Sony's Arjona Delivers 'Saintly Sin'

Excerpted from the magazine for

A look at the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart in recent months reveals that depth -- in the form of more contemplative, personal albums that seem more driven by personal conviction than commercial concern -- has had a particularly good showing in 2002. You could call it a coincidence or, perhaps, a sign of the times.

Either way, recent releases by Mana, Juanes, and most recently Jaguares have all debuted at or near the top of the charts. This month, Ricardo Arjona's "Santo Pecado" (Saintly Sin), due out Nov. 26 on Sony, seems set to follow suit. Its first single, "El Problema" (The Problem), is currently No. 9 on Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks list after only three weeks.

Arjona is no stranger to the charts. His previous disc, "Galeria Caribe" (Caribbean Gallery), debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Latin Albums chart in September 2000, and his music -- a contemporary, more pop-oriented reading of the often politically motivated songwriting tradition of the 1960s and '70s -- is not as "alternative" as the aforementioned acts. Still, Arjona has pushed musical and -- even more so -- lyrical boundaries, and his consistent success points toward an audience interested in more intelligent, well-written pop.

"People confuse depth with complexity," Arjona says over dinner in Miami. "Things that are well-expressed are not necessarily complicated."

This is certainly true of Santo Pecado, which dwells on reality -- from unrequited love to a chilling kidnapping. Take "El Problema," a track Arjona says is emotional and analytical.

"It's a song where a mental exercise takes place," Arjona says. "It has to do with advertising copy. It's a disaster what I'm saying, and it will probably kill people [to hear it]. You see, ad writers are always looking for the right phrase for a campaign, and in this song, almost all the catch phrases are at the end: 'The problem isn't that it hurts, the problem is I like it; the problem isn't your absence, the problem is I wait for you.' These are phrases that take me somewhere else and excite me. And to excite [your record buyers], you yourself have to be excited."

A former elementary-school teacher, Arjona has excited audiences across Latin America for the past 15 years, thanks to a host of provocative lyrics that rile and incite audiences on such topics as abortion, God, and the sex appeal of 40-year-old women. After his foray into Caribbean rhythms on "Galeria Caribe," "Santo Pecado" is a return to his pop troubadour ways.

"Santo Pecado" will include a video-CD featuring a mini-concert, on which Arjona performs eight tracks with his band. Arjona is one of the highest-grossing touring artists in the region and typically plays 100-plus dates every two years.

Excerpted from the Nov. 16, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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