11th December, 1999

Wiki | Video

Although he'd been a frequent (perhaps too-frequent) visitor to the Hot Latin #1 spot since 1996, it was not until "Bailamos" that Enrique Iglesias finally landed on the magic formula that would sustain one of the most consistently successful careers in modern popular music: he became, despite all his rock-derived masculine vocal strain, essentially a disco diva, a passionate if limited voice around which his collaborators can wrap high-octane, intricate productions. Which isn't to say that he won't have ballads in the future, and sometimes very successful ones -- but they will be the ballads of a dance singer, not the rock/romántica singer he originally positioned himself as.

His voice is thin and nasal, and he cannot project the authority that his father or Luis Miguel could, and even the easy competence of Ricky Martin is beyond his power. What his voice does have that they all lack is a certain vulnerability, traditionally identified in popular music with women's voices. (Soul music is the great exception, and the great innovation, in Black US music, and all rock singing is descended from it.) So he can be a dance singer, and it doesn't matter that his voice can't necessarily keep up with the thrust of the music, not just because it can be beefed up by modern production methods, but because its very fragility is what gives the music its emotional power.

All of which is to say that "Ritmo Total" (simultaneously released in English as "Rhythm Divine", as which it was more of an international hit than a US one) is not just an imitation of the formula that made "Bailamos" his first crossover hit, but an elaboration and, in some ways, an improvement on it. The clunky bilingual lyric is gone, replaced by either an all-English or all-Spanish lyric (and in the future he will sing in either one language or the other, rarely if ever both), both with parallel meanings if different details. The flamenco guitars return, but there's a rapid flamenco (or Catalan rumba) rhythm too, and indeed the whole production flutters where "Bailamos" was a more staid 4/4. He even breaks into a tremulous falsetto here, escaping his usual heartfelt whine for a non-verbal soar, and it's the most blissful sound we've heard in an Enrique Iglesias song yet.

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