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The Toronto Star
Ricky Martin Hits No. 1 Again; Almas Del Silencio Sets Sales Record, Latin Star Returns After 2-Year Hiatus
Leila Cobo, Special to the Star
June 3, 2003
Ricky Martin has recaptured the peak of the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart with the best sales week ever for a Spanish-language album in the United States.
Almas del Silencio, released May 20 in the United States by Sony Discos, enjoyed a first-week sales total of more than 65,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The previous record-holder was Luis Miguel's Romances, which opened with 57,000 copies in 1997.
Almas del Silencio is Martin's first Spanish-language studio set since his global breakthrough, Vuelve, arrived in 1998.
Oddly, the project was a break from Sony's original plan. Martin was initially slated to release a new English-language album. It was to be his first full-fledged foray into songwriting.
By the end of last year, the English-language sessions were almost complete, and Martin had co-written every track. Then he changed his mind.
"I woke up five months ago, and I said, 'We're doing an album in Spanish,'" Martin recalls, speaking from his home in Miami Beach. "Everyone went nuts. They said, 'You don't have time. You have to release an album in English because of timing issues with your career.' And that's fine. But I told them, 'In five months, you'll have a kick-ass album in Spanish.'"
The 31-year-old artist's biggest success to date is his 1999 English-language debut, Ricky Martin, which made him an international superstar. The album has sold 6.9 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and 15 million copies worldwide, according to Sony. It included the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit "Livin' la Vida Loca."
The English-language follow-up, 2000's Sound Loaded, has rung up U.S. SoundScan sales of only 1.6 million copies. After its release and his initial promotional efforts, Martin dropped out of the spotlight for two years. He gave only one public interview, during the Billboard Latin Music Conference in 2002.
With the decision to release Almas del Silencio, the new English album is on hold until March, 2004. Instead, Martin will spend the next nine months promoting his latest set.
Martin does not regard Almas del Silencio as a return to Spanish but simply as a return to recording. He points out that the language difference does not matter in most markets outside the United States.
"Many countries are releasing this album simply as Ricky Martin's next album, period," Martin says. "They know me as a Latino who recorded an album in English. And the next English-language album will be Ricky Martin's next album, period."
While mainstream American audiences have only "Livin' la Vida Loca" as a point of reference, Spanish-speaking audiences and fans in Europe and the Asia-Pacific can relate to several albums - most notably Vuelve, a mix of traditional ballads and upbeat fare that defines the Martin sound. That disc sold 861,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and 6 million worldwide, according to Sony.
Almas del Silencio harks back to Vuelve but is far more introspective. For its songs, Martin tapped many of his friends, including Alejandro Sanz and Ricardo Arjona, and requested tracks that reflect his own state of mind, expressing his yearning for his native Puerto Rico and for the simpler things in life.
In the Latin marketplace, including the United States, the first single is the soaring pop/rock ballad "Tal Vez." The track was penned by Venezuelan Franco de Vita, who also wrote the singles "Vuelve" and "A Medio Vivir" for Martin.
Martin does not plan to tour until the release of his new English album next year. But he has scheduled some one-off performances, including the recent Universal Amphitheatre show.
Martin is also planning a concert sometime at New York's Madison Square Garden and is scheduled for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno on June 20.