Video Explosion (Featuring Ricky Martin)

Seeing Ricky Martin as a child star in an international supergroup almost forces comparisons to Michael Jackson, one of his idols. The only difference is there were inarguably telltale signs of the superstardom and adoration that the pre-teen Jackson would eventually achieve with and without his brothers. Not so with Martin, if this 1986 video footage which “features” him at the age of 14 were the only gauge by which to measure.

During this time, Menudo was at its height in America. The band had two American hits, “Hold Me” and “If You’re Not Here” (from their first English speaking album, Reaching Out ), also performed on the video by the then 16-year old frontman Robby Rosa (who later wrote Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca”).

Girls’ hearts melted as Menudo posters were seen hanging up in lockers across the land. And like the Beatles and Jackson 5 before them, Menudo was dissected. Some liked Charlie. Others coveted Roy as their “favorite.” Still others yearned for Ray…

Then there was Ricky, the youngest of the band. Only in hindsight, we know what Ricky Martin has become: a gorgeous specimen of a man. He’s been called everything from Madonna’s new boy toy (although, that remains to be seen, except they have a duet on vinyl in the works) to the Latin America’s overnight sensation, the latter being ironic, considering he was on General Hospital and had released numerous albums since leaving Menudo in 1989.

When something says “featuring…” anything, it is expected that something outstanding is about to be presented to the eyes and/or ears of the recipient. But there are really no performances worth featuring on this tape — let alone Ricky’s — nor do Martin’s two solo performances constitute enough space (on the 13-song roster) to warrant “featuring” status.

While Martin was absolutely adorable and the epitome of wide-eyed innocence back then, he sang off key on “Oh, My Love” and his stage presence while singing lead (“Just A Gigolo,” David Lee Roth style) was lackluster. At a time when the young Martin was, obviously, still perfecting his act, that criticism may be a little harsh. But the fault lies with whomever put this video together, not Martin.

The most entertaining aspect of the video is the cheesy production (i.e. the segues from one scene or song to another, with minimal or inept editing). Plus, a couple of the songs are catchy and even bring back a few memories. But it’s so obvious in the packaging that the video was a lame attempt to capitalize on Martin’s success. The problem is that Menudo has enough of a history that better footage and performances should have been found to better represent the entire group.

Shot in Miami, Florida, the video starts out with “Explosion,” a song reminiscent of the Jacksons’ hit “Torture,” and continues to showcase Menudo’s bubblegum image through wholesome lyrics and simplistic melodies. In between blowing kisses and waving to the audience, Robby couldn’t help but to be the most engaging by default, with Ray coming in at a close second.

The band members weren’t extremely talented singers, but they were novel in the sense that they had the same impact that Nirvana, the Beatles or Elvis had. Their soldout shows were flanked by screaming adolescent girls and wrought with MTV-style choreography and pyrotechnics. Be it careful marketing or perceived talent, Menudo was undeniably deft at creating a scene. Unfortunately, this performance doesn’t really show their intense energy and the magnetism Menudo could generate. Thus, the video is no “Explosion.”

In fact, in the midst of it all, you may find yourself screaming, “Where are the Backstreet Boys when you need them?”

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