DETROIT – Lights flash hues of purple and pink and ivy and indigo onto the dance floor of Harem Nightclub in northwest Detroit. Like a pulsing rainbow, they illuminate the men and dozens of women wearing stilettos and stretchy tops and skinny jeans who, at midnight, have just started dancing, incorporating salsa and merengue in their movements.
Speakers blaze with a hit song by Zion Y Lennox, who chant, reggaeton-style, "Ella hace todo por seducirme/Y yo voy, voy, voy." ( "She does everything to seduce me/And I go, go, go.")
The men and women smile and dance, mouthing the lyrics.
They switch from Spanish to English when Nelly Furtado croons, "Promiscuous boy/You already know/That I’m all yours/What you waiting for?"
This is precisely the kind of crowd MTV hopes to capture with MTV Tr3s, which it launched in October during Hispanic Heritage Month. The channel will target young, bicultural, bilingual Latinos like the ones at Harem Nightclub on a recent Friday evening for the club’s sixth edition of Reggaeton Fridays.
Unlike MTV Español, which for the past several years broadcast Spanish-language music videos with almost no commentary, MTV Tr3s will feature distinct programs and bilingual VJs. Tr3s is pronounced "tres, " Spanish for " three." (MTV already has a channel called MTV2.)
The channel hopes to lure the segment of young America largely responsible for the emergence of Latino hip-hop and for the cross-cultural popularity of reggaeton, a musical genre that combines the beats of reggae and dance hall with those of bomba and plena and is sung mostly in Spanish.
"Latino kids are telling us they want their hybrid identity to be represented," says Emma Carrasco, 45, an MTV Tr3s spokeswoman who was born to Mexican immigrant parents in Santa Barbara, Calif. "There’s something seamless about Latino youth in the way they transition between cultures, and there’s a very deep dimension to that. There are special things about Latino youth that most programming wasn’t meeting. MTV Tr3s has been an opportunity to go beyond video jukebox programming."
Much of the initial programming on MTV Tr3s has been culled and adapted from successful shows on MTV.
Instead of the popular "TRL," or "Total Request Live," MTV Tr3s will air "MiTRL" ("My TRL"). Instead of "Pimp My Ride," where viewers’ junky cars are fixed up, there will be "Pimpeando," whose hosts expand on the original by focusing on Latino car culture.
Instead of "My Super Sweet Sixteen," which follows teens as they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their 16th birthday parties, there will be "Quiero Mis Quinces." The show will document the elaborate quinceañera parties that are a coming-out tradition when Latinas turn 15.
All video segments of MTV Tr3s will feature a mix of Spanish, English and sometimes Spanglish music, says Lily Neumeyer, MTV Tr3s vice president of programming. The channel as a whole is designed for Latinos ages 12-34, though MTV Tr3s considers ages 12-24 its "sweet spot. "
"The target segment is young Latinos caught between two worlds," says Tr3s general manager Lucia Ballas-Traynor, 41, who experienced a similar situation when she came from Chile to suburban New York 30 years ago. "These kids are different from immigrant arrivals, and they’re different from the mainstream."
MTV has other multicultural channels as part of DIRECTV packages designed to reach youth in what it calls "next generation markets." Those include MTV Desi, whose shows about Bollywood and bhangra target Indian Americans, and MTV Chi, which caters to Chinese Americans by focusing on niches like Cantopop, or Cantonese pop music.
But the market targeted by MTV Tr3s is bigger and growing faster than other ethnic groups. The nation’s Latino population nearly doubled between 1990 and 2005, from 22.4 million to 42.7 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Within that, the population of Latinos ages 10-34 has risen from 10.8 million people in 1990 to 18.3 million in 2005.
"It’s really clear that the Latino youth culture is just shaping and influencing pop culture," says Carrasco.
Mexican singer Thalía Sodi, for instance, has her own clothing line at K mart, and this year, Latin Grammy winner Daddy Yankee, a Puerto Rican reggaeton artist, not only launched a shoe collection with Reebok but also made it onto Time magazine’s list of 100 people who shape the world.
MTV Tr3s will air a mix of established Latino artists like Tego Calderón, who’s Puerto Rican, and Shakira, who’s Colombian, with emerging Latino artists like hip- hop/R& B crooner Rigo Luna and hip-hop duo Calle 13. Ballas-Traynor says other programming will feature hot mainstream artists like Beyonce and Eminem.
Sara Navarro, 17, of southwest Detroit, loves the prolific nature of Latino pop culture but isn’t sure whether MTV Tr3s is the right way to promote it.
"Honestly, if they put more Hispanic music on MTV, they wouldn’t need another channel," says Navarro, whose mother is Polish and whose father is Puerto Rican.
Ballas-Traynor says artists who start out on MTV Tr3s may cross over to MTV but that Tr3s will cultivate their popularity among Latinos.
"Not every place in America is a happy, multicultural, integrated society," she says.
MTV TR3S HIGHLIGHTS
Here’s the lowdown (all times EDT). The channel expects to add shows, but will start with:
"MiTRL": Like MTV’s "Total Request Live," "MiTRL" will be filmed in the middle of Times Square. "We wanted to do it from the studio … to make very clear that MTV Tr3s is exactly like MTV and MTV2 in terms of quality," says programming vice president Lily Neumeyer.
"Tr3spass": A launch special featuring Nelly Furtado and Calle 13 is an example of how the channel will bring established and emerging artists together. 5:30 p.m. through the week.
"Pimpeando": This expands on MTV’s popular "Pimp My Ride" by adding commentary and historical context by hosts Luis and Mad Mike at West Coast Customs in Los Angeles, where junky cars are dressed up with things like DVDs, plasma screens and video game consoles. The show, which will run an hour (a half-hour longer than "Pimp My Ride"), will focus on themes close to Latino car culture, like lowriding and drifting. 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays beginning Oct. 25.
"Sucker Free Latino": A segment featuring urban music videos hosted by MTV Tr3s VJ L-Boogs. 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday.
"Texto": A video show where viewers can interact via text message. October.
"Quiero Mis Quinces": A takeoff on MTV’s "My Super Sweet Sixteen," "Quiero Mis Quinces" follows Latinas as they throw quinceañeras -15th birthday parties. Neumeyer says the show highlights "the importance of family and friends and tight relationships and is not focused so much on the excess." 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays starting Oct. 24.
For more: www.mtvtr3s.com
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