Like the rest of us, Ricky Martin had high hopes for 2020.
The Latin pop superstar spent the past winter recording “Movimiento,” his first album in five years. Once his studio sessions wrapped up, he and Enrique Iglesias mapped out a co-headlining North American tour, with concerts in New York, Miami and Toronto scheduled for the fall.
By March, however, Martin put plans for the album’s release on hold as Hollywood and the music industry came to a halt due to the coronavirus crisis. Suddenly, the festive, salsa-infused anthems he’d recorded for the follow-up to 2015’s “A Quien Quiera Escuchar” seemed at odds with the realities of a global pandemic. Being forced to nix live shows for the foreseeable future filled him with anxiety.
“I’m an artist, so I can live isolated,” Martin told HuffPost from his Los Angeles home. “I go into the city, I make some noise and then I come back to my house. But this crisis has taught me you can’t make plans. … It’s been intense, especially for my kids. But it’s a time to listen to all of the information the cosmos, God, and the planet is giving us and try to do the best we can with it.”
In the end, the two-time Grammy winner decided to jettison “Movimiento” in favor of two new EPs with very distinctive vibes. On May 29, he released “Pausa” (or “Pause”), a six-song Spanish language collection featuring “Cántalo,” with Residente and Bad Bunny, and “Tiburones,” both of which had been intended for “Movimiento.” The four new tracks are introspective ballads best suited for sunsets as opposed to, say, shaking your bon-bon amid sweaty revelers. Both “Simple,” sung in duet with legendary rocker Sting, and “Recuerdo,” featuring Mexico’s Carla Morrison, are highlights.
“I was feeling pain,” Martin said. “I was feeling uncertainty, sadness, anger. … I was feeling so many things in the first 15 days of quarantine, so I just said, ‘Dude, let’s turn it into music.’”
“We can focus on the madness of this,” he added, “but if we keep our eyes open and stay open to the lessons life is giving us, I think we’ll survive.”
The EP’s first single, “Tiburones” (or “Sharks”), was inspired by the 2019 protests that spurred Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation following a corruption scandal and the release of private chats containing misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ language. The song’s music video, shot last fall and released in January, shows a street crowd being confronted by uniformed guards — seemingly predicting the civil demonstrations now sweeping the globe.
“Where I come from ― what I’ve done in life ― I don’t know the struggles,” said Martin, who has supported the Black Lives Matter movement on social media. “You think you know, but you don’t. It’s not enough to say I’m anti-racist. I have to act anti-racist. But I think this is a birth, and we’re in the final contraction. My defense mechanism puts me in a path of optimism.”
Martin will follow up “Pausa” with a more dance-oriented EP, “Play,” due out in September. As of this week, his 2020 tour with Iglesias has yet to be canceled or rescheduled. With that trek likely to shift, the men expect to follow “what the industry is doing,” even if that means opting for alternative dates and venues.
In the five years since the release of “A Quien Quiera Escuchar,” Martin has focused on acting, nabbing a 2018 Emmy nomination for his role in FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.” He’s hit some major personal milestones, too. Two years ago, he married his husband, Jwan Yosef, a Syrian-born artist. In January 2019, the couple welcomed a daughter, Lucia, followed by a son, Renn, in October. (The two men also share 11-year-old twin sons, Matteo and Valentino.)
To that end, “Pausa” is very much a family affair. Yosef shot the cover image for the EP as well as a series of promotional images. And as far as music is concerned, the Martin-Yosef brood doesn’t mince words.
“They come to me with, ‘Daddy, tonight was so-so. Last night was better,’” Martin quipped. “I get that all the time. Every decision I make is based on the fact that I have two pre-adolescents at home asking a lot of questions. Kids are a universe of their own. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, they come to you with that one question that throws you aback completely. I have to keep growing as a man, as a father, as a protective figure.”
Catch the music video for “Tiburones” below.