Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 7, 2004)
Back in 1993, I flipped channels when I made the amazing discovery: the Spanish-language networks run a lot of shows with really hot women in them. Since I don’t speak the language, I didn’t have a clue what the people said, but that didn’t harm the eye candy factor.
One program presented a singer named Thalia. I knew nothing about her music, though she came across like a Madonna wannabe. Nonetheless, she looked really sexy, so I taped a show that apparently included a bunch of her music videos.
Thus began my long-term affection for Thalia’s music. Though I first checked her out because I thought she looked hot, I quickly grew to like the music as well. Nothing about her work seemed innovative or exceptional, but she created solid pop/rock with its own personality. I nabbed all three of the albums she had out at the time and have picked up each one since then.
I still love those first three records best. Unfortunately, you’ll find nothing from them on Thalia’s Greatest Hits. Through 1994, she recorded for Fonovisa, but she made the move to EMI Latin with 1995’s En Extasis and remains on that label. The 16 videos on Greatest Hits cover the four full-length albums since 1995.
From En Extasis, we get three tracks: “Piel Morena”, “Gracias a Dios” and “Amandote”. 1997’s Amor A La Mexicana contributes “Por Amor”, the title track, and “Mujer Latina”. (“Amor A La Mexicana” also reappears via the “Emilio Banda Remix” that appeared on Con Banda Grandes Exitos, a 2001 remix album.) 2000’s Arrasando - easily my favorite Thalia album since the first three – features the title number, “Regresa A Mi”, “Enter El Mar Y Una Estrella”, and “Reencarnacion”.
Oddly, Thalia’s released three albums called Thalia. Her debut enjoyed that title, and she re-used it for her 2002 release. From it, we find “Tu Y Yo”, “No Me Ensenaste”, and “A Quien Le Importa”. She also called her 2003 English language album Thalia. On the video collection, it presents “Baby, I’m In Love” and “Me Pones Sexy”, the Spanish version of the same album’s “I Want You”.
I’ve always preferred Thalia’s more American-sounding work to the more heavily Latin-flavored material, which is part of the reason I’m not that wild about some of this era’s songs. Nonetheless, they’ve grown on me over the years, and Piel Morena offers a prime example of a tune I didn’t like initially but now think seems pretty good. Or maybe I just really like how hot Thalia looks in this video. She dons an ever-changing assortment of quirky bras – one that has spigots on it, another made of fake cherries, for example – and generally exudes incredible sex appeal. The video suffers from too much jerkiness and quick-cutting to suit the languid nature of the song, but Thalia’s sexiness overcomes those problems.
One of the few En Extasis songs I always liked, Gracias A Dios presents a mid-tempo dance number. The video clearly shows Thalia’s Madonna-esque side, as it looks like it’d fit in neatly among Maddy’s edgier clips like “Express Yourself” or “Erotica”. Thalia plays a dominatrix of sorts who wears the world’s tightest corset and generally looks amazingly hot. The video seems more successful than “Morena” because it tells a little story – despite the fact I don’t understand a word of Spanish – and comes across as more coherent. Funky bra alert: Thalia lights a guy’s smoke with a flaming bra.
Always my favorite En Extasis track, Amandote re-embraces the light dance pop I think Thalia does best. It also presents the most straight-forward video to date. Thalia romps on the beach with some friends and then goes dancing with them. For no apparent reason, a guy I think is Julio Iglesias makes a brief appearance as well. Despite – or perhaps because of – the simplicity, the video works. C’mon – like I’m not going to love a clip in which Thalia spends most of it in a skimpy bikini?
Amor A La Mexicana more heavily embraced the Latin side of Thalia’s music, and it’s always been my least favorite of her releases. That element comes out in the listenable but lackluster Por Amor. The song has some pep but feels somewhat generic. The video follows suit. Thalia looks lovely as always, but we don’t see the intense sexiness of the first three videos. It also lacks ambition, as it mostly just shows Thalia lip-synching and dancing among some other beautiful people.
Given its title, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Amor A La Mexicana also strongly gets into the Mexican musical sound. It works better here than it “Por Amor”, though, as the tune works fairly well. The video is also more distinctive, as it depicts a love affair with some seemingly sadistic elements. I could live without the hunky shirtless guys in Thalia’s videos, though at least one must consider them equal opportunity. “Mexicana” doesn’t present the intense sexiness of the En Extasis clips, but it has its moments.
