Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

After nearly two years of self-imposed "retirement," Puerto Rican singer Noelia is hoping that her new album, "Natural," will catapult her back to the heights she reached with her 1999 eponymous debut effort.

"Noelia" (Fonovisa) sold more than 800,000 copies worldwide, according to her label; garnered a top-10 smash and three other top-40 hits; and spent 44 weeks on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart. But Noelia's follow-up effort, "Golpeando Fuerte" (Hitting Hard), came and went with little promotion, as it was released in 2000, while Fonovisa was in the midst of management changes and new ownership discussions.

"It was a good album, but I couldn't take it where I wanted to take it," Noelia says. "So we decided to take the very delicate risk of retiring without knowing if we'd come back."

Buoyed by the purchase of Fonovisa by Univision Music Group and the assurance of full backing, Noelia has come back with "Natural" -- released Feb. 25 -- named after a state of being. "I am very natural," says the singer, whose album title also reflects a new, bohemian look featuring flowing dresses and tresses and earthy jewelry. "I say what I feel; I'm very expressive. And the album is the way I am."

"Natural" was produced by Santander Music Group and includes four tracks co-written by Noelia, as well as the single "Clavame Tu Amor" (Stamp Your Love), currently No. 45 on Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks chart.

Noelia says, "The songs were made for me, with my sound: a very universal sound that has no borders and isn't your traditional ballad."

Noelia plans to promote "Natural" in Europe. At the same time, the artist has been honing her songwriting skills. Not only has she written for her herself and her mother (she has written a track for her mother's most recent album), but she also co-writes frequently with boyfriend and former boy band MDO member Alexis Grullon. The two are currently co-producing an album for Noelia's younger sister.

"I [have] always [written], since I was a little girl. But I never thought I would develop [to the point] where I am now. It gives me joy and it gives me pleasure, and I feel writing is part of my mission on earth as an artist."

Excerpted from the March 15, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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