The most remarkable thing about the latest incarnation of Menudo, the boy band that used to kick out its members when they turned 16, isn't that it still exists 30 years later. It's that the current group could turn out to be the most successful version ever.
Jose Bordonada Collazo, Chris Moy, Emmanuel Velez Pagan, Monti Montanez and Carlos Olivero were picked to be the new Menudo from a nationwide search and the MTV reality show "Making Menudo" last year, and they immediately went to work on their debut album, which is due out on Epic Records in August.
"We're excited about the album," said Montanez, 18, calling from the band's headquarters in Orlando, Fla. "We've been working with so many great producers and writers - Danja, the Clutch, J.R., Akon, OneRepublic. I can tell you this album's going to have different styles, a Latin style, a hip-hop style, the R&B, songs with different meanings and songs that we recorded with a lot of emotion."
The new single "Lost" shows off the new Menudo sound, as well as the presence of manager Johnny Wright, who has handled everyone from Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears to the Jonas Brothers. "Lost" has an updated 'N Sync feel that could give this Menudo the breakthrough hit it's looking for, following in the footsteps of recent hits from MTV's reality show stable, including Danity Kane and Day 26.
The group members say they recognize they are part of the Menudo tradition - the one that has sold 40 million albums and launched the careers of Ricky Martin and Robi Rosa - but they also want to bring in their own style.
"All of our moms were big fans of Menudo, they had the posters, they had the pins," said Moy, 15, a Bronx native who is looking forward to playing for the hometown crowd. "They're legends in the Latin culture. You have to know who they are. We were raised around it."
The band is still trying to negotiate having name recognition with fans who are much older, while still appealing to younger crowds. "We have fans that are moms and grandmas who were fans from the old Menudo as well," said Collazo, 15. "It's a great feeling that we get to touch people's hearts, especially people that are our own age that can identify with the problems we might have and the music that we share."
Members of Menudo say they're looking forward to pretty much everything associated with the release of their album - except one.
"TV cameras," said Montanez, adding the band was thrilled when the reality show ended in August and they could work without being filmed. "We're really liking it without the cameras."