August 17, 2022

In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Scorching 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my method up into the current.

The Latin pop explosion of 1999 was a pretend factor that grew to become actual. It was a advertising technique that labored effectively sufficient to evolve right into a cultural phenomenon. To even speak about it, it’s good to get just a few issues out of the way in which proper out entrance, like the truth that “Latin music” is just not a style. It’s an online of various sounds — some related to at least one one other, some not — that actually solely have a language in widespread. The Latinx artists who blew up and made hits in 1999 got here from vastly totally different locations and circumstances. Most of them have been simply making straight-up English-language pop music with occasional nods to the performers’ totally different heritages. However numerous these stars did have one huge factor in widespread: They have been signed to the assorted totally different subsidiaries of Sony Music.

Tommy Mottola, a person who’s appeared in a bunch of those columns due to his marriage to Mariah Carey, is an Italian child boomer from the Bronx, but when there’s anyone determine most liable for that increase, it’s him. Mottola discovered methods to push his artists, utilizing their ethnicities as a advertising hook. Just a few years after the massive increase yr, Mottola admitted as a lot to Billboard: “There by no means actually was a Latin explosion, however we used it to take gigantic benefit of it, and plenty of our stars benefited from that.” (In 2000, whereas that entire increase was nonetheless taking place, Mottola, by then divorced from Mariah, married one other one of many artists he’d signed, the Mexican singer Thalía. Thalía’s solely Scorching 100 hit, the 2003 Fats Joe collab “I Need You,” peaked at #22.)

For Mottola’s technique to repay, he wanted to open issues up with the suitable performer and the suitable tune. He had each. Ricky Martin had the whole lot a record-label exec may presumably need. He had an intriguing backstory, and his boy-band previous was particularly enticing throughout the excessive boy-band period. Martin was proficient, hard-working, and insanely handsome. His performing profession made him a well-recognized face in America, and his music had already made him a star all over the world. An enormous-deal Grammy efficiency early in 1999 gained Martin an incredible business buzz. Martin additionally had “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” a goofy, eager-to-please earworm too quick to be denied. Empires are constructed on songs like that.

There’s a complete lot of right-place/right-time in Ricky Martin’s story, however there’s additionally a ton of exhausting work. Few performers have been fairly so pushed to the highlight, and few have soaked up fairly a lot consideration with out letting it drive them insane. Enrique Martín Morales grew up comfortably middle-class in San Juan. (When Martin was born, the #1 tune in America was Sly & The Household Stone’s “Household Affair.”) Earlier than Martin was 10, he was already starring in Puerto Rican TV commercials.

As a child, Ricky Martin beloved English-language enviornment rock, and he additionally beloved the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, an odd establishment first based in 1977. The producer Edgardo Díaz had an thought: He would gather a bunch of lovely youngsters, and he would hold that lineup of children without end unstable. Menudo membership was all the time short-term. In a Logan’s Run twist, the members of Menudo can be requested to go away after they turned 16 or 17. This saved any of them from changing into well-known sufficient to take management from Díaz, and it additionally made boy-band membership oddly attainable. Menudo have been massively well-liked across the Spanish-speaking world, however a handsome Puerto Rican child may develop into a member of the group. That’s what Ricky Martin did.

Ricky Martin auditioned for Menudo just a few occasions, and he obtained shot down for being too brief, however he lastly obtained to affix the group in 1984, when he was 12. As a member of Menudo, Martin needed to work tirelessly, just about forgoing his adolescent years. However Martin additionally obtained to journey and carry out in entrance of huge audiences. Martin was part of Menudo when the group launched the 1985 English-language single “Maintain Me,” which grew to become their solely Scorching 100 hit, peaking at #62.

