19th September, 1998

It's a good measure of how much more accomplished a pop performer than his immediate peers Ricky Martin was that this song, a slow ballad based in modern R&B forms, is far more beautiful, superbly phrased and emotionally affecting than anything Enrique Iglesias, who was still singing as though he thought vocal constipation equaled passion, could have hoped to achieve at the time. Some of that, of course, is pure genetic fortune: very few people could sing as quietly and gently as Martin does in these verses here and still have it sound so smooth. Technique counts for a lot, but the quality of the instrument is the difference between pleasure and ecstasy.

The song itself is a sigh of unresolved longing. The title translates to "lost without you," and while the loss Martin expresses is romantic, there are suggestions -- not least in the video -- that it's corporeal as well; that the mourning is not just for lost love, but a lost life. The English-language murmurs in the post-chorus ("I love you; I need you") are haunting in how much is held back in them.

The production does some of the work here, a slow rush of smooth bass, lite breakbeats, and glossy chords, as familiar to adult-contemporary listeners of the 90s as an old shoe, but finessed extraordinarily well. But it's the hushed male chorus (I believe it's simply Martin multitracked) that makes the most emotional impact, circling in increasingly tighter chants that smartly mirror the way that we respond to death or other trauma, the way repeated thoughts circle unceasingly, unresolvingly, in our minds. It's one of the most understatedly lovely ballads we've yet seen; and it's also, despite the ache at its center, one of the most comforting.

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