Ricky Martin Biography
In late 1999, after releasing several albums in Spanish, Martin performed "The Cup of Life" at the 41st Grammy Awards show, which became a catalyst in bringing Latin pop to the forefront of the U.S. music scene. Following its success, Martin released "Livin' la Vida Loca" which helped him obtain enormous success worldwide and is generally seen as the song that began the Latin pop explosion of 1999 and made the transition of other Spanish-speaking artists into the English-speaking market easier. The song has sold over 8 million copies, making it one of the best selling singles of all time. His first English-language album (also titled Ricky Martin), has sold 22 million copies and is one of the best selling albums of all time. His other studio albums include: Me Amarás (1993), A Medio Vivir (1995), Vuelve (1998), Sound Loaded (2000), Almas del Silencio (2003), Life (2005), and Música + Alma + Sexo (2011).
He has sold over 70 million albums sold and has had 95 platinum records, 6 #1 Billboard albums, 11 #1 hit songs, 2 American Music Awards, 6 Grammy Awards, 8 World Music Awards, 10 Billboard Music Awards, 8 MTV Music Video Awards, with concerts in more than 60 countries across the globe.
Early life: 1971–83
Martin was born on December 24, 1971, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of Nereida Morales, an accountant, and Enrique Martín Negroni, a psychologist. His parents divorced when he was two years old and Martin spent much of his childhood shifting between his father's home in the suburb of University Gardens and his paternal grandmother's house nearby. Martin has two maternal half-brothers, Fernando and Ángel Fernández, and two paternal half-brothers, Eric and Daniel Martín, and a paternal half-sister Vanessa Martín. Martin has Catalan (Spanish) ancestry through his maternal grandmother who was born in Spain as well as Corsican ancestry through his paternal grandmother.
Martin grew up in a Roman Catholic home and was an altar boy throughout his childhood. He began singing at age six, using wooden kitchen spoons as pretend microphones; he often interpreted songs by Menudo as well as English-language rock groups such as Led Zeppelin, Journey, and REO Speedwagon. His mother's side of the family was musically inclined and his maternal grandfather was a poet, which inspired young Martin to write songs. Martin later reflected on his time spent with his family as a child: "Every time I find myself in front of an audience, be it twenty people or one hundred thousand, once again I feel the energy that consumed me back at the family gatherings of my youth." After discovering a newspaper advertisement about auditions for commercials with his father, nine-year-old Martin began appearing in Puerto Rican television commercials for products such as soft drinks, toothpaste, and fast-food restaurants. In a year and a half, he starred in eleven commercials.
After achieving a small amount of fame in Puerto Rico for his work in television commercials, Martin auditioned for membership in Puerto Rican boy band Menudo. Although the executives enjoyed his dancing and singing at his first two auditions, Martin was rejected because he was too short. By the third audition, his persistence impressed executives and in 1984, thirteen-year-old Martin became a member. A month after joining Menudo, he made his debut performance with the group at the Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Center in San Juan. During this performance, he inadvertently disobeyed the choreography by walking around the stage when it was planned that he would stay still, and was chastised by the band manager after the show: "The mistake was such a big deal that from that moment on, never again did I move when I wasn't supposed to move...That was the discipline of Menudo: You either did things the way you were told or you were not part of the group." The song "Asignatura Pendiente" from Almas del Silencio (2003) was inspired by the first time Martin left Puerto Rico to tour with Menudo.
Although Martin enjoyed traveling and performing onstage with Menudo, he found the band's busy schedule and strict managing to be exhausting and later reflected that the experience "cost" him his childhood. He considered leaving the group while on tour in Brazil, but ultimately decided to stay out of fear of media backlash and being sued for breach of contract. Martin also began struggling with his sexuality, noting the stark contrast between his status as a sex symbol and his own emotions. Despite this, Martin acknowledged his "opportunity to have so many amazing experiences with so many amazing people" during his time with the group. He developed an interest in philanthropy when the group became UNICEF ambassadors, often working with impoverished children in third world countries. His experiences as an ambassador affected him greatly and inspired him to continue working with charities later in life. By 1987, Menudo's record sales began to decline and the group changed its image, adopting an edgier look and performing more rock-influenced songs. The band released the album Somos Los Hijos del Rock in Spanish, and to appeal to the Menudo's Filipino fanbase, the group released In Action, recording songs in both English and Tagalog.
