27 March, 1999

It took until the end of the second decade of this travelogue, but we have finally encountered the group whose name was synonymous with Latin Pop, at least in the US, for the half-decade leading up to the beginning of it. Menudo (for it is they) hit their peak of popularity before 1986, and since then their passionate fanbase had been too small a portion of the overall Latin-music audience in the US to push them to the top before the late 90s made unabashed teenpop fashionable again.

Then again, this isn't quite the world-famous Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, kept famous today by Anglos who remember the 80s shaking thing their heads about how crazy Latin pop culture is; this is four of the five guys who were in Menudo in 1996, when the rights to the name were sold by Edgardo Díaz, the Puerto Rican svengali who had cooked up the concept back in the 70s, to a Panamanian company. So they called themselves MDO and carried on. There was no difference in the sound or the concept: cute boys singing love songs and dancing, and not doing either very well. "No Puedo Olvidar" (tr. I can't forget) isn't one of the more deathless songs we've encountered; its strongest selling point is the drum loop which suggests that someone involved in the production heard M/A/R/R/S at some point. The voices are pretty but personality-free, the lyrics are the definition of bland, the melody is just sticky enough to hang around but not enough to do anything once it's there.

But hey, it's M(enu)DO at number one! Good for these boys, all of whom joined between 1991 and 1995, long after the group's heyday, and only two of whom were even Puerto Rican (Alexis Grullón is Dominican, and Abel Talamántez is Tejano). It's too bad the teenpop-friendly climate didn't catch them on a better single. But stay tuned.

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