Salsa Romántica is a soft form of salsa music that emerged between the mid-1980s and early 1990s in New York City and Puerto Rico. It has been the most commercially successful form of salsa in the last 20 years, despite criticism that it is a pale imitation of "real" salsa, often called "salsa dura."
Description and origins
Salsa romántica arose at a time when classic, big-band salsa, of the kind popularized by Fania Records in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was taking a severe beating on the Latin record charts, owing to the merengue boom and the rise of Latin pop. To give the music broader commercial appeal, especially in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, emphasis was taken away from the hard-hitting orchestrations of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and focused mainly on the romantic, softer aspects of salsa, creating a mixture of earlier salsa brava and the ballad style. Salsa romántica was championed in recordings by, among others, Eddie Santiago, La India, La Palabra, Giro Lopez, Frankie Ruiz, Luis Enrique, Willie Gonzalez, Lalo Rodríguez, Tito Nieves, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Tito Rojas, and Jerry Rivera. Rodven Records, PolyGram, and RMM were some of the dominant labels during this era.
Critics of salsa romántica, especially in the late 1980s and early 1990s, called it a commercialized, watered-down form of Latin pop, in which formulaic, sentimental love ballads were simply put to an Afro-Cuban beat—leaving no room for classic salsa's brilliant musical improvisation, or for classic salsa lyrics that tell stories of daily life or provide social and political commentary. The marketing of salsa romántica singers has often been based more on their youthful sex appeal than on the quality of their music. For these reasons, the form sometimes has been derided as salsa monga (limp or flaccid salsa), as opposed to salsa gorda or salsa dura (fat or hard salsa).
The form today
The strict lines between salsa romántica and classic salsa have been blurring in recent years. Several performers have succeeded in blending elements of salsa romántica and more hard-driving, traditional salsa, including La India, Tito Rojas, Eddie Santiago, Anthony Cruz, Gilberto Santa Rosa, and Víctor Manuelle.
La India, Luis Enrique, Giro Lopez, Marc Anthony and Víctor Manuelle are the best-known performers of salsa romántica today. Young salseros gravitating to the form include Tito Rojas, Anthony Cruz, Frankie Negrón, Kevin Ceballo, Charlie Cruz, and Jay Lozada.
Omar Alfanno is probably the most prolific songwriter in the salsa romántica genre he was hand held into the business by Salsa Dura songwriter Johnny Ortiz. Other notable composers include Palmer Hernandez and Jorge Luis Piloto. Antonio "Tony" Moreno, Chino Rodriguez, Sergio George and Julio "Gunda" Merced are some of the most notable producers in the salsa romántica genre.
Salsa erótica (or "erotic salsa") was a short-lived offshoot of salsa romántica in the late 1980s, in which a few performers branched off into explicitly sexual lyrics. The most popular salsa erótica recordings are probably "Ven, Devórame Otra Vez" ("Come, Devour Me Again") by Lalo Rodríguez, in which the singer is imploring his woman for another session of sex; and "Desnúdate, Mujer" ("Get Naked, Woman") by Frankie Ruiz, and "La Cita" ("The Date") by Galy Galiano.