2nd August, 1997

Probably the most telling indication of my taste-slash-white-boy-assumptions-about-"real"-Latin-music is the reaction I'm having to this run of songs compared to the run that immediately preceded it. Enrique Iglesias and Marco Antonio Solís, much as I've liked individual songs of theirs, are wearying in romántico ballad after romántico ballad slicked up with mid-90s adult-contemporary pop production. The ranchero classicism of Juan Gabriel/Rocío Dúrcal and the countryfied corridos of Los Tigres del Norte, leaning as they did on traditional Mexican sounds, the Latin American version of "roots" music like the blues, country and gospel, were much more agreeable to my classicist's ears. Which may be indication of an "authenticity"-driven double standard applied to Latin music — after all, in Anglophone music of the period, I like the Cardigans way more than, say, Keb' Mo' — or maybe it's just a numbers game. If it were one or two Enriques to every six or seven Tigres, I might be feeling the exact opposite.

I bring all this up because this is the third Latin-traditionalist song in a row that I'm really loving; though the traditionalism here isn't Mexican but Cuban, even Spanish (the flowing flamenco-like guitar lines), and I think I even hear Peruvian huayño (cf. "El Condor Pasa") in the shuffling rhythm. But I'm no expert, as the musicologists falling over themselves laughing at my disorderly tags can attest. And faithful traditionalism would surely be pointless without Estefan's effortless melodicism and Kike Santander's classic songwriting.

"No Pretendo" can be translated several different ways, from the obvious "I don't pretend" to "I'm not trying" to "I don't mean" — either way, the phrase ends most frequently with "ser tu dueña" (be your lady, in the aristocratic as well as the lover sense) and "hacerte mío" (make you mine), and the repeated disclaimers have the effect of enforcing humility: after saying at great length what she doesn't mean to be, when she says what she does want to be it's "el mano que se llene de quebranto, ser un poco el remanso donde muere el desengaño" (the hand filled with broken dreams, a bit of an oasis where disappointments die).

This is practically Victorian — the "ministering angel thou" version of womanhood, rejecting any stronger moral or emotional hold on her man — but the complexity and the sheer poetry of the full lyric make it go down easier, as does Estefan's eternally warm voice, pitched at just the right level of desperation to make the sentiment believable. And listen to the guitars: they're letting us know it's tragic, all right.

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