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Play on Pleasure: Livin’ La Vida Loca

It’s a new CMN column! Brogan gets down with Ricky Martin in the first installment.

Brogan McCuen



Each week, CMN’s Brogan McCuen raves on about a musical guilty pleasure. (And uses a lot of parentheses.) And probably a bunch of other stuff, too. We call it Play on Pleasure.

Look, I need to live my vida loca and talk about Ricky Martin for a minute.

I wanted to play Xbox while my housemates were sleeping and my best friend rewrote the lyrics to “Livin’ la Vida Loca” to tell the story of how I needed to be able to live my life despite my housemates’ strict noise level expectations, and this spurred a discussion about how great of a song “Livin’ la Vida Loca” really is.

May I posit: there is so much to love here.

This song explodes with energy from the first note. Ricky (Martin, that is – Ed) band wastes no time in creating a sonic pop fiesta. Like, is this song what it sounds like to be seduced by a fiery Latina siren??

And the drum groove is just a latin pop dream. The ostinato bass line. The surf rock-style guitar riff. How have I never noticed that old school surfy guitar riff before?! Especially that descending chromatic fill a la “Miserlou.” Even the vibraslap!

Also, this is one of my favorite pre-choruses ever written. As far as building from the verses to the upbeat chorus, there is nothing more you could ask for with this pre-chorus. It is a perfect bridge between the octave difference of the verses and chorus.

Let’s talk about the synths in this song. Firstly, few things delight me more than synth horns. Everyone from Ludacris to Steve Winwood has implemented the keyboard horns and they always sound hokey and dumb.

And I always love them.

This song is a synth horn showcase, but here, it goes a step further and features a real trumpet solo later in the song. It’s like mixing KFC mashed potatoes with your grandma’s famous homemade mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving.

And the thing is, I don’t even care. It’s all great. It’s all hilarious.

The horn line is so face-meltingly catchy. This is not where the synths stop, though. There’s a saw synth patch you can hear during the verses that carries into the chorus, further electrifying the story of this woman who makes you dance naked in the rain with her and also drugs and robs you in a cheap NYC motel (Um, what? – Ed).

Lastly, if I made a drinking game out of this song, we would drink every time Ricky hollered, “COME ON!”

Ricky managed to whitewash latin pop music enough that Caucasians loved it without losing his affection from the Latin community.

I’d like to conclude with a short anecdote, because there is no way this experience has not impacted my view of this song: When I was eighteen, my family went on a cruise. My brother and I were singing karaoke one night and got picked to do this thing where you learn a song and on the last night of the cruise, they dress you up like the singer of your song and you perform for everyone on the ship with a live band. I had to sing “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” by Gloria Estefan. My brother had to sing, you guessed it, “Livin’ la Vida Loca,” and there is nothing like watching your older brother hamming it up singing Ricky Martin on a cruise ship with your family.

Random Notes: 

  • Maynard James Keenan went on record a while back to say that Tool just finished recording new music, and I don’t even have to explain why this is exciting. Fingers crossed they have something out by the time they start touring in May. The odd-meter nerd inside me is beside herself with anticipation.
  • Also, Lady Gaga was threatening to release new music for at least half of 2018. I believe (Read: hope) she drops something awesome this year. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Joanne, I will forever anticipate any of her work. She will always be one of my favorite artists. Plus, her new music just might be ARTPOP’s little sister, which gets me even more excited. I thought ARTPOP was (mostly) great! I would love to see more of that Gaga again.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Brogan is a Seattle Pacific University graduate who majored in Creative Writing (with a creative non-fiction concentration) and minored in Music. She is also a karaoke host, a pole athlete, and the lead singer of a classic rock cover band. After working at an e-commerce record store for two years, she shifted her focus to incorporate her writing inclinations with her musical background (plus, her roommates were tired of hearing about the Dilla sample that Miike Snow used in "My Trigger"). Enter: CMN.

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