Nov 21, 2012

Menudo: Latin American Boy Band


When I was in high school, studying French got you Tintin, Alix, and Spirou et Fantasio, but studying Spanish got you Papa Soltero, Que Pasa USA and  Menudo.  The boy band (Spanish slang for "young, untried, uncooked") was formed in 1977 by Puerto Rican promoter Edgardo Diaz.  They were a "revolving group": members retired on their sixteenth birthday, and were replaced.  To date, there have been 33 members, including future superstars Ricky Martin and Robi Rossa.

To date, Menudo has released over 40 albums, and a number of their singles have charted in Latin America.  They became popular in the United States in 1983, when they appeared on Saturday morning tv, singing and acting in brief sketches in English and Spanish.

Their cuteness was an obvious draw for gay kids and teenagers, especially when teen magazines began to display endless shirtless, swimsuit, and speedo shots.

But their music was a draw, too.  It was good, evocative, literate, and expertly arranged.  Not to mention accessible to both male and female fans.  At least in Spanish.


It's hard to make Spanish songs non-gender specific, but they often managed it.  For instance,  "Mas Que Amor" (More than Love):


Cuando estoy contigo, no se ni quien soy
no se ni como hacer, me quedo sin palabras
(When I'm with you, I don't know who I am, I don't know what to do, I'm left without words).

But in the heart of the homophobic 1980s, the English translation made sure that boys could sing only to girls::
When I'm next to her, I'm a mess.
The words just don't come out right.







Or "Perdido Sin Ti" (Lost without You):

Perdido sin ti, perdido en el mar
Como un laberinto en la oscuridad
(Lost without you, lost in the sea, like a labyrinth in the darkness.)

The English lyrics aren't nearly as evocative, and give the "ti" a gender:

I'm losing control of myself this time, she's got me losing my head.


Both Ricky Martin and Angelo Garcia (left) are publicly gay, and many other current and former members are gay-friendly.