See also  Ozzy Osbourne Publicizes New Album Affected person Quantity 9 That includes Tony Iommi, Taylor Hawkins, Eric Clapton, & Extra

In grand Menudo custom, Ricky Martin left the group at 17, and he moved to New York to review at NYU. Earlier than courses even began, although, Martin dropped out. He was supplied a task in a stage musical in Mexico Metropolis, and he took it. From there, he spent the following few years performing in telenovelas. Whereas in Mexico, Martin began off his solo recording profession, releasing a self-titled Spanish album. His first solo single, the 1991 ballad “Fuego Contra Fuego,” reached #3 on Billboard‘s Latin chart.

In 1994, after he’d launched a few albums, Martin landed a guest-role on the short-lived NBC sitcom Getting By. From there, he was forged as a singing bartender on Normal Hospital. Martin saved that gig for a couple of yr, however he didn’t prefer it a lot, so he went again into music. On his 1995 album A Medio Vivir, Martin moved away from sentimental balladry and into percussive dance jams, and that selection proved massively profitable. The album took off in locations that didn’t usually go for Spanish-language music, like France and the UK. In America, A Medio Vivir went gold, and the banger “Maria” grew to become the primary Ricky Martin tune to crack the Scorching 100, the place it peaked at #88.

When he obtained achieved touring the world behind A Medio Vivir, Ricky Martin spent just a few months performing in Les Misérables on Broadway, after which he went off to file the worldwide 1997 smash Vuelve. FIFA requested Martin to file a tune for the 1998 World Cup, and he got here up with one thing particular. Martin had remained tight together with his former Menudo bandmate Robi Rosa, who’d been born on Lengthy Island and who was extra comfy working in English. (Rosa was the Menudo member who sang lead on “Maintain Me.”) Rosa co-wrote and co-produced Martin’s huge World Cup tune with Desmond Little one, the previous disco artist who’s been on this column a bunch of occasions for co-writing songs with Bon Jovi. The Cuban-American Little one had simply moved again to his Miami hometown, and he was excited to begin writing for a Spanish-language star. Rosa and Little one, working with songwriter Luis Gómez Escolar, got here up with a tune that Martin recorded in Spanish as “La Copa De La Vida” and in English as “The Cup Of Life.”

Vuelve was an enormous hit all over the world, and it went platinum in America. “The Cup Of Life” grew to become Martin’s second Billboard hit, peaking at #45. Martin had been signed to Sony Discos since his first solo album, however the success of Vuelve satisfied Tommy Mottola that Martin could possibly be a famous person within the US. Martin agreed to file an English-language album, and Mottola pushed exhausting to get Martin a spot as a performer on the 1999 Grammys. Close to the top of the published, Martin turned “The Cup Of Life” right into a theatrical showstopper. He killed that shit.

That Grammy-night efficiency was the second that Ricky Martin actually clicked for the music enterprise and perhaps additionally for the remainder of America. (Folks truly watched the Grammys again then.) You possibly can virtually see the viewers determine issues out. Ricky Martin appeared and moved like a boy-band man as a result of he was a boy-band man. He was additionally a Broadway star and a soap-opera actor and a really huge deal on a world stage. He had power and charisma and a present for spectacle. He was a can’t-miss prospect. One month after Grammy night time, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” got here out. It didn’t miss.

Humorous factor about “Livin’ La Vida Loca”: It’s probably not a Latin pop tune in any respect. It doesn’t come from any Latin custom. Aside from the title, the tune doesn’t even contain the Spanish language. Desmond Little one, who co-wrote the tune with Ricky Martin’s outdated pal Robi Rosa, later informed Songfacts that the 2 of them labored exhausting to provide the tune a taste which may appear Spanish to individuals who had no expertise with any sort of Spanish tradition: “That exact tune had elements that sound like Spanish however aren’t. Like, ‘pores and skin the colour of mocha.’ ‘Mocha’ is an American time period — we don’t say that in Spanish. But it surely gave the impression of Spanish.” (One clueless label exec nonetheless requested Little one if he may write a model of the tune in English.)

