Thalia, barefoot and without makeup, is fiddling with the remote control of her newly installed stereo system in her almost equally new home in Miami Beach. So here we are, listening to what even a ho

Thalia, barefoot and without makeup, is fiddling with the remote control of her newly installed stereo system in her almost equally new home in Miami Beach. So here we are, listening to what even a home stereo can't disguise: that this is a gutsy album, flush with personality and hooks, and that Thalia -- Mexican soap-opera star, former teeny bopper, and Latin pop diva -- has taken a quantum artistic leap that may mark the difference between her current musical success and mainstream stardom.

Due in stores May 21 via EMI Latin, 'Thalia' has far more aggressive rock undertones than its namesake's previous material, edgier arrangements that often rely on crunchy guitars, and a generally relaxed feel that belies the nine months of work that went into it. A rap/pop track featuring Los Rabanes and even the requisite dance tracks -- including the irresistible "En la Fiesta Mando Yo" (At the Party I'm the Boss) -- manage to sound out-of-the-ordinary yet at ease with themselves.

"It's been a very relaxed, unpretentious process," Thalia says. "It's been a marvelous personal encounter where it was about simply letting things flow and taking them as they came, without so much starch and fuss. It's not that I'm not doing pop anymore, but the tendency of everyone who worked on the album was to go toward [more rock-oriented] sounds, and it feels incredible."

'Thalia' is a collection of 10 Spanish tracks, most of them penned by hit writer Estefano, who co-wrote and co-produced several of them with collaborator Julio Reyes. The album also includes three English-language tracks that Thalia envisions as her introduction to that language's market; a process that will be complete by year's-end, when she releases her full-length English-language debut.

Expectations surrounding Thalia's release are high -- not just because she's a consistent seller and a major act, but because this is her first album since her marriage to Sony Music Entertainment chairman/CEO Tommy Mottola, and that alone puts an extra spotlight on the project.

"I'm at this stage in my career because I've prepared for it, and in no way do I feel pressured," Thalia says. "I'm Thalia on my own." By the same token, she says her husband has been close to her album-making process, a situation she embraces. "He definitely gives me advice," she says. "Imagine having such a music guru in your house. If he supports me in something and likes something, well, I really have to pay attention."