After recording eleven albums with the group, Martin left Menudo in July 1989 at age seventeen, hoping to rest and evaluate his career path. He performed his final show with the group at the same venue as his first performance as a member. Martin returned to Puerto Rico to graduate from high school, and thirteen days after turning eighteen, he moved to New York City to celebrate his financial independence; since he was a minor during his time as a member of Menudo, Martin was not allowed to access his own bank accounts. He was accepted into New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, but months before classes began, Martin dropped out and moved to Mexico City to perform in the play Mama Ama el Rock (Mom Loves Rock).
Acting and first two solo albums: 1991–1994
While he was performing in onstage in Mama Ama el Rock, a producer in the audience took notice of Martin's acting and offered him a role in the Mexican telenovela Alcanzar una estrella after the show. He also joined the cast for the second season of the show, titled Alcanzar una estrella II. A film based on the TV series entitled Más que alcanzar una estrella was also produced in which Martin starred and earned an El Heraldo Award in 1993 for his role. The show centered around a fictional musical group called Muñecos de Papel in which Martin played Pablo Loredo, one of the six members; the group toured several cities in Mexico and recorded two albums. Although he had hoped to take a break from touring after Menudo, Martin enjoyed the experience because he got along with the other members well.
I was so excited about getting back into the music world that I didn't care what the conditions were...All of the hard work and passion I had exerted was finally now starting to come to fruition, and music came back to my life powerfully and definitively.
– Martin, on recording his debut album.
In 1990, Martin was signed to Sony Discos, the Sony Music Entertainment's Latin imprint. Eager to make his first solo album, Martin signed the contract without reading it and inadvertently signed a deal in which he would only be awarded one cent of royalties for each album sold. Despite viewing the contract as unfair, Martin referred to the record as "the start of something phenomenal" for him. After working "around the clock" to finish filming Alcanzar una estrella II and recording music, Martin released his debut solo album, the Spanish-language Ricky Martin, in November 1991. Ricky Martin included the singles: "Fuego Contra Fuego" and "El Amor de Mi Vida". "Fuego Contra Fuego" was certified Gold in Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and the United States. To promote the album, Martin toured throughout Latin America, which the singer referred to as "an indescribable feeling, almost like coming home."
After the success of Ricky Martin and its subsequent tour, Martin's record company met him with acclaimed producer Juan Carlos Calderón on his second solo album, Me Amarás. Although Martin felt "very grateful" for the opportunity to work with Calderón, he noted, "I always felt that that record was more his than mine." Released in May 1993, Me Amarás features a Spanish-language cover of the Laura Branigan song "Self Control", titled "Que Dia Es Hoy". In his review, Alex Henderson of AllMusic wrote, "The CD isn't without its pleasures...but on the whole, Me Amarás is too glossy, too calculated, and much too contrived for its own good."
In 1994, Martin's agent encouraged him to move to Los Angeles to act in an American sitcom called Getting By. The show was canceled after two seasons, but soon after, Martin was given the role of singer/bartender Miguel Morez on the soap opera General Hospital. Martin felt that he lacked chemistry with the rest of the General Hospital cast, and observed that people treated him differently because of his Puerto Rican accent. At the time, it was relatively uncommon for Hispanic people to appear on American television, and people suggested that he take accent reduction classes, which he refused. It was during this time, however, that Martin began his first committed relationship with a man. He "stopped fearing his sexuality", and soon came out to his mother, who was supportive of him. However, after the relationship ended, Martin "locked [his] feelings even deeper inside", and began dating women again. He recalled, "I already felt it was hard to be a Latino in Hollywood; what could have been more difficult than being Latino and gay?"
