With the summer sun setting on the summer horizon, DSTP is taking this opportunity to celebrate the legends of Latin pop. Many will naturally know of Jennifer Lopez, Julio and Enrique, but this “season” DSTP is going to scrutinize Spanish and Latin American popstars. The scene is a rich tapestry that is one of the largest music markets in the world and produces some beefy fabtastic slices of pop that rivals their northern European rivals. And yet the British charts rarely feature Spanish and/or Latin acts preferring to opt, if ever, the tolerance of novelty singles from Ibiza. I came to love Spanish pop music initially via very a cold detour: Scandanavia. It has always been my obsession. ABBA, Army of Lovers, Cardigans, Robyn and Lena P. As a consequence, I became obsessed with the songwriters and producers behind the anthems. I’d instantly forget about the import fees which had the tendency to eat up up my pocket money usually during reading the linear notes of the CD sleeve. I travelled a lot to Spain as a kid and I discovered that Swedish songs were all over the albums. With that, I was addicted. So, I wanted to do few updates that recognized some of the Spanish popstars that soundtracked my childhood, teenage and adult years. Lets get on with it! Ole!

 Lets start with Marta Sanchez! Pop queen of Spain and beyond. Marta began her career in the huge Spanish group Ole Ole. She replaced Vicky Larraz and never looked back. I remember Marta sizzling in Ole Ole videos during the 1980s and couldn’t wait until Marta decided to go solo which she eventually did in 1993. Her first album Mujer was produced by Italian-American Christian De Walden (The Three Degrees -When Will I See You Again). It sold buckets due to its lead single Desesperada (Desperate Lovers) entering no.1 in the Spanish and Mexican single charts as well as no.9 on the USA Billboard Latin charts. Marta teamed up with Christian De Walden again for her second solo album Mi Mundo (My World). This saw Marta begin to write on the album (Am I Crazy) and is considered a much more personal piece of work compared to her debut.

The album also included the emotional power ballad Tu Tambien (I Can’t Change) which was about AIDS and Marta’s loss of a close friend to the disease in 1994. It is one of the albums’ most amazing moments not solely down to its message but also Marta reveals a gospel-like vocal. Still get goosebumps twenty years from first listening to it. My World/Mi Mundo is still one of my favourite pop albums of the 1990s. Sounding like Kylie Minogue’s first Deconstruction album, Impossible Princess and Madonna’s Erotica and Bedtime Stories, Marta sashayed into the world charts with her second album not only smashing Mexican & Spanish charts but also exploded all over Latin America.

Azabache/One Step Closer would be her third album and is one of her biggest. With the increased exposure of her second album, Azabache saw Marta collaborate with Slash, Nile Rodgers, Camus Celli and Stephen Budd. The album also included the world hit Vivo Por Ella which was a duet with opera star Andrea Bocelli. The lead singles Moja Mi Corazon and the aforementioned Bocelli also entered high in the Billboard Hot Latin Tracks chart. Using the momentum of Azabache she quickly returned to the studio and a year later came out with Desconocida/Perfect Stranger and again returning to team-up with Christian De Walden who produced the album. Perfect Stranger included one of my favourite Marta Sanchez singles – the title track. 

Infused with shimmering Bollywood sitars, Perfect Stranger was an ode to the beaches of Goa. To those new to Marta, the best way to describe Perfect Stranger is to draw similarities to Kylies Did It Again released in the same year and Nelly Furtado’s Powerless (Say What You want) released some 6 years afterwards.  After releasing her first greatest hits package she took a 5 year break from the recording studio due to family issues. Marta returned and signed to a new label. This time pop was back. Cher’s 1998 Believe and Jive Records ruled the radio world with their sublime combination of Britney and Max Martin whose albums constantly topped the charts. Not to mention Kylie’s return to pop after her Deconstruction years. She teamed up with Parlophone to release On A Night Like This, Spinning Around, Love At First Sight and of course the mighty Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.  The second single from Marta's comeback album was the title track Soy Yo and it took notice of what was topping the charts in the US and UK. Written by Paul Barry and Mark Taylor (Cher, Enrique Iglesias, Britney Spears, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Kylie Minogue), Soy Yo was huge. It was a clear bombastic disco-pop dance anthem that seemed like the missing link between On A Night Like This and Believe. 

