Víctor Manuel Ruiz Velázquez (born September 27, 1968), known professionally as Víctor Manuelle, is a successful Latin Grammy nominated American salsa singer, known to his fans as El Sonero de la Juventud ("The Singer Of Youths"). He is identified primarily with salsa romantica or "salsa monga". Victor Manuel has neither recorded in English, nor made a Latin pop album, nor (with rare exceptions) ventured into acting, preferring to remain a musician grounded within salsa music. He recently surpassed Marc Anthony for the most number-one singles in the Billboard Tropical Songs chart.
Although born in The Bronx, New York City, Victor was raised primarily in Isabela, Puerto Rico, where he enjoyed salsa music. His singing career began because of Gilberto Santa Rosa, during a concert at his high school's graduation party by salsa superstar. At the instigation of classmates, who were going on about their friend the sonero, Santa Rosa invited Victor to jump up on stage and sing a song with him. To Santa Rosa's surprise, not only could Victor sing, but he "free-styled" the improvisational soneo lyrics in the song, and traded soneos with Santa Rosa. Shortly thereafter, on Santa Rosa's recommendation, Puerto Rican bandleader Don Periñon hired teenage Victor as a backup singer.
Victor Manuelle emerged as a leading voice among the generation of New York salsa performers who rose to prominence in the mid-'90s, along with Marc Anthony and India, who were his only rivals in terms of success and popularity. Mentored by Gilberto Santa Rosa and produced by Sergio George, Manuelle regularly topped the tropical charts during his mid-'90s peak, as his albums Victor Manuelle (1996) and A Pesar de Todo (1997) spun off a parade of number one hits. The esteemed sonero continued his hitmaking in the years that followed, as every single one of his studio albums in the successive decade spun off at least one tropical chart-topper of its own.
Víctor Manuelle has become one of the best-selling salsa performers of recent years, with his albums selling a combined 1 million-plus copies in the U.S. Three studio albums, 1999's Inconfundible ("Unmistakable"), 2001's Instinto Y Deseo ("Instinct and Desire") and 2004's Travesía ("Crossover"), have cracked Billboard's overall Top 200 Albums chart, and the latter two reached #1 on the Latin Album chart (Inconfundible reached #2). While several of his singles have made the Top 5 or Top 10 on the Latin charts, he had to wait for 2004's Tengo Ganas ("I'm in the Mood") to score a Billboard #1 Latin hit.
Perhaps his moment of greatest visibility came when he, to the happy surprise of the attendees, sang an a cappella version of Celia Cruz's signature song, La Vida Es Un Carnaval ("Life is a Carnival"), at her funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in July 2003. This scene was replayed numerous times in the ensuing days on Spanish-language television. A few months before, he had performed the song for Miss Cruz, with full orchestra, at a televised tribute concert for her, the last one at which she ever performed on stage.
Manuelle's most recent production was released in May 2009. However, on this disc, not all of his songs have to do with topics of "LOVE", "INFIDELITY", etc. Nonetheless, it does include various interludes where he explains the meaning of songs related to his personal life, which is why the album is called; "Muy Personal"(Very Personal)
Manuelle released his 10th studio album, Decisión Unánime ("Unanimous Decision"), in May 2005. Six months earlier, in November 2005, he and his mentor, Gilberto Santa Rosa, released a joint live album, Dos Soneros, Una Historia ("Two Soneros, One History"), recorded at Coliseo Roberto Clemente outside San Juan, Puerto Rico. Manuelle's own live album, Víctor Manuelle En Vivo: Desde El Carnegie Hall, came out in early 2005. He served as co-host of the 7th annual Latin Grammy awards show, held November 2, 2006, in New York.
Manuelle's first foray into movie acting was his cameo role (mostly singing) as salsa legend Rubén Blades in El Cantante, the 2007 film biography of Héctor Lavoe, starring Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez. In the movie he sang an acoustic version in a club of the famous El Cantante On June 10, 2008, Manuelle released the album Soy ("I am). He was one of several artists selected to perform at the "KQ Live Concert" on September 27, 2008, organized by KQ 105 FM. The event included several renowned artists from Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries.
On February 8, 2010 television network Univision announced international singer Ana Bárbara and Víctor Manuelle as the hosts of the 2010 Premio Lo Nuestro Awards. The ceremony took place live from Miami, Florida on February 18, 2010.