22nd August, 1987

Get used to that name; we'll be seeing it regularly from here on out. In fact Luis Miguel makes an excellent case study in the evolution (maturation? commercialization?) of Latin Pop: his career mirrors the trajectory of the time period we are covering. Of course Latin Pop has existed for decades before this, but it tended towards parochialism and regionalism: the gooey embrace of transglobal pop stardom is something new, and Miguel is one of its key players.

We meet him for the first time here, at the age of seventeen. He has been in show business for most of his life, scoring his first hit record when he was eleven. (Shades of another child star turned leading light of the global pop overground.) He has just fired his father as his manager and signed on with Spanish pop empresario Juan Carlos Calderón. A standard hitmaking formula is brought to bear, with excellent results: a number-one song, which will give way twice to Julio Iglesias and once to — but that'd be telling. It's a bumptious dance song, funky in that mid-80s cheap keyboard bass way, with a sax solo that dates it as surely and minutely as counting tree rings. And you know the song.

You probably don't know it as "Ahora Te Puedes Marchar," because the original English title of the song was not "Now You Can Leave." It was "I Only Want To Be With You," and it was first released by Dusty Springfield in November 1963, her first single after leaving folk group The Springfields, and the third British-Invasion hit in the US. Ivor Raymonde's billowy Swinging London production is swapped out for a sub-Huey Lewis go-go, and Mike Hawker's giddy lyrics about new love are refashioned into a don't-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out anthem (directed at Miguel's money-mismanaging father?), but the giddiness remains. Miguel sounds downright gleeful to be singing this song, to be on his own, to be making modern dance music out of classic pop.

Most of the album from which "Ahora Te Puedes Marchar" was drawn is taken up with modernized covers of pop songs from the sixties and seventies — "Reach Out," "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me," "Only You," "All By Myself" — and given a glossy 80s sheen. It's very much, even designedly, a disposable teen-pop record; Miguel is only seventeen, and his pouty lips on the album cover don't invite us to expect much more. But you can hear a bit into the future: he has a fine, strong cock's crow of a voice, he's good with rhythm, and he's interested in raiding the closet of history to enhance his own throbbing good looks.

He will come to be called the Frank Sinatra of Latin music; but as of right now, Michael Jackson is the far better comparison. If Jackson had been born in Puerto Rico ten years later than he was, this — triumphalist, a little cutting, and interestingly sexually ambiguous in terms of who his forebears are — might well be the record he'd have made in 1987.

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