19th February, 1994

The strings come in all cinematic and lush, overwhelming in their voluptuous sensuality, and we are certainly no longer in the 1980s, or even in the early 90s. We have arrived at a high-water mark for certain iterations of popular culture, a period towards which people who were there at the time look back with increasing nostalgia, unrecoverable, a golden age of corporation-sponsored pop musc. The CD has definitively replaced the LP and the cassette, and the industry is reeling in the surplus that high markups, overextended running times, and the more-or-less constant discovery of previously untapped markets are providing. For established stars like Ana Gabriel, nothing is out of reach, no sound too expensive, the keyboard-and-plastic guitar of her first number one (which sounded glossy and burnished even then) now a distant memory.

And so she dives into memory and tradition, as so many of her peers did in the 90s, recovering old forms; the largest untapped market being, as always, the past. It was the decade of the reissue, and all music got its story told and retold through official corporate channels, unless there were artists with enough clout and certainty to tell history their way, to override the cults of authenticity and white-guy taste to bring up ghosts that didn't fit neatly into the Rolling Stone or Rough Guide versions of history. "Luna" is old-fashioned Mexican or even Spanish pop, a monologue addressed to the moon about the lover far away who is is, presumably, also staring at the same celestial object. It's a conceit as ancient as Homer (and for kids of my generation perhaps best remembered as the conceit behind the duet in An American Tail), and if the music isn't quite as ancient it's still venerable, from the Verdian strings to the "Spanish Harlem" guitar line keeping the beat.

Gabriel herself even seems muted with the weight of history; her signature Anglo-rock-derived rasp turns into an Italianate sob, and although the song is beautifully structured, a gesture towards classicism that ends up being a classic in its own right, she sort of gets lost in it. Which is one of the dangers of messing around with history; it takes a very strong voice not to drown in those tides.

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