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Record Rating: ***

Ricky Martin - Life - Sony Music His self-titled English debut reached the #1 position in 10 countries, and from then on there’s been no looking back. The man who lived La Vida Loca was pretty much inescapable a few years ago before he promptly disappeared. Needing a break late in 2001, he stepped out of the spotlight for a couple of years, taking time for himself after having worked almost non-stop for over two decades.

While his fans missed him during his retreat from the public, they were delighted with the release of a Greatest Hits compilation that saw the light of day. And now he’s back. Simply titled Life, it’s the most eclectic cross-cultural work to date, and of course his first English language album since 2000’s release of Sound Loaded. I Don't Care is his first single for over two years and it’s nothing like you would ever expect from Ricky Martin. For the video shows, he’s undergone something of an image change ~ gone is the grinning, tanned clean cut Ricky Martin, and in his place is a moody, bestubbled, tattooed evolution. And the album is a surprise as well.

There’s none of the usual Latin pop Martin was known for in the late 1990s. Instead, the thirteen tracks are a mélange of styles, where danceable hip-hop shares space with straight-ahead pop. Martin moves into a totally new musical direction;. Till I Get To You pays homage to Middle Eastern music; Drop It On Me borrows UB40’s danceable reggae; and sitar players show up as well all over the album. He hits his stride on this album with the track Drop It on Me, which is sure to get you shaking. Life should introduce him to a newer and younger audience who may have otherwise ignored him.

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