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On It’s 28th Anniversay, Is Juan Luis Guerra’s ‘Bachata Rosa’ The Best Album Of The 90’s?


Popular singers are rarely poets. Just because performers like Jennifer Love Hewitt or Jewel release books of “poetry” doesn’t mean they’re freakin’ Byron. Very few are true poets. These writers craft verses with several layers of meaning into perfect meter. In Latin America, there is only one that can write a song like “Burbujas De Amor”–a song about two kissing fish that is also metaphor for oral sex– and still sell millions of records. We are, of course, talking about Juan Luis Guerra y 4.40 and their masterpiece album Bachata Rosa.

Juan Luis Guerra was born in Santo Domingo in 1957. He formed his band 4.40 in the early 1980’s and they released a couple of albums, to great success in Latin America. They play a form of Dominican popular music called bachata, as well as traditional merengue and boleros. In 1990 they released their seminal album, Bachata Rosa. Juan Luis is considered by many to be the greatest living Spanish language lyricist. His songs use intricate metaphor, usually charged with erotic imagery. Where a lesser writer might talk about a girl turning him on by saying something like, “Girl, you turn me on”. Juan Luis talks about how a girl raises his Bilirrubina, which is the jaundice causing bilirubin component in hemoglobin. What? Trust us it works.

Bachata Rosa went multi-platinum, won several Latin Grammys, and the best Tropical Music Grammy. Juan Luis Guerra is now known all over the world, where people come out to dance to his sexy rhythms. In the 2000’s Juan Luis found Jesus, so his lyrics are a little less racy these days. It’s not just erotic fish and Jesus with Juan Luis, either. Many of his songs have a strong political component, where he talks about social injustice and whatnot. Either way, you are always in for something weird and wonderful when you pop on a Juan Luis Guerra y 4.40 song.

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