See also  The Quantity Ones: Savage Backyard’s “I Knew I Beloved You”

However whereas these lyrics don’t make a lot use of the Spanish language, they do go fairly exhausting on Latin stereotypes. Ricky Martin crows a couple of temptress who intoxicate you to the purpose the place you don’t even discover that she’s ruining your life. This picture of the lady who will make you are taking your garments off and go dancing within the rain has the whole lot to do with fucked-up concepts about delirious ardour that Individuals like to ascribe to individuals from neighboring international locations, although perhaps it’s notable that the girl taking part in the function within the “Livin’ La Vida Loca” video was a Croatian mannequin.

Musically, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” sounds awfully near the massive, vivid, sunny ska-punk that was throughout alt-rock radio within the late ’90s. The busy horn-stabs work as fixed adrenaline-shots, and the baritone guitar owes one thing to instrumental surf-rock. The combination is jammed filled with parts, these digital layers of sound which might be virtually overwhelming of their grandeur. (“Livin’ La Vida Loca,” it seems, was the primary #1 hit to be solely recorded on ProTools.) One of many solely moments the place issues get even remotely quiet — the bit about waking up in New York Metropolis in a cool low cost motel — is pure Warped Tour ska. (I’m wondering if New York Metropolis nonetheless has any funky low cost motels. Most likely not.)

In Fred Bronson’s Billboard Ebook Of No 1 Hits, Desmond Little one says that “Livin’ La Vida Loca” is his try and channel the spirits of a few the twentieth century’s most grandly glitzy entertainers: “We employed Randy Cantor to be our arranger and coaxed him to throwing within the kitchen sink. We added the whole lot from whistles to gongs and horns and rock guitar and Spanish piano. On the time, Frank Sinatra had simply handed away, so we have been listening to Frank and swing. And I had this inspiration as a result of Ricky jogged my memory of a Latin Elvis. So I had this imaginative and prescient of Ricky dressed like Elvis in a Las Vegas efficiency in all black, actually shifting and shaking.” This is sensible. “Livin’ La Vida Loca” is a tune determined to seize your consideration, to entertain. That impulse isn’t native to anyone specific tradition. If it’s something, it’s simply plain ol’ American.

A tune as wild and energetic as “Livin’ La Vida Loca” calls for a singer who can actually promote it, and Ricky Martin is as much as the job. Martin’s enthusiasm is real and infectious. He by no means will get a lot of an opportunity to sing on the tune. As a substitute, he simply belts the whole lot with a hammy aptitude that’s simply good. In his overcharged gusto, Martin evokes no much less a Vegas showman than Tom Jones. Even Martin’s ad-libs add to the ambiance; each “come aaaown!” pushes the monitor that a lot more durable. Because the tune reaches its climax, Martin is simply whooping and bellowing and roaring, and it’s superior. “Livin’ La Vida Loca” grew to become so huge that its canned enthusiasm got here to appear just a little oppressive, however when it hit on the proper second, it was wonderful.

For the “Livin’ La Vida Loca” video, Ricky Martin labored with Wayne Isham, the man who’d established the visible language of ’80s glam steel in his clips for Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi. The “Vida Loca” video tweaks and updates that language, but it surely’s largely the identical — going for pure power overcharge, identical to the tune. The video’s first shot is a automobile screeching round a nook and decimating a fireplace hydrant, and Isham smash-cuts from there right into a membership filled with ridiculously scorching dancers. The remainder of the clip is a riot of our bodies shifting and cameras whirling. On the heart of all of it, Ricky Martin radiates the plastic handsomeness of a Ken doll, however he’s proper in there, leaping round with the identical enthusiasm as everybody else whereas bringing sufficient presence to carry the spectacle collectively. You couldn’t resist this man, and also you couldn’t resist this tune, both.