Thalia lets her Bjork flag fly in the video for Mujer Latina. The song’s more of the Latin-influenced dance stuff that reminds me why Mexicana remains my least favorite Thalia album. The video doesn’t seem too hot either. Sure, we get some very sexy shots of Thalia, but it’s jerky and shows too many images of her in edgy, almost punk style guises. Those looks don’t work for Thalia, and the video’s simple lip-synch format doesn’t allow it to prosper in other ways.
With Arrasando, we head to my favorite post-1993 Thalia album. Hooray! Arrasando really made me a fan all over again, as my interest had flagged somewhat due to my lackluster reaction to En Extasis and Amor A La Mexicana. I truly loved Arrasando, though, both as an album and a song.
The title track represents some of the best elements of her attempts to fuse Latin sounds with modern dance pop, and it even contributes a rap element as well. The video seems less exceptional, as it presents the standard lip-synch and dance combination. Still, the fast cutting makes sense for this very rapid-fire song, and it works overall.
Maybe the best song from Arrasando, Regresa A Mi is one of the reasons that album really dazzled me. A soaring number, it offered something different and wholly enjoyable. I prefer the album mix to the one featured in the video, but it remains a great song. The video attempts some sort of computer-oriented story, but it acts as nothing more than a very loose and incoherent framework for some Janet Jackson-style group dancing. It’s a decent video but not up to the song’s standards.
While I never much cared for most of Thalia’s ballads, Entre El Mar Y Una Estrella offers a good one. It occasionally feels like a Phil Collins outtake and suits her well. The video places Thalia in a faux magical setting with fake stars and waterfalls. It doesn’t seem special, but it fits the music.
The final Arrasando number on the DVD, Reencarnacion offers one of the album’s best songs. It’s a terrific, driving dance number that showcases Thalia’s talents well. The video presents the most complex of the Arrasando bunch, as the reincarnation theme gives us multiple Thalias from various time periods and nationalities. It’s a fairly simple lip-synch concept at its heart, but the different guises make it interesting.
2001’s Con Banda Grandes Exitos revisited some of Thalia’s 1995-2000 material in a different style. I know very little about “banda” music, but it seems to accentuate horns and traditional Latin rhythms more than usual. For the sole representative of that release, we get the reworking of Amor A La Mexicana. Given that song’s heavily Latin feel from the start, it doesn’t come across as radically different in this iteration. The video works well, though. It features Thalia as a sexy, cigar-smoking badass who takes over a bar. It’s worth a look just to see her ride the mechanical bull.
With that we head to 2002’s Thalia and Tu Y Yo. The lightly rock-inflected dance number fares well. I’m not ecstatic about the album itself, but “Yo” offers one of its better numbers. The video feels like an attempt to invade J-Lo territory, as it posits Thalia as a tough girl in New York. It seems only sporadically effective, though her rock star moments in front of a band do make the song itself seem tougher than it really is.
More than any other song in this collection, No Me Ensenaste feels like a throwback for Thalia. The power ballad easily would have fit into the tracklist for any of her first three albums. That’s pretty much a compliment, given my feelings about those records. The video keeps Thalia in New York, where it intersperses faux band rehearsal shots with images of a rainy day. As with “Tu Y Yo”, it doesn’t excel, but it brings out the better parts of the music.
2002’s Thalia finishes with A Quien Le Importa, a song that sounds like an Arrasando outtake. That’s also a good thing, and the tune provides a nice little dance number. The video presents Thalia as an edgy NYC club girl and seems less successful.
Lastly we move to the 2003 Thalia and one of its few Spanish-language numbers, Me Pones Sexy. Another apparent attempt to stake out some J-Lo territory, it’s a forgettable pop tune with some flat rapping from the aptly named Fat Joe. The video shows Thalia in New York again; she romps around an urban playground. Both song and video seem dull.
Greatest Hits concludes with an actual English-language tune, Baby, I’m In Love. Too bad the song isn’t very good. Even if we get past the fact it still feels weird to hear Thalia in English, the number feels like warmed-over Britney. The video puts Thalia back in another NYC club and doesn’t add much to the track.
Despite some misfires, Thalia’s Greatest Hits offers a pretty nice collection. I wish it included some pre-EMI material, but the package still tosses in a lot of solid stuff, and the videos mostly work well. It’s Thalia – what more could I want?