She’s long since worked out how to perform ballads in her idiosyncratic vocal style, and if she’s less assured than she will later become she’ll rarely trust herself to be so naked again without receding behind studio trickery and pop history.
The last Shakira song of the twentieth century (that went to #1 Latin anyway).
Rivera delivers it as slickly as he can, which is considerably, but I can’t help feeling as though he’d rather be singing something with more bite and snap; something more, well, salsa.
Of course pop, at least in the United States, is much more likely to set the tone for an era rather than provide a principled opposition, and the occasional “Barbie Girl” aside, very little in any U.S. chart critiqued rather than egged on the brave new era of Internet commerce, upscale mall culture, and bubbling markets — or at least, not in the Anglophone charts.
This one was a lot of fun.
This time, thanks to Marcello Azevedo’s nylon-stringed guitar, it has what you might call a stereotypically Latin flavor, a vaguely bolero sway, though not so pronounced that the barreling power-ballad chorus gets tripped up in any kind of polyrhythmic syncopation.
… But the sonics of the song, however pleasurable, are only part of what makes it so masterful a piece of pop music: the lyrics, the structure, and Shakira’s performance do the rest.
Of course I have to get my fun where I can, because there’s precious little here.
Some of that, of course, is pure genetic fortune: very few people could sing as quietly and gently as Martin does in these verses here and still have it sound so smooth. Technique counts for a lot, but the quality of the instrument is the difference between pleasure and ecstasy.
The Estefan machine was by now world-conquering, of course — Gloria’s only real peer at this point was Madonna — and the slickness and efficiency of the production is a little breathtaking even today.
But even in critical frameworks that reject the authority of the appeal to authenticity, the idea of something being more like itself the further it gets away from pop remains.
Look at these spunky kids, putting on a show. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were trying to save the rec center from some evil developer.
From the perspective of 2012, it looks very much like a bubble, like so much else in the late 90s, from Bill Clinton’s Pax Americana to the first dotcom rush to unprecedented profits from sales of recorded music. But in 1998, 9/11, Web 2.0, and the cratering of the music industry are still far in the future. So is the splintering of the Latin market, which will make the coming decade fascinating in its novelty, diversity, and unpredictability; but here at the tail end of the twentieth century, the illusion of consensus reigns supreme.
The gospel choir makes up for his own improvisatory deficiencies and lack of mellifluousness; it’s almost as if that was the idea.
But merengue’s much older than salsa; it was first recognized as a distinctly Dominican style of music in the 1850s, and while its journey from a rural folk music of (probably) African and Taino origin to a mass-popular dance music in the late 20th century was long, involved and achieved through political revolution, generational immigration patterns, and outright class warfare, the basic güiro rhythm is immediately recognizable and irresistable.
1998 was, globally speaking, the year of the boyband. In the wake of the dissolution of British stalwarts Take That, a new generation of groups like the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Boyzone, Steps, 98º, and Westlife rushed in to fill the void.