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No longer "Livin' la Vida Loca"

Ricky Martin
Chicago Theatre
Chicago, IL
Feb. 2, 2006
Ricky Martin Ricky Martin

Story and Photos By Andy Argyrakis

The explosion of Latin flavored pop music into the mainstream has been simmering as of late and even Jennifer Lopez and her rotating door of fiances can't keep the flame flickering as brightly as it once did. Ricky MartinWith that in mind, the prospect of a major commercial comeback for Ricky Martin isn't exactly protruding the radar of music industry priority lists, nor is he ever likely to ever reach the heights of his self-titled American debut disc and the "Livin' la Vida Loca" phase. As a result, it's understandable why he took a several thousand seat step down from the United Center to the Chicago Theatre for his latest windy city visit, which was made in support of last fall's Life CD. Although the disc has been a dud on the charts and airwaves in comparison to past projects, it's still been met with enough interest to sell out the venue expediently and give Martin yet another crack at reclaiming old glory.

Though he tried gallantly throughout a briskly paced two hour show- complete with a ten person entourage, sensory striking light show and video screens on full tilt- he still fell several steps short. The problem was three fold- first his lackluster material on Life, then corniness of past singles that didn't catch wind even with revamped arrangements and lastly a somewhat weak voice when it came to ballad belting. In terms of the new tracks, Martin tried to be something to everyone and as a result hasn't been able to come across with individuality. Songs like "It's Alright," "This Is Good" and "I Don't Care" straddled the lines between urban and reggae beats, but all seemed forced and lacked the immediacy needed for radio domination.

More familiar staples were given a slight facelift by his backers, but even with tribal tweaking, cuts like "She Bangs" and "Loaded" couldn't even hold up a mere few years after their initial releases.Ricky Martin Perhaps it's because they were annoying from the get go or maybe because they were so overly hyped back then that audiences have long grown tired of them. The same could be said to a lesser degree about "Livin' la Vida Loca," though it seemed to hold a special place in the hearts of attendees given the fact it was his first breakthrough on these shores.

Unfortunately, moving into ballad territory didn't afford Martin any praises either, but rather spotlighted his limited range. "She's All I Ever Had" appeared bland and nowhere near the more moving context of Jon Secada's version (who also was a co-writer on the track). His treatment of The Hooters' "Private Emotion" was also unflattering and a strange choice considering it wasn't all that hot the first time around. But nonetheless it was something obligatory after soaring as a single and being played at every prom on the planet.

To Martin's credit, he left out the horrendous "Shake Your Bon-Bon" and covered all his major career bases, including several Spanish language songs that truly sizzled with a potent brass section and ethnic excitement. He also appeared incredibly enthusiastic at times and danced like crazy, especially during "Marķa" and "The Cup of Life." The heartthrob was also a hit with the ladies, giving them his signature smiles and winks, while his band and background singers were top notch and well versed in their crafts. It's obvious that with these qualities Martin has entertaining abilities, though his other missteps indicate a full blown career revival is highly unlikely. In order for the odds to increase, he'll need to craft a more suitable and all around enjoyable album where he doesn't try to bounce all over the map or reclaim past glories, but truly embody what's in his soul. It still may not translate to renewed superstardom, but at least he'd gain more artistic credibility and critical respect along the way.

Ricky Martin

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