A Medio Vivir, Vuelve, and breakthrough: 1995–1998
In 1995, Martin refocused on his music career, and began work on his third album, A Medio Vivir. The first single, the ballad "Te Extraño, Te Olvido, Te Amo", was reminiscent of his earlier work. With the song, Martin furthered his expansion from Latin American and Spanish-speaking audiences to the European and Asian markets. However, the record also made a shift from his traditional ballad-style compositions to a more risky fusion of music centered around traditional Latin sounds, epitomized by the song "Maria". Taken aback by the starkly different musical style, record label executives felt that the song would ruin Martin's career. Despite this, "Maria" was chosen as the album's second single, and became a breakthrough hit, reaching number one in France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Finland, Italy, Turkey, and the entire continent of South America. With A Medio Vivir, Martin was credited, along with singers Chayanne and Marc Anthony, for popularizing the music of Puerto Rico in Spain. The album has sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
In a 1996 interview with The Miami Herald, Martin expressed an interest in performing on Broadway. Days after the interview was released Martin received a phone call from producer Richard Jay-Alexander, offering him the lead role of Marius Pontmercy in the play Les Misérables. After the conclusion of a worldwide tour in support of A Medio Vivir, Martin returned to New York to appear in the play in an eleven-week run. He greatly enjoyed the experience, calling his time in the play an "honor" and "the role of [his] life". Martin continued to tour after the conclusion of the show's run, and noted that his audiences were growing in both size and enthusiasm. In 1997, Martin was invited to the prestigious Sanremo Music Festival in Sanremo, Italy. After landing in Milan, Martin's scheduled helicopter trip to Sanremo had to be postponed due to poor weather conditions. Hoping to arrive at the festival on time, Martin and his crew drove through the mountainous terrain at over 120 miles per hour. The car then turned too quickly and flipped over. However, "none of us had more than a couple of scratches and bruises" and he arrived at the festival on time by taxi later that day. In the summer of 1997, Martin embarked on a tour of Spain, performing 45 shows in 36 cities.
While on tour, Martin returned to the studio to record his fourth album, Vuelve (1998). He called the experience of touring and recording at the same time "brutal and incredibly intense". As he was finishing the record, the singer was contacted by FIFA to write a song for the 1998 World Cup; Martin subsequently wrote "La Copa de la Vida" with K. C. Porter and Draco Rosa. He performed the song at the World Cup final in the Stade de France on July 12, 1998. The performance, which was broadcast to over a billion viewers in 187 countries, was described as a "global moment for Latin pop". "La Copa de la Vida" reached number one on the charts around the world and went gold and platinum in various countries. It was awarded Pop Song of the Year at the 1999 Lo Nuestro Awards. The title track and the ballad "Perdido Sin Tí" both hit number one on the Hot Latin Songs. Further singles included: "La Bomba", "Por Arriba, Por Abajo" and "Corazonado". Vuelve spent twenty-six weeks at number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums. It became Martin's first top forty album on the Billboard 200 in the United States, where it was certified platinum by the RIAA. The album also went to number one in Spain and Norway, and sold over eight million copies worldwide.
Martin was nominated for his first Grammy Award for Vuelve in the category of Best Latin Pop Album, and was booked to sing on the 41st Grammy Awards live TV broadcast. His acclaimed performance of "La Copa de la Vida" earned Martin an unexpected standing ovation and introduced him to the mainstream American audience. Martin won the Grammy Award later that evening. His appearance sparked nationwide interest in Latin music. Writing for Billboard on April 24, 1999, Michael Paoletta noted, "In the weeks since [the performance], it seems like every record label exec has been in a heated search for the next Latin hottie."
