27th June, 1992

Even the opening synth chord is familiar, and as the first voice takes up the stately melody we all know exactly where this is headed. They do nothing surprising with it, unless those Big Guitars on the chorus count.

But on the other hand — hey, there was a Spanish-language cover of "Without You" that hit the top of the Latin Pop chart in 1992! And it's pretty good! Not as good as the Harry Nilsson version, of course, or the Badfinger original, but better than the Mariah Carey version which would define overwrought balladry for a generation two years later. Then again, it was never the best of Nilsson's or Badfinger's songs either, says the man who's still grumpy about all those ballads in a row in 1990 and 1991. (The Spanish-language lyrics are only slightly changed from the English original to fit scansion; the sentiment of death being preferable to romantic loss is very much the same.)

Pandora marks our first encounter with that evergreen pop configuration, the girl group, which will never be entirely as common in Latin Pop as it is in Anglophone pop, particularly r&b. But the early 90s was a fertile moment in girl groups, if overshadowed by the Spice Girls and Destiny's Childs of the late 90s: En Vogue, SWV, Jade, and the early TLC had made the airwaves safe for harmonies that ranged from sweet to powerful. Pandora was mostly the later, a full-frontal attack of harmony on the chorus that makes me think of Wilson Phillips (speaking of girl groups) and the gospel group First Call. A quick glance at the list suggests that neither girl groups nor boy bands will have much part in the story this particular chart journey will tell; if Latin Pop is one of the more conservative pop genres, it may be because the traditional focus on a single singer is one of its traditional strengths.

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