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More than a billion viewers in 187 countries across the globe

 

felt the power and energy of Ricky Martin's electrifying

 

performance of "The Cup Of Life" at the 1999 Grammy

 

Awards ceremony; "La Copa de la Vida," the official song of

 

the World Cup France '98, has been a #1 single in more than

 

30 countries. That same night, Ricky's latest full-length Latin

 

recording, Vuelve, won the Grammy for Best Latin Pop

 

Performance. With his magical career-defining performance,

 

Ricky Martin -- an international superstar who has sold more

 

than 15 million records worldwide and packs stadiums from

 

Buenos Aires to Beijing to New Delhi and beyond-- was

 

suddenly a recognizable name and presence in more than 24

 

million U.S. households. Ricky Martin, his first English

 

language album, is the next step in the evolution of this

 

remarkable talent.

 

"It's all about communicating," Ricky says by way of

 

explaining his decision to record in English. "I will never stop

 

singing in Spanish -- that's who I am -- but this was always part

 

of the plan." A labor of love and passion, Ricky Martin has

 

been two years in the making. "I was not going to release this

 

album until I was completely content with what I'd be

 

presenting," admits Ricky, the consummate professional and

 

painstaking artist. "I want to listen to my music in 30 years and

 

say, 'Great album!' The time for this album is now, not

 

because I'm ready now and I wasn't before, but because now

 

the music is ready."

 

The first track off Ricky Martin is "Livin' La Vida Loca," a

 

sensuous celebration of life driven by a loaded rock bass line,

 

sexy-smart lyrics, raw vocals and pulsating rhythms.

 

According to Ricky, "that's the single because I want to say,

 

'Hey! Boom! I'm here! Check this out!' The song has a little bit

 

of Latin, a little bit of ska, a little bit of rock, there's even a

 

little bit of the '60s, sort of a James Bond sound."

 

Like the single, Ricky Martin explores an eclectic musical

 

range. "Yes, I come from Puerto Rico," he says, "I grew up

 

listening to Boston, Cheap Trick, Journey, David Bowie. When

 

I was a kid, my brothers and I were all into rock, rock, rock."

 

Ultimately, however, Ricky got a lesson in Latin music he

 

couldn't ignore. "One day our mother got tired of rock," he

 

recalls with a smile. "She said, 'I can't stand it anymore!' and

 

grabbed us by the ears and took us to a Celia Cruz concert. It

 

really affected me."

 

Today, Ricky says, "I listen to everything. I'm like a sponge.

 

I'm in this creative moment that feels like, 'Let's get it out!'" On

 

one end of the spectrum, Ricky delivers the stripped-down, yet

 

impassioned, sitar-laced "She's All I Ever Had," while on the

 

other there's "Shake Your Bon-Bon," a tantalizing Latinized

 

funk-rock-confection with hyper-horns, sly female background

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