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Latin Music POPS!
We've seen the future. It looks like Ricky Martin, sings like Marc Anthony, dances like Jennifer Lopez. And Asians love it
By CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY

"Riiiiiickyyyyyyyyyyyy!"

Outside a Tower Records store in Manhattan, a chorus of screams is going up. Mostly sopranos and altos, a few tenors and no basses. "Riiiiiickyyyyyyyyyyyy! I love you!" Five thousand fans, mainly young women, have gathered to catch a glimpse of the latest heartthrob, their corazón. Those at the front of the line enter the store and stumble out with a signature scrawled across a CD or on a poster or even on their skin. Some leave crying tears of joy. At a multiplex across the street, Fox is holding one of the first screenings of The Phantom Menace. You can see a flicker of hesitation on the faces of a few Phantom ticket holders. I thought I was in the red-hot center, the flicker seems to say. What's going on over there?

Ricky Martin is what's going on. The hip-shaking Latin pop star has the No. 1 song in America, Livin' la Vida Loca. His self-titled new CD has sold half a million copies in Asia since its release a month ago; a repackaged version of his previous disc, Vuelve, sold more than a million copies in the region, not counting Japan. And Martin is at the center of something bigger than himself. A host of other Hispanic performers, including vocalist Marc Anthony and actress-turned-pop diva Jennifer Lopez are releasing high-profile, Latin-tinged CDs around the same time. Martin, in an exclusive interview with TIME, was so euphoric over his success he bordered on the Roberto Benigni-esque. "What are you kidding me?" says Martin. "I'm flying! I'm flying!"

Ricky Martin is a fresh face--but not an entirely new one. For 15 years now the 27-year-old singer has enjoyed a kind of second-tier level of fame: he was a member of the teen group Menudo, he once co-starred in Les Misérables on Broadway, he has appeared on the U.S. TV soap opera General Hospital. The cultural wave Martin is riding--Latin pop--we must admit, is also not an entirely new phenomenon. Salsa, rumba, mambo and other Latin musical forms have made a dent in global pop music--Celia Cruz, Rubén Blades, Gloria Estefan, Ritchie Valens, Los Lobos, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Machito, Willie Colón, Tito Puente and many, many others have, for decades now, scored hits, excited crowds and pioneered new sounds. TIME's "discovering" Latin pop would be a bit like Columbus discovering Puerto Rico.

Ricky Martin in New Delhi. Saurabh Das--AP Photo

WHAT IS NEW IS THIS: as the century turns to double zero, a new generation of Latin artists, nurtured by Spanish-language radio, schooled in mainstream pop, are lifting their voices in English. Of this group, Martin is the hottest; Lopez, 28, the most alluring; Anthony, 29, the most artistic. Latin-tinged pop is blowing up because it fits the musical times: it has a bit of the street edge of hip-hop (Lopez worked with rapper Sean ["Puffy"] Combs on one track on her CD), some of the bouncy joy of dance-pop (Martin is hunkier than all the Backstreet Boys put together) and the fizzy fresh feel of that ever sought-for thing in modern pop, the Next Big Thing.

"None of this could have happened 15 years ago," says producer Emilio Estefan, husband and manager of crossover trailblazer Gloria Estefan. "Gloria and I went through the hardest part. A dozen years ago, a label threw me out when I tried to use congas on a recording. They said, 'Get rid of that, and take out the horns and the timbales too.' Now people are buying records by Arturo Sandoval and Buena Vista Social Club. The younger generation is now reacting to Latin music."

PAGE 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5

THIS WEEK'S TABLE OF CONTENTS





Daily

June 28, 1999

Latin Music POPS!
We've seen the future. It looks like Ricky Martin, sings like Marc Anthony, dances like Jennifer Lopez. And Asians love it

Godfather of the Miami Sound
When Emilio Estefan makes a prediction, industry moguls listen


Below links will open in a new window

Photo Essay
El Mundo Loves Ricky

Get Ready for Ricky
Latin pop's hot new star has gone from Menudo to mainstream, with a stop at a soap. What's not to like? (TIME, May 10, 1999)

Spicing The Mix
Latin pop prepares to take on America (TIME, March 15, 1999)


This edition's table of contents | TIME Asia home

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