Crossover to English: 1999–2002
After receiving commercial success throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America, Martin prepared his first English album in 1999 in an attempt to cross over to the United States market. The self-titled album, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 661,000 copies in its first week of release, became the most successful album debut on the Billboard charts by a Hispanic artist. It contained material by writers and producers such as Desmond Child, Diane Warren, William Orbit, George Noriega and his longtime childhood friend Draco Rosa. The album also featured special guests: Madonna on the Spanish-English duet "Be Careful (Cuidado con mi Corazón)" and Meja on "Private Emotion". Two weeks after the album's release, Martin was featured on the cover of Time with the title "Latin Music Goes Pop!". Before the album's release, Janet Jackson collaborated with Ricky Martin for the Latin American version of "Ask for More", a promotional single and commercial released as part of an advertising campaign for soft drink company Pepsi.
The first and most prominent single was "Livin' la Vida Loca", which reached number one in many countries around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. It was followed by "She's All I Ever Had" which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Both tracks peaked at number one on the Hot Latin Songs. "Livin' la Vida Loca" is generally seen as the song that began the Latin pop explosion of 1999 and made the transition of other Latin artists (first Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias, then later Shakira) into the English-speaking market easier. Ricky Martin became one of the top-selling albums of 1999, and was certified 7× platinum in the United States, selling over 22 million copies worldwide. In October 1999, Martin embarked on a very successful year-long Livin' la Vida Loca Tour.
After this success, a new English-language album, Sound Loaded, was released in November 2000. It debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and was certified 2× platinum by the RIAA. "She Bangs" and "Nobody Wants to Be Lonely" (duet with Christina Aguilera) peaked at number twelve and thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. Both singles reached number one on the Hot Latin Songs. Sound Loaded has sold over 8 million copies worldwide.
In February 2001, Martin released a Spanish greatest hits album entitled La Historia, which went to number one for five weeks on the Billboard Top Latin Albums and debuted at number eighty-three on the Billboard 200. It also topped the chart in Sweden for three weeks. The album contained reworkings of two of his early songs "Fuego Contra Fuego" and "El Amor de Mi Vida". In November 2001, an English-language greatest hits album, The Best of Ricky Martin was released outside North America. It contained two new remixes of "Amor".
Almas del Silencio and Life: 2003–2006
In May 2003, Martin released a new Spanish album Almas del Silencio. The first single, "Tal Vez", debuted at number one on the Hot Latin Songs and stayed there for eleven weeks becoming the best performing Latin single of the year. Martin said of the new album: "I really needed to go back to focus, to my center, to the beginning. I had the need to search within, and really dig deep, and find those emotions that, because of the adrenaline and the euphoria that I lived for a couple of years, were probably sabotaged." Almas del Silencio debuted at number twelve on the Billboard 200 and reached number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums where it stayed for six weeks. The album sold more than one million copies worldwide. The next singles, "Jaleo" and "Y Todo Queda en Nada", reached number one on the Hot Latin Songs. "Jaleo" also topped the chart in Spain for four weeks.
In October 2005, Martin released his first English-language album since 2000's Sound Loaded and the tenth album of his career. Most of the songs on the album, called Life, were co-written by Martin. He commented on the album: "I was really in touch with my emotions. I think this album is very multi-layered, just like life is. It's about feeling anger. It's about feeling joy. It's about feeling uncertainty. It's about feeling. And all my emotions are part of this production." The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200. The first single from the album, "I Don't Care", featured guest appearances by Fat Joe and Amerie. It peaked at number three on the Hot Dance Club Songs and number sixty-five on the Billboard Hot 100. Another song from the album, "It's Alright" was re-recorded as a duet with French singer M. Pokora. It was successful in French-speaking countries, reaching number four in France.
