18th December, 1993

The potted biographies you can find online make them out to be a late-breaking Latino response to the New Kids On The Block, who were of course a later-wave white response to New Edition. All of which means that the Barrio Boyzz came along fairly early in the life cycle of the modern boy band — they far predated the Backstreet Boys, but not Take That — but in the life cycle of Latin Pop's response to American urban pop (at least insofar as it's tracked by these number ones, a woefully incomplete story if there ever was one), they take John Secada's new jack swing beat and inject smooth r&b harmonies. Result: a Latino version of Boyz II Men, even down to the ersatz classicism.

It's still a ballad, but the well-known melody (it's a cover of Bread's "Make It With You," not that you needed to be told) gives it a classic gauzy-pop feel, the punchy beat gives it some urgency, and these guys — all bilingual (the better to maximize profits) Puerto Ricans from New York — can sing, which is an improvement on NKOTB. Their ethnic and geographical origins are worth noting, by the way: this is the first time that New York, the US city with the largest Hispanic population, has entered our story. There's a reason for that: Nuyoricans tend to be more assimilated, so they don't often drive the Spanish-language market the way Californian, Texan, or Floridian Latinos do. (Plus, of course, they're a much smaller percentage of the New York population than they are elsewhere; there's just more of everybody in New York.) And it didn't last; aside from one rather important duet, they won't make another appearance here, and they never did crack the English-language market at all.

"Cerca De Tí" means "close to you," and you can guess the rest of the lyric's sentiments from there, even if you didn't know the original. The point isn't the romanticism of the words, but the romanticism of the sound, and secondarily of the hunky, sweet-faced boys on album covers and in video clips. The boy band as we know it may have originally been a Puerto Rican invention — Menudo, with their rotating lineup and assumed disposability, are often considered the template for the modern form — but against the accelerated vocal-group competition of the early 90s, Barrio Boyzz were ultimately just too anonymous to overcome a lack of material that stood up even to this glossy 70s retread.


  1. This may be only the fourth Bilbo track that I knew from the time (the other three I can think of are the first Jon Secada and Gloria's "Si Voy A Perderte" and "Mi Tierra"). Didn't know it through airplay but because, at a whim, I listened to the Barrio Boyzz album at a Tower listening station in San Francisco, liked what I heard, got the album, ended up being mostly disappointed. But this is very nice.

  2. Oh, also knew "La Bamba," of course. Maybe one or two others, though I wouldn't bet on it.