Jaci Velasquez Knows Heartbreak
The Story Behind the Song "Escuchame"
by John Hillman
Adults frequently admonish young people to emulate what they say and not what they do. But for Jaci Velasquez and her thousands of adolescent fans, actions serve far better than words.
The Houston native learned well the lessons taught by her parents. As a spokesperson for True Love Waits, the Latin singer has inspired countless young women to remain sexually pure until marriage.
"Relationships come and go," she told crosswalk.com. "But what matters most is your longstanding relationship with Christ."
The six-time Dove Award winner credits her mother Diana's constant warnings and deep faith for the foundation of her Christian commitment. As a tribute to her source of information and inspiration, Jaci composed "Escuchame," (Spanish for listen to me), the opening cut on her fourth album, Crystal Clear.
"She travels as my companion, someone to help me out with life," the 21-year-old singer says on her official website, www.ajy.net. "She is really who I'm accountable to spiritually. It's so hard, because sometimes we don't get to go to church on Sundays. And I look to Mother who's a lot more spiritually mature than I am. She's the person who really keeps me grounded."
As a youngster, Jacquelyn Davette Velasquez experienced an unusual lifestyle. Her father David sang and directed an evangelistic ministry, and her mom homeschooled Jaci, the youngest of their five children. By age 10, the up-and-coming talent performed professionally, and when only 13, she entertained at the White House.
The vocalist received her major break into Christian music a year later because a local pastor convinced Mike Akins Management she should open for Point of Grace in a Houston concert. Impressed with her talent, Akins recommended the teenager to Myrrh Records, and the recording company launched the 16 year-old's career with Heavenly Place in 1996.
The album skyrocketed to unbelievable heights. Five singles; "If This World," "Un Lugar Celestial," "Flower In The Rain," "On My Knees," and "We Can Make A Difference," exploded to number one.
"On My Knees," written by David and Nicole C. Mullen took the 1998 Dove award for Song of the Year. Ultimately, the CD achieved gold status, and the singing sensation captured the 1997 Dove award for New Artist of the Year, paralleling the honor bestowed her father and his group the Galileans in 1970.
But reaching a pinnacle at an early age even in CCM circles required great sacrifice. For Jaci, it meant foregoing typical teenage girl activities such as shopping, cheerleading, dating, and hanging out with friends.
"In some ways, I did trade my youth for fame," she said. "I don't know if it was the fame that I knew I was trading it for. I loved music and music is my passion and it always has been my passion. So I guess you could say I traded my youth for music and not for the fame. I could live without the fame."
A second self-titled album followed in 1998, and then the Christian artist branched into alternative venues, exploring her Hispanic heritage with her third CD, Llegar a Ti. The accolades mounted with five more number one singles, a 2000 Grammy nomination for Best Latin Pop Performance, and Dove awards for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1999 and 2000.
As Jaci matured into her 20's, her fourth album, Crystal Clear, reflected the singer's newfound confidence and style. She not only composed two tracks, "Escuchame" and "You're Not There," but also collaborated on the production.
"I'm very thrilled because this record is very close to me, to my life and my beliefs," she expressed. "From a musical standpoint, this record is more eclectic, very close to my Latin and pop roots, but I continue with the ballads."
Although many Christian artists routinely create their own material, it takes tremendous effort for the teenage idol to pen her songs. Unlike most recording stars, Jaci plays no instruments and writes only through lyric and melody.
Opening Crystal Clear with "Escuchame," she injected a strong Latin rhythm and beat into the song with a vibrant horn section. The work vividly painted a picture of an older sister telling her younger sibling to avoid her past mistakes.
"I love writing," she said. "That song was inspired by my mother. She would always say 'listen to me, don't make the same mistakes I did,' so I put that in the song."
Recent times, however, have not been joyous in the Velasquez household, and the singing sensation has admitted her parents' failings. At a San Antonio concert last October, Jaci revealed David and Diana Velasquez had separated early in the year, and their marriage had dissolved.
"I feel like my whole world is falling apart," she told Hector Saldana of the San Antonio Express-News. "Now I have to grow up all of a sudden. I could be bitter, but I know that God has a plan. He's become my best friend while I'm going through a heartbreak at home."