Ricky Martin was one of the biggest teen idols in Latin America during the '90s and a major figure in American pop music by the end of the decade. A lead singer of Menudo, Martin was blessed with good looks and a nice voice, which helped him become a Latin music star. He also became an actor, earning praise from the Mexican motion picture industry and starring on the American soap opera General Hospital, where he played Miguel Morez, a bartender who sings on the weekends.
Martin (born December 24, 1971) was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a child, he sang in the choir and performed in school plays. When he was six, he began acting in television commercials. Shortly afterward, he took professional singing and acting lessons, which paved the way for his auditions for Menudo. In 1984, when he was 12 years old, he became a member of Menudo. For the next five years, he was the lead singer of the group, helping it to become an international sensation. Once he outgrew Menudo in 1989, he went back home to Puerto Rico, where he completed high school. After graduation, he moved to New York, where he simply relaxed for several months.
Following a few months of inactivity, he began to work his way back into the entertainment industry. He returned to Mexico, where he acted on-stage for a year before returning to the music industry. In 1991, he released his self-titled debut album, which he co-wrote with his fellow Menudo alumnus Robi Rosa, who would become a regular collaborator over the course of Martin's career (often credited as Ian Blake). The album became a sizable hit on the Latin charts. Two years later, he followed it with the Juan Carlos Calderon-produced Me Amarás, which was an even bigger hit, launching him to superstar status in Latin America. In January 1994, he joined the cast of the soap opera General Hospital, playing Miguel Morez. His recurring role was so successful that it landed him a role on Broadway, where he played Marius in Les Misérables. He left General Hospital to perform in the production and stayed with the play for about a year.
In 1995, he released his third album, A Medio Vivir, a record that had a harder rock edge yet also featured such Latin styles as flamenco and cumbia. In early 1998, he released his fourth album, Vuelve. His first English-language pop album -- which like his first long-player also happened to be titled Ricky Martin -- was released in the spring of 1999; it made him an international superstar thanks to blockbuster singles including "Livin' la Vida Loca" and "She's All I Ever Had." A year later, Martin sizzled again with the release of Sound Loaded. His biggest Spanish-language hits were collected on 2001's La Historia, while 2003's Almas del Silencio was an album of new Spanish material. Life, from 2005, was a return to English-language pop. Martin then released MTV Unplugged in 2006 in both CD and DVD formats. After the success of his MTV Unplugged concert, Martin embarked on a worldwide tour in 2007, and a live CD and DVD of the Black and White Tour appeared later that year. Following the final show in Madison Square Garden, Martin took a career break from music to focus on his private life, although a collection of his Spanish-language hits entitled 17 appeared in 2008. Martin returned to the limelight in 2010 with a tell-all autobiography and in 2011 his ninth studio album, Música + Alma + Sexo, arrived.
Martin spent the next couple of years focusing his energy on his charitable Ricky Martin Foundation. He announced a new collection of romantic songs inspired by the end of a long-term relationship. The set's first pre-release single, "Adios," was released in October of 2014. In January of 2015, "Disparo al Corazon," the second pre-release single, hit the charts. The same month, a somewhat elaborate Internet hoax was perpetrated stating that Martin had passed away. He responded via Instagram, putting the rumor to rest. His tenth studio album, A Quien Quiera Escuchar, was released a month later. The album not only charted in the Top Five but, as a result of its strong singles and videos, it landed in the top spot on Latin albums charts during the first week of 2016.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine