'World Cup songs are healing for the world': Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin.
Ricky Martin.

Born in Puerto Rico, singer has lived in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and does not know which football team to root for

When it comes to which team to root for at the World Cup, Ricky Martin is a conflicted man.

"I've lived in many countries. I've lived in Mexico, I've spent some time in Brazil, I've spent some time in Argentina as well but I'm also a citizen of Spain. My heart is broken in so many ways," the Puerto Rican-born singer tells Life! in a phone interview from Madrid. "I would definitely love for Brazil to get to the final in Brazil, though. It would be a very beautiful spectacle."

The 42-year-old's newest single, Vida, is one of the tracks on One Love, One Rhythm - The 2014 Fifa World Cup Official Album. It is the result of a global songwriting competition organised by Fifa and Sony Music, which drew 1,600 entries. Martin chose the winning composition by American songwriter-producer Elijah King.

"I picked Vida because of the amount of musical hooks that it has. I would just close my eyes when hearing it and I would hear 80,000 people in the stadium singing these melodies and these chants.

"And that's pretty much what a World Cup song needs, great hooks and production-wise, a mix of sounds, cultures and musical influences, culturally speaking, so that's why we have a lot of Latin sounds with African and Anglo sounds."

An Asian version of the song has also been released, featuring regional singers such as Singapore Idol 3 winner Sezairi Sezali, Alif Satar from Malaysia and Judika from Indonesia singing in Malay and Bahasa Indonesia alongside Martin, who sings in English and Spanish.

"I've heard all the versions and I believe that it's incredibly important that a song like this unites cultures. The important thing is to be open, to learn point of views from different musicians. That's why collaborations are so important," says Martin, whose song The Cup Of Life, was the official theme for the 1998 World Cup in France.

"And me coming from a little island in the Caribbean, to be able to work with amazing artists from Asia is something I would always look for the opportunity to do."

His song is not the official World Cup number this time around. That honour goes to We Are One (Ole Ola), by rapper Pitbull, singer/actress Jennifer Lopez and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte, which he diplomatically describes as having "different productions" from his song and showcasing "the beauty of music".

World Cup songs, he reckons, are "healing for the world".

"It's obvious that criminality goes down throughout the world when the World Cup is happening and music is a healing force so when you unite these two beautiful social phenomena, sports and music, it's nothing but explosive."

Besides The Cup Of Life, his 1999 hit Livin' La Vida Loca was also a mega success, credited for kickstarting the big Latin pop crossover into the mainstream global charts at that time.

Over a career lasting three decades, Martin grew from being a member of Puerto Rican boyband Menudo to becoming a worldwide chart-topper, with 70 million album sales, multiple Grammys and American Music Awards, and six Billboard No. 1 albums.

The openly gay Martin, who is a single father to a pair of five-year-old twins, born via a surrogate mother, spends a lot more time in Australia these days, where he is a mentor on reality singing competition The Voice Australia. He is also keen on coming back to Singapore, which he last visited in 2003 and became the first pop star to have an orchid named after him at the Singapore Botanic Gardens' National Orchid Garden.

"I cannot wait to go back and see the flower. I am going to start a world tour in November and I am planning on going to Asia between February and March."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg