2000, Music

Sound Loaded (2000) by Ricky Martin

This is a very slick, well-made Latin pop record which I just absolutely wanted to hate with a passion but I can’t. Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t like it. But, having now listened to a fair amount of mainstream pop records from the ’90s, I admire the effort that was put into making this thing sound, well, not shitty.

So, first off, the lyrics are inane. They are so inane I kind of don’t know what to do about it. (Is “Saint Tropez” a dangerous place?!?!) I don’t know how I would have reacted to these lyrics before I knew Ricky Martin was gay. But, now that I know he’s gay, it’s only more ridiculous – so many of these songs are about You and Ricky Martin having an affair in an exotic locale and You are definitely a woman (at least as far as the lyrics are considered, if not Ricky Martin himself). It’s some serious pandering and it is rendered ridiculous by knowledge of Martin’s sexuality. But it sold – did it ever sell.

The music is catchy and there are actually more catchy songs on here than I would have expected from a record like this. It only produced 3 singles, as far as I know, but a few of these songs that weren’t I swear I’ve heard at some point, and they definitely stick in your head.

But real season I’m not shitting on this is the arrangements: somebody here knows what they are doing. Whether it’s the horns on the otherwise execrable “She Bangs” or “Loaded” or the percussion on “Come to Me”, the arrangements and the mix recall much better (and more authentic) music. The instruments are real and you can feel them. So it’s not just the arrangements but it’s the mix. It’s really well made as a record. (There are missteps, of course, like with the fucking pan flutes. And there are synthesizers, but they are used sparing and, arguably, tastefully.)

I don’t find Martin particularly compelling as a performer but I get that I am absolutely not his audience. But I do think that the Wall of Sound around him (which almost always sounds great, even when he doesn’t).
The album is way too long and includes multiple Spanish versions of songs sequenced earlier in the record. That gets pretty damn tiring by the end of it.

Still, this could be so much worse. It could be using digital synthesizers or samples instead of the real instruments, it could be mixed worse, it could be less catchy. Even if Martin himself isn’t particularly compelling, the sound of the album sounds to my ears like about as good as it gets for turn of the millennium Latin pop.


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