Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
There's been a dry spell for women on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart. Since the beginning of the year, only one female artist -- the late Celia Cruz -- has topped the list.
As far as pop is concerned, no woman has been No. 1 in terms of sales since the female act Las Ketchup's self-titled debut and Shakira's "Greatest Hits" both topped the chart in November 2002.
But last week, Ednita Nazario broke the jinx.
The veteran Puerto Rican singer's 20th album, "Por Ti," made a surprising debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart and on the Heatseekers chart, the first time she's topped either one of them. The album, which sold a disproportionate amount of copies in Puerto Rico, is No. 10 on this issue's Top Latin Albums chart.
Beyond being a landmark for Nazario, "Por Ti" illustrates a change in the direction of female Latin pop.
Not only is the album far more acoustic-minded and rock-driven than traditional pop, it was written almost entirely by women.
"Maybe it's a cyclical thing," Nazario says, noting that there are no other female pop acts on the chart. Cruz, at No. 26, is tropical, while Ana Gabriel, at No. 27, has a ranchera album.
"Maybe labels aren't paying too much attention," she adds. "Maybe it's the language. Women are generally victims in songs. I take another position: a position of control and importance. That's particularly attractive, especially for today's woman, who is more dynamic."
While mainstream music has always had strong female figures, women have played second fiddle to men in the Latin realm.
Sure, there are superstars like Shakira, Gloria Estefan, Thalía and Paulina Rubio -- for a grand total of four. But there's a serious lack of Latin female teen idols à la Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears or Beyoncé.
In contrast, mainstream music has a slew of female stars, including Spears at No. 3 and Hilary Duff at No. 4 on The Billboard 200. Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan and Missy Elliott are in the top-20.
In the Latin realm, women, who are the big music buyers, tend to gravitate toward romantic male acts.
"Teenagers buy male records, and that's a sure thing for labels," says songwriter Claudia Brant, who wrote several of the tracks on Nazario's album, including current single "Si No Me Amas" (co-written with Luis Fonsi). "I think they buy women's albums when they really see them as an idol."
But, in Nazario's case, it's a new message that seems to be most important.
"My mission is to say other things," she says. "Things that are different from what everyone else is saying. That's why I look for people and things whose point of view tends to be feminine.
"Obviously, I know there are great male composers who can say things from a female point of view," Nazario adds. "But a woman can say it in a different way. Perhaps men still have this romantic vision of women as fragile beings who have to be protected. And with all due respect, that's an archaic vision."
Excerpted from the Dec. 6, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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