31st August, 1991

Over the past forty years, Vikki Carr has had two almost entirely separate careers singing popular music. By which I don't mean that she had one, then she had another: she's maintained both of them side-by-side, and fans of one often know nothing of the other. Fans of traditional pop, especially the brassy 60s variety, know her as the pair of iron lungs behind "It Must Be Him," a 1967 ballad that grandly ignored all pop change since about 1953. She's maintained one foot in the trad-pop and easy listening tradition ever since, collaborating with jazz musicians, playing cabarets, and even dabbling in pop-country the way so many easy-listeners did in the 70s. But she was born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona in El Paso, Texas, and beginning in 1971 with "Que Sea Él" (the Spanish-language version of "It Must Be Him"), she maintained a Latin Pop career on the side. In the 1980s, her smooth vocals and penchant for ornate arrangements became hugely successful among the Spanish-language market, and she's cultivated that side of her career so well that she's one of the Dueñas Grandes of Latin Pop.

Here she duets with Ana Gabriel (and much as we may adore Vikki Carr, let's not kid ourselves that it was anything but Ana Gabriel's magnificent hot streak that kept this at #1 for two months) on a song where she plays the wiser older woman to Gabriel's passionately distraught young blood. Just in terms of construction, it's a solid duet, each woman getting a chance to shine, with call-and-response sections that highlight the textural differences between their voices and give the song tremendous forward momentum.

But with all that, it's still a ballad, a tremendously soppy one, and horrific in terms of its sexual politics (Carr more or less advises Gabriel to strip herself of personality in order to be whatever the man she's afraid of losing wants her to be). Love, as seemingly always in Latin Pop, is presented as tragedy, an arbitrary grand passion that will inevitably betray and leave desolate. It's just easier for me to take when it's a man complaining about it.

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