Ever since Marc Anthony made his amateur-musician dad burst into tears with his singing as a child, the New Yorker has wowed Latin music fans, musicians, and critics alike with his powerful, agile, and clear tenor. He easily swoops from an intimate, breathy recitative to vibrato-laden high notes in the space of a few bars. It's a gift that has made him a natural, whether he's performing in a salsa concert with Ruben Blades or on a Broadway stage in Paul Simon's Capeman. But it's also a gift that has made him ring false and old-fashioned in today's pop charts. On his eponymous 1999 English-language pop debut, he dodged that curse and scored triple-platinum sales on the strength of a few Latin-spiced R&B hooks.
On this year's Mended, however, the 34-year-old singer finds himself stewing in agua caliente. Though a few tracks recycle Marc Anthony's dance rhythms, they're drowned by sappy ballads that cry rivers of tears for true loves lost ("You should have loved me blah blah blah") and found ("Everything you do makes me love you yadda yadda"). This naked romanticism makes up half of the formula exploited by everyone from 'N Sync to Enrique Iglesias, but Anthony completely misses the other half: the cool attitude and airy production values that today's international pop stars take from rock and hip-hop. No wonder Iglesias's Escape has gone triple platinum, while Anthony's Mended hasn't even hit gold. Though Latin music fans continue to rave about his concerts, anyone who attends this show on an "I Need to Know" basis will be disappointed by how a real musician falls short of a fake "Hero."