The people that I know who watched this live STILL talk about it: Ricky Martin, casually taking the Grammys stage, and then turning into a RAGING PARTY. But watching it back, it’s hard to tell what the heck the mood in the room was. I wish this video were better quality, but you can get the curious gist:
First, it’s so low-tech to see them wheeling out the set and clumsily arranging them to reveal Ricky. These days he’d just rise up out of the floor. Second, when he does appear, Ricky is just in a ribbed tee and boot-cut leather pants which flap around his legs when he dances. That’s it. A very basic outfit. No bells, no whistles, just Ricky and his voice. And when the camera spins off his grinning face to show you the audience it… honestly feels like crickets. Maybe it’s the blur, but for the entire first half of this performance, they seem to be giving him no energy at all. (Part of that might be that the lyrics ARE kind of silly, so if you actually clock what he’s saying it’s distracting. Just ignore it and go with the toe-tap, y’all.)
Then the band comes in up the aisles, and all those stony sleepy people turn around bemusedly and start to wake up a little. By the time the band gets to the stage, suddenly two women on stilts are there flipping streamers around, and suddenly it’s ON. The music was always there, the hook was always hooky, but the audience looked like it was in a coma. Streamers, man. That’s what it took. It ends with a standing ovation.
This kick-started not only Ricky’s solo career in the U.S. — who can forget “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” another banger that holds up — but must have been a huge contributor to what happened next year: the inaugural Latin Grammys, at which Ricky performed with legends Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan.
The Latin Recording Academy had been formed in 1997, after Latin music was deemed too large an entity to be properly served by — and within — the regular Grammys. But they hadn’t handed out their own trophies yet. I have to think their cause got a boost by Ricky making the world go crazy in 1999, proving there was an appetite for however big a platform they could provide, and a year later that’s exactly what they did. (CBS aired them until 2005, when they moved to Univision.) So really, this post was two! Two! TWO inaugural moments in one. EXCEPTIONAL VALUE.