. But I guess I’ll never know,” he says. “But, indirectly, he was extremely influential. When you’re a kid, it’s the best school that you can go to. … You learn a lot about the business. The good and the bad. The real and the fake.”

A reluctant hunk, Iglesias is as popular for his R&B–influenced Latin pop as he is for his command of sensual balladry. He often appears in steamy music videos with any number of attractive females. But ask him about his sex-symbol status, and he’s likely to make a joke about his skinny legs.

Unlike many pop icons, Iglesias does almost all of his own songwriting. Of late, he’s relied on collaborations to shape the music, employing other songwriters and producers to help get his ideas off the ground. But the core of most of his pieces is his own. “I used to write more by myself, in the beginning,” he says. “Now I’ve gotten more used to writing with other people. It’s not easy. I think [writing] is kind of personal at times, but I have gotten used to it. I do like writing with different writers because it changes up the way you write, which can be good.”

Iglesias’ longtime producer and close friend, Carlos Paucar, says that the new record is a reflection of Iglesias’ dedication to his music. “It’s been in the works for at least three years,” he says, “[but] it’s been interrupted. We’ve been releasing Greatest Hits in English and Spanish, and they have some new songs in there, which were part of the bigger repertoire that we were working on for the album that’s coming out now. We’d work on new songs, and we’d give them to Greatest Hits, and we’d continue to work, to get songs together. But we were working with no pressure. We just wanted to get a whole bunch of good songs as we were touring, recording other things, just to get the best of the best.”

That “best of the best” was whittled down to 10 songs, of which Paucar is certain there are a number of hits. But he insists that’s not the objective. “I think what we’ve been trying to focus on is fun,” Paucar says. “Just a fun album. Fun songs.”

So is there still room for sensual love ballads on such a “fun” album? “Oh, definitely,” Paucar says. “Enrique is the ballad king.”