24 October, 1998

And Enrique's back, after more than a year of being absent from the top of the chart. We'll see plenty more of him, to be sure, but he'll never again be as omnipresent as he was with his first two albums. This is a good thing; as the US Latin audience increasingly diversifies, there's much less reliance on the recurrence of any given superstar to anchor an era. There's more diversity at the top of the chart, which — purely selfishly — is more fun for me.

Of course I have to get my fun where I can, because there's precious little here. A straightforward ballad begging forgiveness from a girl called Esperanza (a name which means Hope, because he's hoping she won't leave DO YOU SEE), with plodding instrumentation — the vaguely interesting panpipes providing color in the opening don't do anything else — and lyrics which could only be interesting to a straying boyfriend trying to get back in his girl's good graces. Enrique sings it as well as he sings anything; his strained passion ends up being unintentionally funny when he charges into the second iteration of the chorus on the wrong vowel and has to wrench himself into the right one. Or maybe that's his version of melisma.

The only other interesting thing about the song is that it foregrounds Enrique's Spanishness: Z and sibilant C are pronounced TH in Castilian and Argentinean Spanish, which many other Spanish speakers find funny because it reads as a lisp. Much as US Americans tend to perceive British culture as more foppish and fey than their own, Latin Americans indulge in similar stereotypes about their old colonial power. It speaks to Enrique's can-do-no-wrong superstardom at this point that he took "Esperantha" to the top of the US Latin chart anyway.

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