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Facing the (Latin) music

How do Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony rate with our panel of experts?


Sometime in the last year or two, Latin music went from being primarily bought and listened to by Latinos to being a hot music biz commodity second only to teen-pop. Thanks to Carlos Santana's resurrection, Jennifer Lopez's posterior and the twin vocal charms of Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony, Latin music has never been more commercially viable. But with its rise in popularity, Latin music has also paid a price. Watered down to make it palatable to the mainstream, music being touted as Latin on the radio isn't purely Latin. Instead, the music is spliced with generous bits of American pop, from buzzing guitars to mechanized beats.

With Martin and Anthony, two of Latin pop's leading voices, both hitting town this week, Creative Loafing assembled a panel of real-live Hispanics and asked them their opinions of various songs by Seiors Ricky and Marc. Our group of amateur critics consisted of: Tony Gonzalez, 29; Erica Guevara, 27; Cecelia Hernandez, 43; and Rafael Linares, 42.

We began by listening to "Livin' La Vida Loca," Ricky Martin's monster hit from his hugely popular self-titled crossover album. If you live under a rock, the song mixes Spanish and English lyrics, and has a classic pop-rock feel it, more surf-rock than salsa.

Tony: I don't like Ricky Martin, but I like this song OK, because it has that Latin beat. But it still feels like a rock song.

Erica: Why don't you like Ricky Martin?

Tony: His eyes are too far apart.

Erica: Mmph. He looks fine to me.

CL: Cecilia, what do you think about this song?

Cecilia: It's not bad, but I wouldn't listen to it at home. I like the slower songs a little more, the ballads.

Rafael: Well, I like fast songs, but I don't like this song so much.

CL: Why not?

Rafael: It has some Latin elements, like the horn parts, but if you take those out it's a rock song. And even with them, it still sounds like a rock song.

Tony: You think so?

Rafael: Definitely, man.

Cecilia: What is the song about?

CL: It's about a woman who makes Ricky Martin live the crazy life to try and keep up with her. Is that a classic Latin music song subject?

Cecilia: No. Many songs are about love, but usually in the more traditional sense.

CL: No candle wax on the nipples then?

Cecilia: No.

We then switched to "I Need To Know" by Marc Anthony, the radio hit from his recent self-titled album. The song is a mid-tempo tune with a solid pop base, but like "La Vida Loca," it also incorporates Latin rhythms and horns.

CL: How does this one strike you?

Rafael: I like this one a lot. On this one, the subject matter is much more, um, traditional.

CL: How so?

Rafael: Because he wants to find out whether or not this girl loves him, wants to be with him. That is the same topic that many traditional Latino songs are about.

Cecilia: I like it more, too. It is easier on the ears than the Ricky Martin song.

CL: What about the younger generation? What do you think, Erica?

Erica: (thinks) I like it all right. I think the speed of the tempo of the song is much more like the usual Latino music.

From there, we switched back to Ricky Martin, to his most-recent single, the bizarre "Shake Your Bon Bon."

CL: You guys aren't saying much about this one. Why not?

Tony: Because it sucks. It's sorry.

Cecilia: I don't like it either.

Erica: Me either.

CL: Rafael, want to make it unanimous?

Rafael: Yeah.

CL: Now, see, that's interesting to me. Why don't you guys like it?

Erica: I don't even think it should qualify as Latin music.

CL: This whole album is very different than his previous stuff, isn't it?

Erica: Oh yeah. I liked his first album the best, Me Amaras. Since then each album has gotten worse and worse, I think.

CL: That's funny, because Martin's music has become less and less Latin-influenced with each record.

For our final selection, I cued up "No Me Ames," a slow, sorrowful duet between Anthony and another Latino crossover, Jennifer Lopez.

Cecilia: This is my favorite of all of them. It has a beautiful tune.

CL: I know the lyrics are in Spanish, but otherwise it could be any other ballad. What makes it Latin?

Tony: It's Latinos singing it, man.

CL: Right, but if Eminem sang a big band song, that wouldn't make it a rap song, would it?

Tony: But I don't think Latino should be considered a style. I think it's a way of life.

Rafael: And that's about all that Ricky and Marc have in common.

CL: Yeah, but Marc Anthony is from New York City.

Rafael: But it's in his blood, that culture and heritage are in his blood. And no matter what he does, they aren't going away.

Ricky Martin performs at Philips Arena on Mon., July 10, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $47-$87, available through Ticketmaster. Marc Anthony performs at the Tabernacle on Wed., July 12, and at Chastain Park Amphitheater on Thurs., July 13. Both shows begin at 8 p.m., with limited tickets available through Ticketmaster.

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