Thursday, February 03, 2011

Yeah, but is it good? (Ricky Martin's 'Música + Alma + Sexo')

Ricky Martin might have gotten props for sidestepping the publicity machine and going straight to the public when he confessed he was gay on Twitter back in March but he's been on one serious publicity-fueled tear since October when he appeared on Oprah and launched his autobiography "Me".

He has greatly benefited from turning on his formidable publicity skills and charisma since coming out.  His book reached the top 5 on The New York Times best-selling lists and "Música + Alma + Sexo" - his first album since 2005 - hit the stores on Tuesday in regular and deluxe versions to considerable advance interest, particularly in Latino music markets.

It all crested last week with a press junket that Martin held last week in advance of the album's release as well as a number of telephone interviews the singer held with a number of reporters from Latin America.

As revelatory as he swore his autobiography would be, in most of these interviews Martin comes off just as carefully guarded about his private life as he does in the book. That said, some of the reporters manage to get past the publicity veneer and get some revealing answers from the pop star.

Pablo Schanton of Argentina's Clarín gets to the heart of the matter.  Catching Martin unguarded as he's telling his publicist to follow-up on a transgender (!) reporter who's leaving the Miami hotel room after finishing interviewing the star, the singer apologizes.

"Pardon me, part of my job is taking care of every detail; The demanding military soldier I carry within me since the times of Menudo is almost like Catholicism, isn't it?  Once you are a Catholic you always will be one," Martin laughs, "I continue to demand a lot from myself - it's part of my personality and I see it as a defect - but the obsessive-compulsive in me has helped me to reach a lot of things."

Simón Villamizar from Venezuela's El Universal presses Martin on his lack of transparency on an autobiography in which the singer promised to talk openly about his life in what must have been an uncomfortable exchange.

"First of all, for me this is not a book of confessions," Martin says "This is a book in which I am sharing steps in my life which I feel were very important and led me to the conclusions that make me who I am today; my life cannot be narrated in 300 pages."

Speaking to Leila Cobo of Billboard, Martin reveals that coming out on Twitter actually took months of deliberation.

"I spent many months figuring out the best way to do it. I thought it could be a song, or an interview, or in the book," he says, "But I couldn't wait eight more months. I needed to do this, now. Several months before I pressed send, there was a hate crime in Puerto Rico against a gay boy. And at the time, if I had spoken out, people would have started conjecturing."

He adds "There are moments of great tension in the book because I was living under great tension. And one Friday, I called my manager and said, I'm doing this on Monday. I spent the entire weekend drafting that letter. And when I sent it, I felt such a relief, such peace and joy. I thought, My God, had I known, I would have done this 10 years ago."

But, what about the album?

In that same Billboard interview, Martin reveals 60 songs were written for the album, 10 of which survived (11 if you include an extra song on the deluxe edition).  All in all there are 13 tracks on the regular version (including English language versions of a couple of songs as well as a remix) and seven additional tracks on a separate disc in the deluxe version (including English versions of another two songs from the album, a couple of remixes and the aforementioned extra track).

Also on Billboard, Ricky Martin describes the album track by track with one notable exception, "Basta Ya", which sounds like the most personal song on the album.

Lyrics for "Basta Ya" / "Enough":
Getting closer to the truth / I'm seeking the way to tell the world what I can no longer keep silent / I let a tear escape / From this prison where emotions are punished without pity / Against everything, I will be with you /

CHORUS: Enough! Of imprisoning what I feel / And denying myself what I want / Enough! Of condemning the voice I carry inside / And faking my sincerity / Fear no longer scares me / Enough!

Reason awakened me / The words I kept in silence got tired of waiting / This is were my revolution starts / In my hand I carry the flag that will defend the heart / Against everything, I will be with you / CHORUS

From now on, I will be loyal to myself / I will erase the pain / In the story of my life, each line screams 'Enough!' / CHORUS
It's a beautiful ballad and defines the album pretty well: Lyrics that speak to Martin's recent coming out without being too specific about it.  Inspirational lyrics that fit some songs well ("Cántame tu Vida") but nearly sink others ("Shine").  And a pristine production by Desmond Child, who produced Martin's biggest English-language hit "Living La Vida Loca".

The biggest surprise here is that, aside for a couple of tracks presented in Spanish and English-language versions, most of the album is in Spanish.  It makes sense, considering that Martin is more popular in Latin America than in the United States at this stage in his career, but I always thought the album would feature mostly English-language songs.  And, while there is nothing in "Música + Alma + Sexo" as immediately catchy or kitschy as "Living La Vida Loca", the album seems more consistently engaging than any of his previous albums.

There are a couple of outstanding tracks, the dance clubby "No Te Miento" and "Más" and the seriously sexy and beautiful ballad "Tú y Yo".

Reviews have been mostly positive but not necessarily spectacular: "As always, he enlists songwriters with an almost virtuoso ability to materialize memorable hooks out of thin air," says Los Angeles Times. "Exactly what we needed and enough to prove that he’s still a viable pop star" says the Houston Chronicle. "The album pours on pop craftsmanship in a show of confidence and pride," says The New York Times.

That sounds just about right.  It's not the greatest album ever released in the history of music. But, as a pure pop confection, it's pretty damn good.  By the way, you can listen to the whole album by clicking here.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for interesting tidbits from Ricky's interviews.

while there is nothing in "Música + Alma + Sexo" as immediately catchy or kitschy as "Living La Vida Loca"

Wrong! I'm still on CD's track 1 because can't stop playing and dancing to "Mas"!