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Ricky Martin: 1971—: Singer, Actor

Released English-language Album

Now an international superstar and household name, Martin released his first English-language album, also self-titled Ricky Martin, in May of 1999. Produced by Rosa and Desmond Child and Emilio Estefan, who, along with Jon Secada, also wrote some of the songs, it became the fastest-selling release that year, entering the U.S. charts at number one, the best ever for a Latin artist on the mainstream pop charts. Its single, "Livin' La Vida Loca," quickly vaulted to and remained at the number one spot on the U.S. Hot 100 for five weeks. The release also included a duet with Madonna, "Be Careful," in which he sings in English while she sings in Spanish. By 2001 album sales were at 15 million worldwide, nearly half coming from the United States, with three single tracks hitting the charts, including the "Loca" follow-up, "She's All I Ever Had," which climbed to number two.

It was more than energetic pop songs that hurtled Martin into international celebrity; his sex appeal contributed as well. When asked in a Rolling Stone interview if he was comfortable with his image, Martin replied, "Sex symbol is equal to no credibility. That's something I don't want to fight with. Sexuality and sensuality are completely different things. Sensuality is something that you're born with. Am I sensual? Well, a lot of people say I am. But sexuality is something I leave for my own mirror. I don't share that with anyone."

The enormous success of his latest releases had finally planted Martin into American mainstream music, but he was now accused by some of having abandoned his Latin roots. Martin explained in USA Today, "I will never stop singing in Spanish, but this a communications business, and it's all about getting closer to cultures." During his acceptance of the 1999 World Music Award for Best Selling Latin Artist he stated, "To create music is to unite countries." And not all critics felt Martin had sold out. A music critic at Time wrote of Ricky Martin, "This is an unabashed pop album, but it's saved by its Latin soul."

After continuous rotation on the airwaves, the smash hit "La Vida Loca" eventually became too mainstream in the United States. The New York Times wrote, "Mr. Martin, the former child star, is suffering a bad case of overexposure. Can you even count how many times you have heard "Livin' La Vida Loca"? Or how many times you have caught yourself singing it? But backlash is part of the price of fame. Fans and press build celebrities up and then knock them down. Once a song becomes so imbedded in pop culture, as Mr. Martin's 1999 hit "Vida Loca" was, it is hard to live down."

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - PersonalRicky Martin: 1971—: Singer, Actor Biography - Joined Latin Boy Band Menudo, Released First Solo Album, Unforgettable Grammy Performance, Released English-language Album