With lasting dance hits like “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and “All Cried Out,” Lisa Velez, aka Lisa Lisa, has been credited as an instrumental trailblazer who helped pave the way for future, Latina-centric sensations like J. Lo and Shakira. Her songs have also been sampled on tracks by other artists like Nina Sky, whose 2004 “Move Ya Body” became a hit single, with a big help from Velez’s “Can You Feel the Beat.”
Velez says she got turned on to the Latin freestyle scene as a young teenager. As she transfixed her eyes on the breakdancers in the streets and clubs of Miami, she was enamored with the way dancers were able to make up moves on the fly and, using only the simple beats blasting in the background, turn minimal ingredients into something remarkable.
“That’s where [my] sounds came from and people remember them,” Velez says. “You go into a lot of clubs today and that’s what you hear.”
Her fans certainly remember the impact of her No. 1 hits “Head to Toe” and “Lost in Emotion.” Just saying the names of the songs is enough for the melody to leap back into the consciousness of anyone who listened to pop during the 1980s.
“I still ask today, why do people follow me? I think it’s because I base the music on everything that’s real,” Velez says. “Every song we’ve ever released is about something that’s happened to us.”
Whereas the themes of her earlier work, with Full Force and the Cult Jam, usually focused on searching and trying to understand the world around her, Velez’s most recent album, Life ‘n Love, was inspired by her upbringing and the experiences she’s had in the public eye.
Even with a resume that includes several hundred live performances in front of thousands of people – Velez says she still gets butterflies before taking the stage.
“But once I get up there,” she adds, “the energy is all happy and it’s nothing but a good time. I want to be on stage when I’m 90 years old, still kicking it live.”
On Friday at the Fox Theater, Velez says the Lisa Lisa show will be a high-energy spectacle catalyzed by dancers and every one of her hits.
“You’re going to feel like you’re up on stage with me,” she says. “You’re also going to get a lot of memories.”
LISA LISA and Friends play 8pm Friday, April 29, at the Fox Theater, 241 Main St., Salinas. $20; $28; $55. 758-8459.