28th November, 1987

Probably the easiest way to become convinced of Julio Iglesias' supremacy in the art of romantic Latin ballad singing is to listen to the imitators that come nowhere close. Which isn't to say that this sweeping entry in the romantic-ballad sweepstaks of late 1987 is terrible; it's just not up to the contemporary standard of Iglesias, which as the past several entries have shown is frankly pretty damn high.

Rodríguez is the first of our company to hail from South America: born in Venezuela, where his relatively poor family was involved in dangerous political activities during the 1950s, he moved around a lot and went without formal schooling, teaching himself music and stagecraft. With hit songs and commercials, he became a local star in the 1970s, and eager for more, moved to Puerto Rico, one of the hotbeds of Spanish-language pop-culture production. He was cast in two immensely successful telenovelas (Cristina Bazán and El ídolo), the latter of which gave him the nickname "El Puma," and began to have enough hit records that he was invited to participate in the Latin Pop version of "We Are The World" in 1985, "Cantaré, Cantarás." Other participants familiar to the readership of this blog include Braulio, Emmanuel, Julio Iglesias, and José José; the full list is here.

"Cantaré, Cantarás" was written by Albert Hammond — the "It Never Rains In Southern California" guy (and father of a Stroke) — who mostly spent the 80s working in Latin Pop, where his talent for big, heartstring-tugging ballads was more widely appreciated than in the Anglophone pop world at the time. (A Gibraltarian, he's fluent in both Spanish and English.) He and José Luis Rodríguez must have gotten along, because two years later he wrote and produced the album Señor Corazón for him, from which "Y Tú También Llorarás" ("and you too will weep") was drawn, becoming Rodríguez' biggest ballad hit of the late 80s.

Hammond's lyrics aren't a patch on Manuel Alejandro's poetic, refractory stuff for Iglesias, but they have their own emotional appeal: the big swooping chorus goes "And you too will weep/For what could not be/Was a torrent of love/That we threw away/You will return to feeling/Like a teenager again/Anxious to arrive/In time for our rendezvous," which turns in the final chorus to "You will never arrive/In time for our rendezvous/It's too late."

It's worth noting that the mid-80s production with which we started out this trip has mostly fallen by the wayside: although the keyboards here are extremely plastic, they have a sonic depth and sustain that's a world away from the tinny production on "La Guirnalda." The balladic 90s (which is when I first became aware of contemporary pop) are within hailing view from this height. Of course, we still have two more years to go before we get there. What's 1988 got for us?

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