Not just another pretty Latino

Review: His self-titled album demonstrates the real appeal of Marc Anthony is in his high-energy singing.

September 28, 1999|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

So far, Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias, the most recognizable names in Latin pop, have won fans as much through sex appeal as through vocal ability, suggesting that being a hunky heartthrob is more important to crossover success than being a great singer.

Marc Anthony ought to change all that.

Anthony doesn't lack for good looks; he wouldn't have such a strong second career on the stage and screen if he weren't easy on the eyes.

But even if he came across like Quasimodo, there's enough beauty and charisma in his voice to ensure that "Marc Anthony" (Columbia 69726, arriving in stores today) will seduce almost any pop fan.

His first English-language release, the album is glossy, full of lushly orchestrated ballads and brash, brassy dance numbers.

It's also got pop smarts to spare, thanks to Anthony's collaborations with producers Walter Afanasieff (who did Mariah Carey's "Hero") and Rodney Jerkins (who did Brandy and Monica's "The Boy is Mine").

Despite such such high-profile production support, it's Anthony's voice that dominates.

When he works against Afanasieff's hauntingly melodic harmonies in "My Baby You," Anthony's voice doesn't soar in expected directions; instead it takes the tune in a dramatically distinctive direction (while still giving us the big climax we expect).

Likewise, the groove he gets from Jerkins for "She's Been Good to Me" owes as much to Anthony's salsa orientation as to Jerkins' itchy electro-funk, while the snaky, sexy chorus -- powered by Anthony's supple tenor -- kicks the whole production into overdrive.

Anthony's singing always seems to up the energy level of these songs.

He's able to pull every bit of emotion from a lyric, as he does in "You Sang To Me," and he also understands how restraint can speak volumes, as in the tender "How Could I."

There are also times, as in the tightly harmonized chorus to the percussion-driven "That's OK," when the sheer power and brilliance of his voice is enough to leave listeners smitten.

So do yourself a favor, and forget the videos and photo spreads. All you need to understand Marc Anthony's appeal is ears.

Marc Anthony

Marc Anthony (Columbia 69726)

***1/2

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