Soon after, Martin announced his One Night Only with Ricky Martin tour. Starting in Mexico City, the tour premiered on November 15, 2005. After finishing the first leg which included Latin America and the United States, Martin performed at the 2006 Winter Olympics closing ceremony in Turin. A few days later, he announced the second leg of his world tour, which included Europe and Africa. The second leg started on April 21, 2006 in Manchester, UK, and ended on June 3, 2006 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
MTV Unplugged and a world tour: 2006–2007
On August 17, 2006, Ricky Martin taped his MTV Unplugged concert in Miami. It premiered on MTV Latin America, MTV Tr3s and MTV Puerto Rico in October 2006 and was released on CD and DVD in November 2006. The album was a critical and commercial success. It debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums and number thirty-eight on the Billboard 200. At the Latin Grammy Awards of 2008, MTV Unplugged received Latin Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Album and for Best Long Form Music Video. The first single, "Tu Recuerdo" which featured La Mari of Chambao, reached number one for three weeks on the Hot Latin Songs. The next single, "Pégate" peaked at number six on the Hot Dance Club Songs.
On February 19, 2007, Martin began his worldwide Black and White Tour which started with a performance at the José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum in Puerto Rico and concluded with a presentation at the Madison Square Garden in New York City on October 14, 2007. He also recorded a duet with Eros Ramazzotti, "Non siamo soli" which topped the Italian chart for eleven consecutive weeks.
Career break: 2007–2010
After finishing his worldwide tour, Martin took a break from the music industry and focused on his private life. In November 2007, Sony BMG Norte released Ricky Martin Live: Black and White Tour on CD, DVD and Blu-ray Disc. One year later, a Spanish-language greatest hits album was released, entitled 17. It was a summary of seventeen years of Martin's musical career, which included mostly Spanish-language songs.
Autobiography and upcoming studio album: 2010–present
Ricky Martin's autobiography, Me, was published on November 2, 2010. The book became part of the The New York Times Best Seller list, debuting at number five on the Hardcover Nonfiction list. A Spanish-language edition entitled Yo was published simultaneously.
Martin's single, "The Best Thing About Me Is You" featuring Joss Stone also premiered on November 2, 2010 and peaked at number seventy-four on the Billboard Hot 100. The Spanish version, "Lo Mejor de Mi Vida Eres Tú" topped the Hot Latin Songs for two weeks. It was followed by a new studio album, Música + Alma + Sexo released on January 31, 2011. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and became the highest charting, primarily-Spanish language album in the United States, since Dreaming of You by Selena. Música + Alma + Sexo also represents the highest ever chart debut on the Billboard 200 for a Sony Music Latin release. It spent two weeks at number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums. On March 25, 2011, Martin started his Música + Alma + Sexo World Tour, which ended on November 12, 2011. The second single from the album, "Más" was released on April 5, 2011 and peaked at number seven on the Hot Dance Club Songs. "Frío" featuring Wisin & Yandel was chosen as the third single.
17: Greatest Hits was released on July 11, 2011 exclusively in the United Kingdom. Ricky Martin will be playing Ché in the Broadway revival of the show Evita, scheduled to begin previews on Broadway in March 2012, ahead of an opening in April 2012. He received mixed reviews.
Martin guest-starred as a Spanish teacher on the Fox TV show Glee episode "The Spanish Teacher" on February 7, 2012. Martin premiered his "Ricky's Lip Conditioner" lip balm in April 2012 as part of the M.A.C Cosmetics "Ricky and Nicki for Viva Glam" campaign. The advertisements for the range paired him with rapper Nicki Minaj. Martin's signature is featured on the lip balm packaging. In November 2012, Martin was announced as a coach on The Voice Australia and debuted in the first episode of season two, on 7 April 2013.
In April 2013, Martin released his Greatest Hits: Souvenir Edition album in Australia, where it reached number two on the ARIA Singles Chart and was certified Gold. In June 2013, he released a new English single titled "Come with Me", which serves as the lead single from his upcoming fourth English-language studio album.