[20 March 2014]
“I tried to let it go / But I’m addicted to your chemicals / I got a feast, I want an overdose.” Ay Yi, Yi, Enrique Iglesias – Ay Yi, Yi! The aforementioned lyric is the fashion in which the Latin-pop phenomenon kicks off his latest LP, the ‘subtly’ titled SEX AND LOVE. The title SEX AND LOVE truly leaves little to the imagination, something prevalent throughout the album’s course. Much of the rub with the album is its lack of imagination and creativity; the overabundance of generic pop clichés and lack of depth lyrically prevents SEX AND LOVE from truly ‘spreading its wings’ into something more. It ends up being what it is – kinda, sorta good, but perhaps at its best, average.
“I’m a Freak” kicks off SEX AND LOVE with an assist from none other than one of today’s most ubiquitous pop-rappers, Pitbull. On “I’m a Freak”, Iglesias is not playing around – look no further than the previously excerpted lyric. Early on, Iglesias asserts his ‘freakiness’ singing, “I love the way she gets so physical…like an animal.” Fill in the ellipsis for yourself with a plural four-letter word. Charming and chivalrous it isn’t, “Freak” is definitely ‘freaky’ and predictable from both artists. On “There Goes My Baby”, Iglesias essentially trades one pop-rapper for another in Flo Rida. Honestly, given the rather blasé performances by both, they seem interchangeable. Though it is less sex-oriented than “Freak”, “There Goes My Baby” couldn’t exactly be characterized as a love song, or at least a moving one.
“Bailando” is yet another collaborative track, this time in the hands of Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona. Compared to the opening tracks, “Bailando” (“Dancing”) feels much more natural, not merely because of its Spanish lyrics. If “I’m a Freak” felt too forced and “There Goes My Baby” lacked authenticity, “Bailando” feels balanced and sound. Similarly, “El Perdedor” continues this naturalness, this time finding Iglesias assisted capably by Marco Antonio Solís. Stripped of the production work that was a mixed blessing early on the album, “El Perdedor” feels more authentic, with more room to breathe. A third consecutive Spanish-language cut proceeds in “Loco”, with popular Bachata singer Romeo Santos on board. “Loco” is a lovely and pleasant song, if nothing truly revolutionary. Vocally, Iglesias achieves more grit at times, while Santos maintains a smooth, cool tone.
Pitbull returns for a second round on “Let Me Be Your Lover”, where both he and Iglesias step up their game. Part of the reason for more success is that “Let Me Be Your Lover” is less concentrated on physical pleasure and more about carefree fun. The overall record is infectious with no strings attached – looser if you will. “You And I” is rather generically titled, and ultimately adopts that sentiment as a track itself. While the slickness of the production with its palette of sounds and gimmicks and shouldn’t be undervalued, “You and I” sounds quite similar to a host of other pop cuts with its prominence of electronic cues. “Heart Attack” falls into the same boat, chocked full of production ‘slickness’ – synths/keys, hard drums and acoustic guitars. Neither hit nor miss, the song benefits from its brevity if nothing else. What is missing is sheer greatness and innovative spirit.
“Me Cuesta Tanto Olvidarte” restores Iglesias to where his “bread is buttered” – his knack for balladry. “Me Cuesta Tanto Olvidarte” is by no means the ‘end all be all’, but Iglesias sings it well giving it the appropriate nuance to match. “Noche y de Dia” unsurprisingly contrasts, with its more danceable sound nature. Unlike more pedal to the metal clubs cuts from earlier, “Noche y de Dia” comes off as a bit more reined in. Still, it’s merely good, not the ‘second coming’. A second take of “Loco” closes the standard version of SEX AND LOVE, this time featuring India Martínez.
The deluxe edition of SEX AND LOVE features five extra tracks including the standout “Beautiful”, featuring Kylie Minogue. The duet opens drenched in vocal effects, something that initially seems like a deal-breaker given the heavy-handed production of SEX AND LOVE. Ultimately, the duet ends up being a truly special moment for Iglesias contextually within the album. He once more drifts from sex to chivalry, which carries more thematic weight. Minogue and Iglesias certainly have more chemistry than Pitbull or Flo Rida could provide the Latin pop singer. The Minogue collab would’ve benefited the standard edition tremendously.
When all said and done, SEX AND LOVE is average. The effort has its moments, but there are also more generic moments that lack distinct personality or emotional connection. Iglesias sings every song respectably, still possessing his signature golden pipes, but it doesn’t make up for sometimes so-so material. Ultimately, the verdict merely reads ‘good’ or ‘good enough’, but not ‘great’.