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BPI Entertainment News Wire

Menudo Returns; Hunt For New Members Begins

By LEILA COBO; Billboard

March 22, 2004
Copyright ©2004 BPI Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

MIAMI -- Boy bands haven't gotten much respect since the heyday of the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. But a group of investors is banking on a Menudo revival to reawaken the preteen market.

Menudo Entertainment LLC plans to launch a series of open calls in the United States, Puerto Rico and Latin America this summer to look for the next incarnation of Latin pop's most successful boy band.

"It will be cutting-edge music with live flair," says Jeff Weiner, principal of Menudo Entertainment. "There's been a void in the preteen market for that kind of music. We're looking to go to that niche market that we feel has been untapped for the past 10 to 15 years."

Weiner, who was formerly Tito Puente's business partner, joined with Barry Solomon (formerly with NBC) and promoter/marketer Jerry Brenner in Menudo Entertainment.

Last month, the group secured the rights to the Menudo name from Latin record executive Oscar Llord.

The new Menudo, Weiner says, will be a bilingual, bicultural band made up of five members, 10 to 14 years old. As with the original Menudo, members will be steadily rotated to maintain a youthful age range. Weiner adds that he hopes some solo stars will also emerge from the mix.

The original Menudo was created in Puerto Rico in 1977. It targeted the preteen market, and members had to exit when they turned 16. Menudo went on to become an international phenomenon, selling more than 20 million albums and breaking attendance records worldwide. Menudo was renamed MDO in the 1990s, and the age limit on its members was raised.

All told, some 30 kids rotated through the original Menudo. Although many attempted solo careers, the one major success was Ricky Martin.

Robi Rosa, a Menudo member during Martin's tenure, went on to pen many of Martin's hits and develop as an alternative act. He's currently promoting an English-language album, "Mad Love" (Epic).

Weiner says that Menudo Entertainment is reviewing offers from labels, producers, sponsors and TV networks for TV specials. An album is planned for the beginning of next year.

Although Menudo will remain at heart a Latin group, "we plan to play in the general market," Weiner says. "Menudo had as many Anglo fans as they had Latin fans when they reached their height."

Menudo Entertainment is headquartered in New York, with offices in Boston and Miami.

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