An enjoyable journey back into 90s pop culture.
Natalie Shaw 2011-07-07
17 is the latest in a series of greatest hits compilations released by commercial Latin pop hero Ricky Martin. It’s a supposedly lucky number, but for the multi-million-selling Puerto Rican singer it’s just one lucky number in a long list.
It’s not so much about celebrating universal pleasures, but about giving them their own fanfare. And so the trap is laid out: because these messages are so inoffensive, the overriding joie de vivre of Martin’s cruise ship-croon can't be argued with. Nobody Wants to Be Lonely, with tacked-on partner Christina Aguilera, transforms magically from sullen musing to the power duet to end all power duets – and it’s hard to argue with that pop nous. Livin’ La Vida Loca is still as irresistibly frolicsome as it was back in 1999.
There are plenty of howlers on here too, though – such as The Best Thing About Me Is You, a duet with Joss Stone featuring the asinine line, "I'm as happy as happy can be / ‘Cause I'm allergic to tragedy". By-numbers RnB venture I Don’t Care is another turkey, with Martin’s vocal scraping through awkwardly like nails on chalk; the fiercely masculine She Bangs is another loser, vacant and purposeless now the singer has come out. But it’s not all bad – when the silly-pop badge is worn naturally, it wins through. The Cup of Life is a beacon for the singer’s cocktail of great big glossy choruses, vibrant feel-good brass and syncopated timbale beats.
The hip-shaking vaudeville of this best-of collection never once masks Ricky Martin's way with the epic chords of a ballad or infectious samba polyrhythms. Faceless it may be, but this best-of comes with a complimentary frontline of songwriters ready to immortalise an MSG-high hook out of thin air. His hits avoid the ‘dated’ label by virtue of their lack of cool, making this collection an enjoyable journey back into 90s pop culture for time-tourists and reminiscers alike.