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A celebrity is born every 60 seconds. At least these days, that's the case. And the proverbial 15 minutes of fame have been stretched to an eternity. Yet despite contentions to the contrary, few are real stars. And even among those who could be called natural-born entertainers, there aren't many who achieve the kind of immediately recognizable fame that is both the bread and butter (and the bane) of true A-listers. And fewer still, a handful perhaps, are Latino. But ask anyone, anywhere, "Who is Ricky Martin?" And whether you're in Manhattan or Mozambique, they'll know straight away.
That distinction is both well earned and well worn. Since first tasting fame as a prodigious young performer in Latin boy band Menudo during the mid '80s, the Puerto Rican-born superstar has dabbled in virtually every area of the entertainment industry. "My given name is Enrique Martin Morales," his recently released autobiography, Me, begins, "but most people know me as Ricky Martin: musician, singer, composer, philanthropist, and some might also know I'm an actor. And I am all of those things; but I am also a lot more."
So it would seem. Martin has always been prolific and restless, never content to restrict himself to one role. Even the status of internationally beloved Latin pop star couldn't contain him. And with his meteoric English-language debut single, "Livin' la Vida Loca," he more or less kicked off what snowballed into the crossover phenomenon we know today.
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And now Martin is stretching himself further than ever. He is no longer just a recording artist and a performer. He has become a writer with the dual-language release of his autobiography last November. The English version, Me, shot straight to a top-five position on the New York Times Best Sellers list, while Yo has been the number one Spanish-language book for months, selling seven times as many copies as the current number two. And as if pop star, actor, and author weren't already too much for one man, he is also a dedicated father of twin boys born in 2008, Matteo and Valentin, to whom he dedicates the book, writing, "My light, my focus, my strength, my little masters."
Of course, though, he is still a recording artist at heart. And he is still a performer. And if the world needed reminding, there is now Música + Alma + Sexo, his ninth studio album and the first since 2005's largely English-language Life. It's a 13-track effort that reunites Martin with famed producer Desmond Child, who also helmed the singer's 1999 self-titled English-language breakthrough. And appropriately it sounds very much like classic Ricky Martin, except imbued with an electro-house influence, reminiscent of Madonna's Ray of Light.
In typical Martin fashion, the new album has been a complete success, seizing the number one spot on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart in its opening week and number three overall on the Billboard 200, a fact that distinguishes it as the highest-charting principally Spanish-language record since Selena's Dreaming of You in 1995.
Some critics and armchair bloggers hear a deep personal change on Música + Alma + Sexo, claiming that Martin, since coming out last year, has finally embraced his homosexuality. And certainly you wouldn't be surprised to hear any of Martin's new, upbeat tracks sampled and mixed at Score. But like Madonna, Martin's approach from one album to the next has often been chameleonic, and he has never really needed to pander to the gay and lesbian community to earn its full, earnest support.
In fact, he has never needed to pander, period. Martin is a real star. And that transcends everything.