Gloria Estefan

Into the Light

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In early 1990, when she was one of the biggest pop stars in the world, Gloria Estefan suffered a broken vertebrae when her tour bus was struck in an accident, and her miraculous recovery from that near tragedy greatly informed her successive album, Into the Light. Though often noted as a "comeback" album, that descriptor is misleading. Yes, Into the Light is a comeback -- a comeback from her accident, that is. It's not a comeback in the sense that her previous album, Cuts Both Ways, had been a failure or even a disappointment. No, Estefan hadn't fallen off, so to speak, with that album. Quite the opposite. It was a monster hit, breaking into the Top Ten and scoring a couple of high-charting ballads: "Don't Wanna Lose You" and "Here We Are." It also marked a drastic shift away from the unabashed dance-pop of her Miami Sound Machine output toward a more respectable adult contemporary appeal. This shift affected not only her image but also her audience as a result, and that shift is even more apparent on Into the Light. In fact, the shift seems complete, as this is full-fledged adult contemporary album with serious themes and toned-down production. It sounds pleasant while playing, for sure, smoothly gliding from one song to the next, highlighted by a pair of memorable singles: the hit ballad "Coming Out of the Dark" and the cooing singalong "Live for Loving You." But there's not much else here that's all that exciting. In fact, Into the Light is so streamlined and safe that it seems plain and even bland, if not outright boring. Sure, Estefan's work with Miami Sound Machine had been silly and adolescent at times, but it was fun and lively, too. For every cheeseball song like "Surrender" or "Love Toy," you would get a pop gem like "1-2-3" or "Betcha Say That," not to mention the token slow-dance ballads and get-on-your-feet jams. But to lament the end of Miami Sound Machine is beside the point, for Estefan would move on after Into the Light to make occasionally exciting albums like Mi Tierra. The thing is, from this point forward in her career, Estefan's best work would almost always be Latin in nature. Yet for those listeners not interested in the sticky-sweet dance-pop of Miami Sound Machine or the Latin confetti of her latter-day highlights, there are albums like Cuts Both Ways and Into the Light, albums that aim for widespread adult contemporary appeal. And as far as those such albums go, they don't get much more inspired than this "comeback" album, which admittedly was wonderfully triumphant upon its 1991 holiday season release, when it soared to number five on the Billboard 200 chart, driven largely by its chart-topping lead single, "Coming Out of the Dark."

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