12th October, 1996

I don't speak Spanish very well; I went through intensive instruction as a boy in Guatemala, but didn't often use it in daily life, and in the fifteen years since I moved back to the U.S., have almost never spoken it. So when I'm listening to Latin music, there's often a sense in which I feel like I'm not getting the whole story. Not just because Hispanophone songs, like songs in any language, are full of references to other texts — literature, pop culture, standard sayings — that just knowing the dictionary definition of the words won't necessarily make clear to you, but because I feel like I have a hard time judging tone. Literal, or even vaguely approximate, English translations of Latin pop lyrics are often in a heightened poetic manner, with the kind of all-out floridity that hasn't been popular in English for over a century.

Even the name of this song doesn't quite work in English: it translates as "Memories, Sadness, and Loneliness," which — though it would be perfectly acceptable, even ideal, as a subject for an American country, r&b, folk, or pop-punk song — is a little over-the-top as a title. Of course, that over-the-top-ness is a feature of Latin popular culture, not a bug (think of telenovela overacting, or even just the tired stereotype of the Latin lover) — what rings as overheated melodrama in one culture is standard dramatic tension in another; you just have to know the context.

The music here is not much different from what he was doing with Los Bukis, but even through its cheap-sounding synthesizers there's a deliberate anxiousness. (It's in waltz time, but the tempo's too fast to waltz to; which is very odd for a ballad.) The lyrics have Solís describing, in what I've come to expect as the standard imagistic fashion of romántico, the slow dissolution of a relationship. But it was the chorus that really caught my ear: "Fuimos cayendo poco a poco/en la rutina cruel/al ritmo crudo/de este mundo de papel." Which in English, runs "We were falling little by little/into the cruel routine/to the crude rhythm/of this paper world." A paper world! What an unusual image!

And then of course I looked it up, and "en un mundo de papel" is a standard Spanish phrase to describe living in a fantasy ("building castles in Spain" would be an equivalent, if more old-fashioned, English phrase). Well, I tried to think of something nice to say. But it's hard for me to find Marco Antonio Solís anything but boring.


  1. Anonymous14/1/12 02:07

    I'm surprised that I actually read most if not all of this blog... and can I just say I was enjoying it but then I see your very last sentence and there it went. I have official lost ALL the respect I had for you. How can u say your a music nerd and not recognize such talent as Marco Antonio Solis, or even worse call it boring. You say you have an official nerd badge?... do the world a favor and rip that s@#*% up into a million pieces. Don't ever call ur self anything a music wiz.....ur nothing less of a deaf person if you don't see the talent of Marco Antonio Solis....I dont mean this to be insultive truly I don't....I just don't want you to get the wrong idea and actually think u have even the smallest idea of what great music is.......oh and please reply..I honestly want to know what you have to say

  2. Even when we do not mean to be insultive, sometimes we are.