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Album of the Year

September 12, 2000

Ni es lo mismo ni es igual: JUAN LUIS GUERRA

Like Colombia's Carlos Vives, Guerra has skillfully fused the rhythms of his native land--in this case, the Dominican Republic--with the inescapable influence of Anglo pop idioms. Guerra grew up listening to the Beatles and Pink Floyd, but the influence of the sticky merengue and bachata beats is ever present in his music. Now a veteran of the pop world, the singer has returned with a typically bubbly collection of upbeat numbers and nostalgic ballads, integrating the wonders of the Internet into his book of erotic metaphors and exhibiting his usual knack for humorous social commentary.

'Amarte es un placer': LUIS MIGUEL

While most Latin pop icons were busy recording crossover albums, Miguel has opted not to sing in English. Instead, he followed the sonic path forged by his successful trilogy of albums paying tribute to the bolero. This effort finds the singer collaborating again with Mexico's foremost pop composer, Armando Manzanero. The latter's three songs deliver the most emotionally powerful moments of the collection, while Miguel's own tunes are respectable entries in the romantic genre. This is not a world-changing album, but its solid musicianship reveals an artist who has nothing left to prove.

MTV Unplugged: SHAKIRA

The interesting thing about this collection is that it is almost a virtual re-creation of Shakira's previous album "Donde Estan los Ladrones," but in an unplugged setting. It's a daring experiment, and the sparse arrangements give new life to hits such as the spunky "Si Te Vas" and the sinuous, Arabic-tinged "Ojos Asi." Shakira's studio output has been extremely successful, but nothing compares to the electrifying experience of seeing her in concert. This session gives you a glimpse of her confessional lyrics and the down-to-earth zest with which she addresses her adoring public.


Although he has been pretty much ignored by the American mainstream, Veloso has, for the past 30 years, been one of Brazil's most important singer-songwriters. In the '70s, he was an architect of tropicalismo, a vital musical wave that replaced the lightness of bossa nova with a headier, sociopolitical approach and the influence of rock 'n' roll. Veloso has never released a mediocre album, and this is no exception. The master has now matured, and his fragile voice has never sounded so determined. The lyrics, as always, overflow with poetry, insightful observation and a perpetual state of wonder.

El amor de mi tierra: CARLOS VIVES

This album stands as the best in Vives' distinguished career. Benefiting from the slick production skills of Emilio Estefan Jr., the singer offers a buoyant collection of tropical pop, focusing on the positive aspects of life in Latin America. Showcasing his deep connection to the musical tradition of Colombia, he ends with a raucous version of the classic cumbia "La Piragua." Emulating Gabriel Romero's seminal version from 1969 wasn't an easy task. Vives holds his own by cranking up the amps, adding the soulful gaita (flute) of Mayte Montero and embellishing the song with moody sound effects.

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