"Mi Chico Latino" (English: "My Latin Boy"), is a song recorded by English singer Geri Halliwell for her debut solo album Schizophonic (1999). It was written by Halliwell, Andy Watkins and Paul Wilson, whilst produced by the latter two, who are known collectively as Absolute. "Mi Chico Latino" was released as the album's second single on 16 August 1999, by EMI. It is a Latin pop song which is centred on a lost love theme. The song was written by Halliwell in order to pay homage to her mother, who has Spanish background, whilst it also has a number of Spanish lyrics.
"Mi Chico Latino" received mixed reviews from music critics, who noted it was a contribution to the Latin pop phenom at the time, while others criticized Halliwell's Spanish pronunciation. The song was a commercial success in the United Kingdom, debuting at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Halliwell's first number-one solo single in the country. The song also attracted moderate success worldwide. "Mi Chico Latino"'s accompanying music video was directed by Doug Nichol and filmed in Sardinia. It depicts the singer wearing a black bikini and dancing with semi-nude male dancers. In order to promote the single, Halliwell performed the song on Top of the Pops and Party in the Park in 1999.
"Mi Chico Latino" was written by Halliwell, Andy Watkins and Paul Wilson in the autumn of 1998. The singer wanted to make a song with Spanish influences, in order to pay homage for her Spanish mother. During a day in the studio, they came up with a melody but did not have any words. Then she called her mother for help. Halliwell recalled asking her, "Mum, what do you say to a bloke in Spanish if you fancy him and are being romantic?" Her mother then said she did not remember that. So she asked her look at her library of Spanish language romances, and she read the titles out to Halliwell. Eventually she came out with "¿Dónde está el hombre con fuego en la sangre?" ("Where is the man with fire in his blood?" in English), and she liked the way it sounded, and included the line at the beginning of the song. After "Look at Me" peaked only at number two, her record company wanted her to release "Lift Me Up", while the Absolute team wanted "Bag It Up", but she chose to release "Mi Chico Latino" after receiving good reception from children. She also thought,
"First and foremost I thought it was a good record. It was poppy and catchy and perfect for the summer. I think my core audience is young teenage girls and gay guys. Both of those groups tend to like pure pop music and I think that's what 'Chico' was. It was very different from the slightly leftfield style of 'Look at Me'. [...] The other thing that 'Chico' had going for it was that the music was Latin-based, I had written the song back in 1998 but by the time the summer of 1999 came around Latin-influenced music was ruling the charts. Ricky Martin had recently had a number one and there were others on the way. So it was a strange example of synchronicity that I should be ready to go with a Latin track which I had written almost a year before".
"Mi Chico Latino" is a Latin pop song which moves at a moderate tempo of 104 beats per minute. At the beginning of the song, Halliwell chants the spoken word line "¿Dónde está el hombre con fuego en la sangre?". The lyrics to the song are centred on a lost love theme, with castanets in the background. During the song, the singer also sings in Italian on its chorus, when everything else is Spanish. According to biographer David Sinclair in his book Spice Girls Revisited: How The Spice Girls Reinvented Pop, Halliwell continued to explore the Riviera-pop theme of the Spice Girls' song, "Viva Forever", whilst "murmuring sweet nothings in a peculiar brand of estuary Spanish while castanets and timbales clattered alongside a cod-flamenco guitar".
In 1999, Israeli singer Alabina said "Mi Chico Latino" was a plagiarism from her song "Alabina (De La Noche A La Manana)", released the year before. A spokesman for Alabina's French record label Atal said that they were "anxiously contacting" Halliwell's record label about the songs' similarities. However, no legal actions were made.
"Mi Chico Latino" received mixed reviews from music critics. Jon Perks, whilst reviewing Schizophonic for Sunday Mercury, gave a positive review, stating, "Okay, so it sounds like a hybrid of La Vida Loca and Madonna's La Isla Bonita, but with a swimming-costumed Geri on the cover and a summery tune, it's a winning combination". Chris Charles from BBC News commented that "Mi Chico Latino" could be mistaken with "Spice Up Your Life", Halliwell's previous hit with the Spice Girls. For Russell Baillie from The New Zealand Herald, Halliwell spends time on the album "flashing her eyelashes at [menfolk], especially if they're foreign", calling the song "glutinous". According to Rolling Stone, "Mi Chico Latino" was her "impeccably timed contribution to the Latin-pop phenom, complete with awkwardly pronounced Spanglish". Jonathan O'Brien from Hot Press magazine was negative, stating that "Mi Chico Latino" was "a dreadful pastiche of Madonna's 'La Isla Bonita'".
"Mi Chico Latino" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart on 22 August 1999, becoming Halliwell's first number-one solo single in the country. It also was the beginning of a sequence of four consecutive Halliwell singles reaching number one in the United Kingdom. It spent fifteen weeks in the charts, and went on to sell almost 380,000 copies in the UK and was certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). "Mi Chico Latino" experienced moderate success in other European markets. In Austria, it entered the singles chart at number 34, eventually peaking at number 27 and spending a total of eight weeks on the chart. In France, the song peaked at number 40, remaining on the chart for ten weeks in total. On the Swiss Singles Chart dated 19 September 1999, it peaked at number 26. In Australia, "Mi Chico Latino" debuted at its peak of number 43 on the issue dated 5 September 1999. The song also experienced success in the United States, peaking at number 19 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
The accompanying music video for "Mi Chico Latino" was directed by Doug Nichol and filmed in Sardinia from 5-8 July 1999. Halliwell wanted the video for the song to be very different in style to her previous single "Look At Me", as that one was filmed in Prague in the freezing cold, and she wanted something to connect with her fans. According to her, the video was also pretty easy to get: "a yacht, a girl in a bikini and some sexy boy dancers to keep both sets of fans [gay guys and teenage girls] happy". After the video was released, the singer got a huge amount of attention from it. "People came up to me and told me how great and how sexy it was. They also told me I looked really healthy, but how wrong they were. I wasn't healthy because I wasn't eating properly and although I was slim at the time, that was a mirage too because the tough regime of the diet was always going to lead me to binge and put the weight back on", and later, she began taking recovery meetings for bulimia.
Halliwell first performed "Mi Chico Latino" as the opening number at her show held at G-A-Y nightclub. According to Brian Logan from The Guardian, the performance "served only to stress" her certain brand of pop, referring to it as "Madonna-lite." Halliwell also performed the single in front of 100,000 fans at Party in the Park event in early July 1999. On 26 August 1999, the singer performed the song on Top of the Pops.Geri Halliwell — songwriter
Absolute — songwriters, producers, instruments
Tracey Ackerman – backing vocalist
Milton Mcdonald – guitar
Karlos Edwards – percussion
Mike Higham – programming
Paul "P" Dub Walton – audio engineer
Mark "Spike" Stent – mixing
Wayne Wilkins – mixing assistant
Stylorouge – design, art direction
Dean Freeman – photographer
Credits and personnel adapted from Schizophonic album liner notes.