27th August, 2005

Wiki | Video

Three stone-cold classics in a row is not normal for a run of #1s on any pop chart in any year; once we set aside simple nostalgia, the law of averages would dictate that the #1 spot bear its share of flashes in the pan, middling work buoyed by affection for prior greatness, and other detritus. But sometimes the stars align, and Juanes, Shakira and now Luis Fonsi have ushered in a new era -- like Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, and Marc Anthony did in 1999, but less invested in English-language crossover and more invested in particularly Latin sounds.

Which, granted that Juanes's guasca rock and Shakira's pop reggaetón were "particularly Latin," what's so very Latin about Luis Fonsi's shuffly ballad, sounding like every rootsy Bush-era crooner from Jack Johnson to Jason Mraz? Two things: the enveloping string arrangement, which has been a regular feature of this travelogue since Luis Miguel's symphonic boleros of the 90s, and the solomonic lyrics, which manage to be both very philosophical and very emotional in the best Spanish tradition.

Because it's impossible, once you know the context of the song, to hear it as anything but a gorgeous, broken-hearted love song about facing your lover's mortality. It was written by Afro-Cuban trovero Amaury Gutiérrez (himself a bit of an inspiration for folks like Johnson and Mraz), but Fonsi recorded it in the context of his wife Adamari López's diagnosis with breast cancer.

She survived, and is currently a Telemundo host (they divorced in 2010), but the song remains as beautiful and endlessly adaptable to the listener's own circumstance as ever. The title is plainspoken: Nothing is forever. But it's the chorus that resonates: "Quiero amarte hoy/Quiero amarte hoy/Por si no hay mañana" (I want to love you today/I want to love you today/In case there's no tomorrow). The post-2008 trend of cataclysmic pop in the English-speaking world is anticipated here, but Fonsi's scope is smaller and more intimate than the widescreen apocalypses invoked by the likes of Ke$ha; when one person is your whole world, you don't need an apocalypse for the world to end.

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