Release Date: 02.18.99
Record label: columbia records
El Uno Hit Wondero?
by: bart blasengame
This much we know about Ricky Martin: We know he's a hottie - that perfectly cleft chin, the sculpted hair, the dark, mysterious eyes and wash-board abs to boot. We know he's a former child star from the spicy flash- in-the-pan boy group Menudo (God rest their prepu-bescent souls). We know he 'rocked the Grammy's'. And we know that we should like him, because, after all, this is America. We welcome the opportunity for foreigners to crash our shores and spice up the pop landscape with a little splash of culture.
But after a listen to Martin's new album - the first English speaking release from the Puerto Rican heart throb - we now know one more thing: He should stick with his Latin American audience.
Martin can't sing, can't write songs and wouldn't know a heartfelt lyric if it came up and bit him on his tight can. In Spanish, this is called "El Uno Hit Wondero".
Martin and his label, Columbia, have clobbered the music world over its head with hot and cold running hype. His chiseled features are everywhere, serenading dizzy fans on the Today Show, hanging with the tragically lame veejays on MTV and even making an appearance on Saturday Night Live. The buzz is so thick, you half expect to him to show up in a pelvis-wagging cameo in the new Star Wars movie.
Sadly though, Martin's samba schmaltz is the musical version of a Trojan Horse - pretty on the outside, devoid of any real value on the inside. His first single, "Livin' La Vida Loca", got him in the door. And to be honest, it's not half bad with its over-the-top mix of horns, Latin rhythms and suggestive lyrics. But for Martin, a little is never enough and subtlety is obviously not a strong character trait. Imagine putting LaBamba on continuous play in your CD player, while simultaneously chugging margari-tas, dancing the Macarana, stuffing your face with rancid burritos and still trying to pin the tail on the donkey. Pretty soon you're gonna get sick of it. The same can be said for the other 13 songs on Martin's self-titled debut.
With a vocal range that makes Jim Nabors sound like Pavorotti, Martin is forced to play the 'Latin sound' card over and over - turning the lion's share of the album into a bunch of Miami Sound Machine-esque brass blats and whistle blowing. Even when he slows things down to play the Latin lover, he comes off sounding like a grade school kid re-working Barry White lyrics with lines like "Like two raging rivers full of passion/At the ocean/We are one."
Then again words aren't Martin's calling card either. Spoon fed by other songwriters, he ends up spouting off snazzy lines like "You're my Mata Hari/I wanna know your story" or the laughably raunchy "Up in the Himalayas/C'mon I wanna lay ya". But what really disappoints on this album is the total lack of feeling with which Martin delivers his vocals. Not many people can make Madonna blend into the woodwork, but Martin succeeds on 'Be Careful', a duet stripped of any emotion and void of any romantic spark thanks largely to his wooden and monotonous mouth moving.
Of course none of this will stop Martin from selling a boat-load of records. Old vocal stiffs like former New Kid's on the Block members Joey McIntyre and Jordan Knight are making a comeback, so why not a Menudo retread? But when Martin's pinata finally bursts, don't be expecting to find any candy in the carnage - we already know he's hollow on the inside.