The United States had the unique position of turning Ricky Martin into a punch line. Whether the joke was rooted in pop culture irony, homophobia or class snobbery, the entire country built up the star and subsequently tore into him. However, to the rest of the world Enrique "Ricky" Martin Morales was embraced as an international superstar.
The Puerto Rican singer entered the public eye in the '80s as a member of the teen boy band Menudo. As a young adult he moved to Mexico and started an acting career in theater, telenovellas (soap operas) and film. He was signed to Sony Discos and released his self-titled, Spanish-language debut in 1991. The album of mostly ballads went gold. He released another Spanish-language album in 1993, Me Amarás, which went platinum. By this point Martin had established himself as a romantic balladeer. So his 1994 move to Los Angeles to act in the soap opera General Hospital was a natural transition.
His 1995 album, A Medio Vivir, moved significantly towards trendy, Latin-club pop and made the singer into a pop star. The album sold over seven million copies worldwide and featured the hit single "Maria." Shortly after he returned to the States to star in the Broadway production of Les Miserables. His 1998 Vuelve outperformed his prior album by selling eight million albums and spawned the hits "Perdido Sin Ti," "La Bomba," "Corazonado" and the World Cup theme "La Copa de la Vida (Cup of Life)." His performance at the Grammy Awards (and the album's reception of the Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop album) helped break him into mainstream America.
In 1999 Martin was well-positioned to crossover into the American market. His English-language, self-titled album was summed up primarily by the international hit "Livin' La Vida Loca," which topped the singles charts in 16 different countries. The success of the song and the album could also be cited in the later success of other Latin pop stars in the United States, like Enrique Iglesias and Shakira. Martin released another English-language album, Sound Loaded, in 2000, which spawned the hit "She Bang," but the album and single did not perform nearly as well as its predecessor. Throughout the remainder of the '00s Martin returned to recording primarily in Spanish, with the exception of his 2005 album Life. In 2009 he announced the pending release of his ninth studio album.
In 2010 he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. The announcement ended years of speculation in the media and general public. ~Dan Nishimoto