Saturday, May 1, 2010

Paradise Lost

From “El Alma al Aire” to “Corazon Partio,” his classics aren’t just hits, they are moments in Latin music history. Sanz’s music has always been musical mango, sweet and solid. Even his filler material is listenable because his performance simply demands it.

With atmospheric, airy romantic ballads almost bordering on Eros, the singer has become in a way the Spanish Sade. Quite a difficult reputation to live up to, and while Alejandro Sanz makes a decent comeback with Paraiso Express, it makes you ponder the man’s definition of “paradise.” Perhaps the title doesn’t indicate that it whisks the listener to paradise, more like it itself is a rushed effort.

More of a pop/soft-rock album than a flamenco-based ballad album, the record takes the singer out of his comfort zone, which may or not be a good thing.

For the album’s first single, “Looking for Paradise,” Sanz brings Alicia Keys on board for the musical journey. While the collaboration might seem like crossover heaven, the superficial sweetness of the song doesn’t represent either artist fairly. One would expect the most romantic, soulful ballad as a result of the two talents combined, but what is given is merely a future “chick flick” theme song. Other songs like “Lola Soledad” allow the songwriter to show other Spanish rock acts like Motel and Camila how it’s done. Sanz adds freshness and spunk to the usually flat genre of pop/rock on the track. On the other hand, those elements are exactly what’s missing from “Mi Peter Punk,” which sounds more like a Juanes throw-away than an opening track for Sanz.

“Tu No Tienes La Culpa” wins the prize as the most memorable moment on the LP. The track gives the listener chills as if the music is flowing through your spirit, creating the sullen emotions the singer emits in his performance. “Desde Cuando” reminds one of Sanz’s earlier material.

Though not quite as effective, it’s comforting to know he hasn’t abandoned his roots. On its own, the LP is one of the best Latin records of the year, but when it’s coming from Sanz, it becomes a semi-lackluster attempt. Still, in many ways, the album has the sound perfect for a road trip to paradise. It’s soft without being sensuous. There was a magic in the classic songs like “Quisera Ser” that aren’t in the recipe anymore for Sanz’s songs. Not his best album, for that title goes to El Alma al Aire, Paraiso Express is hardly a highway to disco hell, but with all Sanz has done before, seems more like it’s only halfway to heaven.

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