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SECADA'S SERENADES MAKE HIM A LADIES' MAN

When Jon Secada plays Shea's Performing Arts Center, the audience will probably be mostly female. It was that way in Chicago, after all. And it was that way in Los Angeles. (In L.A., a male reviewer wrote: "Want to feel out of place? Try being a guy at a Jon Secada show.").

Not that Secada minds the preponderance of women. "That's great. I'm flattered. That's great! It's wonderful!" he exclaims, his voice rising from its usual langour.

What, exactly, draws in the girls? Part of the secret, the Cuban-born, Grammy-winning singer suggests, lies in the songs he performs -- emotional tours de force that range from seething rants to weepy ballads.

"It's very passionate music, very sincere in that way," he explains. "I think that's what makes it."

Of course, he has the grace to add, "the sex appeal comes in first."

That's for sure. Secada's new CD, "Heart, Soul and a Voice," boasts no fewer than seven photos of the man himself, in various beefcake poses. Secada is snapped lounging under a tree; leaning seductively in a doorway; and, finally, leaning out of a car with a wide grin.

To complete the alluring picture, he's not married. And does he have a girlfriend?

"No!" he says, emphatically.

Maybe his schedule leaves no room for romance.

It's been two years since Secada left Gloria Estafan and the Miami Sound Machine to strike out on his own. His first album, "Jon Secada," proved hotter than a jalapeno pepper, yielding the hit "If You Go" (its Spanish version is called "Si Te Vas").

Right now, at 32, Secada is in the midst of a long tour in support of his second CD, "Heart, Soul and a Voice."

Last fall, Secada even weathered his first scandal. An Argentinian news agency reported that he gave lukewarm approval to Fidel Castro by saying, "You have to recognize that Castro has had a lot of achievements, but you also have to say that people in Cuba are starving." (Secada denies making the comment.)

His life has its demands, but Secada is equal to them.

"Just the pacing of my life is what's changed," he says. "I'm doing so many things on a different level, that's what's changed. I was a workaholic before, now I'm a workaholic more than I was." He laughs, briefly. "But that's good. That's what I wanted."

Secada's beguiling accent reflects his Miami roots. He speaks carefully, in quick measured sentences.

His work habits as well as his speech suggest that this is a man accustomed to conserving his resources. Secada earned his master's degree in vocal studies at the University of Miami -- and this background, he explains, taught him to use energy sparingly.

"My education has a lot to do with the fact I can pace myself, do four or five or six shows a week sometimes," he says. "I concentrate on the road, try to be as professional as I can -- taking care of myself, my body, staying healthy. It's not easy, but it can be done. You develop enough good instincts not to wear yourself out."

Secada happened on his career as a teen-ager. No epiphanies, no bolts from the blue appear to have accompanied his awakening to music. "In high school, that's when I got interested. I got involved in music activities," he recalls, matter-of-factly.

He drew his inspiration from the streets of his hometown. In "Heart, Soul and a Voice," Secada celebrates his Afro-Cuban, R & B influences.

"I grew up in a community that's multicultural, near Miami -- Hispanic, Anglo and black, and I grew up listening to that, in some combination. I'm very proud of that," he asserts. "I've always considered myself someone who has a lot of different backgrounds.

"I wanted to do a record that's more R & B oriented, still pop music but more of an R & B edge to it," he adds. "But I'm still conscious of my pop following, and the fact I'm a pop songwriter."

Since he grew up speaking in English and Spanish, Secada operates smoothly in both tongues. Still, his Latin heritage is close to his heart.

"I try to do different things," he says. "For example, doing a Spanish album that will be released in the fall, doing some acting things. It won't be like a typical Latino part, maybe," he muses. "I will always try to incorporate into my career as much of my influences as I can. Jazz, maybe. . ."

As for those passionate songs he writes, fans may feel free to draw all sorts of colorful conclusions.

"They're strictly about my own life," Secada declares. "They reflect my own feelings, relationships, people, everything in my life." He lapses into silence.

At the moment, everything in Secada's life seems to be just fine. Not for him to quibble with sudden stardom.

"I feel blessed and lucky," he says. "Everything that's happened to me has been incredible, very positive."

Whom does he have to thank?

"My faith. . . myself," Secada reflects. "I just keep plugging away."

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