After a dazzling Grammy performance, the former Menudo member helped spark the Latin pop explosion of 1999.
RICKY MARTIN DIDN'T INVENT LATIN POP, but he became its unofficial U.S. ambassador in 1999.
The San Juan, Puerto Rico, native, then 27, had enjoyed a six-year run with the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo (from 1984 to 1990) and released four Spanish-language albums but hadn't generated notable crossover success.
That changed on Feb. 24, 1999, when his rousing bilingual rendition of the 1998 World Cup anthem "The Cup of Life" became the most talked-about appearance at that year's Grammy Awards. His performance ignited a Latin pop revolution, and Billboard noted soon after that "it seems like every record label exec has been in a heated search for the next Latin hottie."