The album, Soy Yo, also included a beautiful cover of Martina McBride’s Concrete Angel and in many ways reflects the mood of the album. It is a dramatic love album – despite the pop dance emblem of the title song. The polemic No te quiero Más illustrates this – with its soaring strings and glorious orchestral crescendos.

It wouldn’t be until 2007 until Marta Sanchez released her first big pop dance album – Miss Sanchez. Produced by the dance maestro Carlos Jean, it really was the album that the Barry/Taylor poptastic single Soy Yo promised. Indeed, the first track Levantate is Soy Yo part two. The album was dipped in layered and lush electro synths reminiscent of Kylie’s X & Aphrodite albums not to mention Madonna’s Confessions. Under the guidance of Carlos Jean, it still was distinctly a Spanish affair with collaborations with legendary iconic acts Alaska and Tino Casal. Sadly there is no English translated equivalent but it could’ve easily found a market In Europe and the States. The lead single featured the Depeche Mode sample that would launch The Saturday’s a few months later. Any song could’ve been singles such was the strength of Miss Sanchez. One of my favourite tracks is High Energy with its sexy flicks and sultry baselines it doffs its disco fascinator to every Giorgio Moroder song that ever released. Another two favourite songs came from Swedish origins – the previously mentioned Levantate was co-written by Peter Hallstrom (Sarah Dawn Finer) and the amazing song Reina De La Radio was a cover of the song Now That I Found Love by Swedish Idol winner Agnes Carlsson (Release Me). Martas’ version is a pretty much completely different song that celebrates disco and is a lot more uptempo than its northern sibling. With its album sleeve drenched in rainbow hues and hunks surrounding Marta in a studio 54 setting, Miss Sanchez is not one of the best party pop albums to come out of Spain but also a fixed soundtrack to every Gay Pride fiesta since its release in 2007.

After touring Miss Sanchez, Marta collaborated with Carlos Baute on the song Colgando En Tus Manos. It was huge . Selling over 400, 000 copies it was clear there was an audience out there that wanted to hear and see Marta duet with other artists. As such Marta embarked on her next project which was a greatest hits but with a twist. De Par En Par would include collaborations, duets and feature new songs that leaned towards the jazz genre. There are some real highlights on the album and it makes an interesting listen as Marta re-interpreted her hits reworked with dashes of Cotton Club swing and soft-pop jazz. One of the strongest moments is her jazzed-up Soy Yo with Nena Deconte and a stunning re-imagined version of Desconocida with the amazing Spanish singer Vega. The project also featured duets with Swedish singer Emilia De Poret (This Ain’t A Love Song) and James Morrison (Broken Strings) produced by Arnthor Birgisson (Leona Lewis, Celine Dion, Ask Embla) and Mark Taylor respectively. Despite lukewarm reviews the album was an interesting way to celebrate her 25 years in the music industry and is well worth investigating.

Marta has been working on her follow-up to Miss Sanchez for some time now and in the meantime she’s been busy releasing one-off singles, promoting, touring and being there for her family. On the big wide web, you’ll find Marta performing one-off and stand alone songs such as Made In Spain, Rhythm of The Night, Mi Cuerpo Pido Mas, Get It Up, Whatever It Takes, Too Hot To Handle and Sweet Lies – a ballad rumoured to be the next single. My favourite? I'm rather partial to Made In Spain and Too Hot to Handle. Both anthems bring her back to the disco dancefloor. I loved her excursions away from the pop genre but I get the sense that Miss Sanchez delivered what Marta's fans always wanted her to and they want a follow-up. Moreover, it also feels like her comfort zone. Indeed, for me the most exciting recent releases from Marta have been two anthemic melody-driven pop songs written funnily enough by uberpop Swedish producers. 

Those were Get Together in conjunction with the drink brand Bacardi and mighty diva collab with Monica Naranjo and Maria Jose Hasta El Fin. Both bulky in melody and heavy baselines, Get Together & Hasta El Fin have not only become fan favourites in Spain but have also picked-up interested outside of Spain. Marta is a perfectionist in the studio, delivers wild stage shows and her albums have shaped the last 25 years or so in Spanish pop music. I can’t wait to see and hear her next move. Gracias, Marta! Gracias por la musica!

The Definitive Introductory Ten Track Marta Sanchez MixTape
(Must-have songs to download by Marta)

Soy Yo
De Mujer A Mujer
Such A Mystery
Hasta El Fin
Desesperada/Desperate Lovers
Perfect Stranger
No Te Quiero Más
Profundo Valor
Lilí Marlén

No comments: