If the term "intelligent Latin pop" hasn't been put to serious use yet, it should—with Ana BelÉn foremost on its list of representatives.

If the term "intelligent Latin pop" hasn't been put to serious use yet, it should—with Ana Belén foremost on its list of representatives. On an album that runs the gamut from playful to introspective, Belén puts her personal imprint on other writers' most intimate songs with elegance, nuance, and conviction. Take Franco de Vita's "Un Extraño en mi Bañera," which puts into words a woman's perennial fear of her abusive husband, or Joaquín Sabina's "Pisando Charcos," where a jilted lover meets her happy ex. Belén is aided by the tasteful production of Emanuele Ruffinengo (Alejandro Sanz), which insinuates just the right dose of Flamenco guitars and palmas as well as cello and violins to achieve a balanced, sophisticated fusion. If anything, Ruffinengo is sometimes too conventional—drop the sax and electric guitar solos, please. But compelling musicianship never ceases to hold this album together.—LC

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