Ricky Martin, "Musica + Alma + Sexo"

Ricky Martin's first studio album in six years is a decided return to his pop roots and to songwriter/producer Desmond Child, the man behind such hits as "Livin' la Vida Loca." But "Musica + Alma + Sexo," which is the first album Martin co-produced and co-wrote almost in its entirety, catches the singer at a very different time in his life. Martin largely shuns easy romanticism for more assertive messages that celebrate liberation and diversity, themes that can be associated with his coming out last year. Fortunately, the set avoids hitting listeners over the head with any one message, thanks to the beats and an overriding joie de vivre. The album establishes its intent from the onset with "MAS," an invitation to dance with lyrics that encourage listeners to celebrate a night out. But it really comes into its own with the uplifting song "Te Vas," whose heady chorus floats over pulsating dance rhythms. The biggest departure on the release is "The Best Thing About Me Is You" (recorded in English and Spanish with Joss Stone and Natalia Jimenez, respectively), a feel-good ditty over a happy reggae beat.

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