29th August, 1998

Every specific form of music has an uneasy relationship with pop. In the most obvious sense, this tension is responsible for things like rockism, for authenticity arguments that always sound more or less the same whether the original purity in danger of being devoured by mass media's ruthless, flattening maw is five hundred years or two months old. But even in critical frameworks that reject the authority of the appeal to authenticity, the idea of something being more like itself the further it gets away from pop remains.

Case in point. (Obviously.) Crespo's first big hit, "Suavemente," was exactly the kind of easily-digestible crossover, with a pitiless hook and miles of melody, that seems engineered for widest possible appeal. Which doesn't mean that the followup is any less hooky or melodic — if you can get the "será tu sonrisa" (it will be your smile) chant out of your head within an hour of hearing the song, you've got far more willpower than I — but it also hews more closely to the traditional merengue form, with its call-and-response and tighter, more insular grooves.

On the one hand, dogmatic merengueros (for whom all non-Dominican merengue is false merengue) would say that it's still too diluted, too Americanized, too pop. On the other hand, a groove's a groove, and from my chart-outwards perspective the heavy increase in danceable music over the past several months of chart action is only a good thing.

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