13th November, 1999

We've seen how Latin music was crossing over to the mainstream US charts with some regularity in 1999; one other major byproduct of the music industry's peak years at the end of the 90s was Christian crossover music, a dream that had been alive ever since Amy Grant first troubled the secular charts in the 1980s, but towards the turn of the millennium was closer to becoming a reality than ever before. Bands widely perceived as Christian like Creed and bands that openly identified as Christian like P.O.D. were wildly successful, and the standardization of all aspects of the music industry that was a feature of the consolidating 1990s meant that there was virtually no difference in sound or professional quality between secular pop and Christian music (as there always had been in my youth, when I was allowed to listen to nothing else).

So the arrival of Jacqueline "Jaci" Velásquez, a Houston native of Puerto Rican descent with a strong voice, wholesome good looks, and a willingness to occasionally be ambiguous as to the divinity of her love songs' object, on the Christian-music circuit in the mid-90s, was a perfect realization of all marketing dreams: She could be sold to the Christian market, to the pop market, and to the Latin market all at once.

The Christian market took to her immediately, as I remember (these were the last years in which I paid any attention to that world before my ongoing attempts to digest All Music Ever took over my life); the secular pop market did not, particularly; but the Latin market, less unwilling to hear religious love as a metaphor for carnal love and vice versa, embraced her too. It helped that with this song, her first Spanish-language single, she put her best foot forward.

"Llegar a Tí" (to get to you) is a strong love ballad in any context, with crisp production that wouldn't have been out of place on any Lilith Fair-adjacent record, and with MDO providing angelically-smooth background vocals (that's them sighing "y volar... y soñar"). The lyric could easily be taken to refer to a human lover: its central image, of love being so powerful that it allows the lover to literally fly to her beloved, had been used by R. Kelly three years earlier in a song that owed much to church traditions. But prickly consciences could be soothed by the chastity and wide-eyed devotion of the lyric, which floats in such gauzy nonspecificity that the song is not just a marketer's idea of heaven, but many Christians' too.

No comments:

Post a Comment