Maná enjoyed some success with their first album, Falta Amor, but it was their second, Donde Jugaran los Niños?, that made them such an international sensation, establishing them as one of the top Latin pop/rock acts of the '90s. The album is quite solid, maintaining a consistently strong standard of songwriting throughout, and the production is very professional, if perhaps a bit too glossy for those who like some grit in their music. There are a few standout songs here that might have drawn you to Maná in the first place. "Vivir sin Aire," in particular, is a highlight. Its beautiful melody and gentle performance made it a huge hit, one of those slow-dance ballads that just tugs at your heartstrings and inspires quiet chills of emotion. "Oye Mi Amor" is another great song, this one likewise emotional but, in contrast, up-tempo and zestful -- in short, the yang to the yin of "Vivir sin Aire." Other standout songs include the title track, "Como Te Deseo," "Te Lloré un Rio," and "Huele a Tristeza," though arguments could be made about a great number of the songs on Donde Jugaran los Niños? qualifying as standout. It's one of those albums that warrants beginning-to-end listening, and it's had a lasting appeal over the years, registering not only in Maná's native stronghold, Mexico, but also among stateside gringos and gringas, who often liken this group's music to that of Sting, especially the singing of Fher Olvera. Donde Jugaran los Niños?'s legacy is such, in fact, that it inspired mockery by the wacky but brilliant Mexican band Molotov, who titled their 1997 album Donde Jugaran las Niñas? and gave it tongue-in-cheek cover artwork. Successive albums by Maná would find much success also -- the band's 2002 masterwork, Revolución de Amor, especially -- but it's common to hear longtime fans declare their special affection for Donde Jugaran los Niños? It's one of the key releases in the Maná canon, and its songs are well represented on the band's 2003 Esencials series of best-ofs, so much so you might not need Donde Jugaran los Niños? if you have the Sol and Luna editions of Esencials, since the best songs here are there. Still, Donde Jugaran los Niños? is the sort of album you'll want to experience in its own context if you're in love with Maná, even if you're well familiar with the singles from hearing them elsewhere.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier