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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Thalia, the diva next door

The flashy Mexican singer enthralls fans with a performance straight from the heart yet light on its feet.

May 17, 2004|Ernesto Lechner | Special to The Times

Because she represents the joys of Latin pop in all its inconsequential glory, Thalia is the kind of artist who should be treated with a light touch rather than a heavy hand.

Sure enough, the Mexican singer's extravagant show Friday at the Universal Amphitheatre delivered a fluffy assortment of suggestive dance routines, colorful wardrobe changes and a slick wall of sound that was equally informed by crunchy arena-rock, routine hip-hop and bubbly electronica.

A consummate entertainer, Thalia has turned her live act into a masterpiece of kitsch, the kind of exuberant party that could cheer up most anyone. Still, more than state-of-the-art gimmicks are needed if you want to engage an audience the way Thalia wooed her thousands of fans Friday.

Delighting the crowd with extended monologues, the singer projected an aura of openness and emotional honesty that transcended the kittenish image she projects in so many of her videos. At one point, her willingness to poke fun at herself while cherishing the fans was rewarded with a standing ovation that lasted minutes -- and left her in tears.

Thalia's recent attempt at crossover success with an English-language album failed because in tailoring her music to a more generic aesthetic (think the Mexican J. Lo), she sacrificed those endearing, diva-next-door traits that make up for the obvious limitations of her music.

Fortunately, she devoted most of Friday's show to the Spanish-language hits, from the melodramatic "Entre El Mar Y Una Estrella" to a rollicking "Arrasando." At times, the combination of Thalia's vulnerable persona and the Vegas-style setting resulted in moments that were, of all things, oddly poetic.

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