See also  The Quantity Ones: Puff Daddy’s “Can’t No one Maintain Me Down” (Feat. Mase)

That stage of power simply wasn’t sustainable. In the summertime of 1999, Chris Rock made “Livin’ La Vida Loca” right into a operating joke on his Greater & Blacker particular. When he hosted the VMAs that September, Rock referred to as Martin “the Puerto Rican Al B. Certain!” and joked that he wanted a second hit actually, actually badly. By that time, Ricky Martin already had a second hit; the sitar-laden ballad “She’s All I Ever Had” made it to #2 in August. (It’s a 6.) However “She’s All I Ever Had” simply wasn’t as memorable as “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” and Martin by no means once more captured the dizzy depth of that tune’s second.

Ricky Martin’s self-titled English-language album was an enormous success. It bought seven million copies within the US alone, and it kicked open the door for the Latin pop explosion that Tommy Mottola envisioned, as we’ll see on this column within the days forward. However Ricky Martin hasn’t been again within the prime 10 of the Scorching 100 since “She’s All I Ever Had.” A lot of Martin’s later singles appeared like makes an attempt to recapture the lightning of “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” The delightfully goofy “Shake Your Bon-Bon,” one other single from the self-titled album, peaked at #22, whereas “She Bangs,” the lead single from Martin’s 2000 follow-up Sound Loaded, landed simply outdoors the highest 10, attending to #12. Lately, too many people sadly keep in mind “She Bangs” because the William Hung tune.

Sound Loaded was nowhere close to as huge as Ricky Martin, but it surely nonetheless went double platinum. Whereas he was out selling that album, Martin danced with George W. Bush at Bush’s 2001 inauguration, a second that Jon Stewart memorably clowned on The Every day Present. (Since then, Martin has campaigned for each Democratic presidential candidate from Obama on.) After Sound Loaded, Martin largely went again to singing in Spanish, which made his presence on the American charts a complete lot extra sparse however which most likely helped hold his star vivid all over the world. Martin has saved recording ever since, and he’s achieved some performing, too — in Evita on Broadway, on The Assassination Of Gianni Versace on FX. For a few years, Martin refused to reply persistent questions on his sexuality, however he got here out as homosexual in 2010, and he obtained married in 2017.

Prior to now 20 years, Ricky Martin has landed just a few Spanish-language songs on the Scorching 100, although none of them have charted particularly excessive. The final time he charted as a lead artist was 2010, when a tune that Martin recorded in each English and Spanish — with Joss Stone as “The Greatest Factor About Me Is You” and with Natalia Jiménez as “Lo Mejor de Mi Vida Eres Tú” — peaked at #74. However Martin has remained a pop-chart presence in different methods, just like the Glee episode the place he guest-starred and sang on a few covers that scraped the Scorching 100.

Ricky Martin stays massively vital as an inspiration to future generations of Latin pop artists. That’s how he made his most up-to-date look on the Scorching 100. The reggaeton star Wisin collaborated with Martin and with Jennifer Lopez, an artist who will seem on this column very quickly, on “Adrenalina,” a clubby 2014 single that peaked at #94. (Wisin’s highest-charting single as lead artist, the 2017 Ozuna collab “Escapate Conmigo,” peaked at #63.) Martin has additionally labored with Unhealthy Bunny, fairly presumably the most important artist on the earth proper now, and he’ll spend this fall on a co-headlining enviornment tour with Enrique Iglesias, one other artist who will quickly seem on this column.

In 1999, the hype surrounding Ricky Martin was deafening. “Livin’ La Vida Loca” was a single that lived as much as that hype, one which very almost translated all that manufactured pleasure into tangible musical type. That sort of hype can completely derail a profession. Fortuitously, Martin by no means appeared to fret an excessive amount of about protecting that top going. As a substitute, Martin has maintained relevance with out desperately chasing it. We most likely received’t see Ricky Martin on this column once more, however he looks like he’s doing nice nowadays, whilst his life has presumably gotten considerably much less loopy.

GRADE: 8/10