Latin sensation Ricky Martin made a big impact on the UK charts in September this year when 'Maria' reached No. 6Easily forgotten now that Ricky Martin had a UK chart presence before the blockbusting success of 'Livin' La Vida Loca' in 1999. In fact, even I had forgotten that he didn't get onto Now 44 with that track (Sony were obviously reluctant to license such a big hit to the EMI/Universal series) and thus 'Maria' marks his only appearance in the main series. At this stage, one might surmise, the promotional value of getting a "new" artist onto a big selling compilation was more useful than it would have seemed a couple of years later.
Of course, he wasn't new to everyone: in fact the track was almost two years old, having been released to the Latin market in late 1995. It was from his third solo album, before which he'd done a five-year tour of duty in the Puerto Rican boyband Menudo, recording 11 albums with them. The song crossed over to Spain, the mainstream US chart and, oddly, Finland the following year, before it swept the board of mainland Europe in the summer of 1997. As usual, Britain was late to the party, being typically resistant to songs not entirely in English, although what was eventually put out here was the "Spanglish radio edit". Obviously its chances were helped by the fact that the song could be translated without changing the title (in fact the UK sleeve calls it 'Un, Dos, Tres, Maria' and the chorus remains in Spanish) and that even people who couldn't understand the language could probably spell the title and guess what the song was about. Well, unless they were British apparently.
As the song continued to chart in various places into 1998, he got the plum job of singing the official song for that year's World Cup, but the single underperformed over here and it looked like he might have to settle for one-hit-wonderhood in the the UK. It turned out that, like garage, the Latin fashion was back with a vengeance a couple of years later. All of which said, this song doesn't sound that great these days, sold more on the energy of his performance than a memorable song.
Available on: The Best Of