Latin pop can be every bit as image-driven as English-language pop. A perfect example is the female vocal quartet Aroma, who are known for wearing tight, skimpy attire and bearing their navels. But thankfully, Aroma have more going for them than looks and sex appeal. Produced by Ignacio Rodriguez, this self-titled debut album is a promising, if imperfect, example of cumbia being used for Latin pop purposes. Enjoyable tracks like "Mentiras" and the hit "Querido Ladron" aren't cumbia in the traditional sense -- they're Latin pop with cumbia overtones, and they're a lot sleeker than traditional Columbia cumbia would be. Those who are seriously into Latin music will have no problem identifying Aroma as a group with a Mexican orientation. Mexicans have their own way of playing cumbia, and Aroma's very sentimental debut is obviously aimed at the Mexican market (which isn't surprising because, even though Fonovisa doesn't record Mexican artists exclusively, the Mexican market is their bread and butter). One of the things that observant listeners will hear on this CD is a slight doo wop influence at times -- even in the 21st century, some Mexican popsters will sometimes incorporate doo wop-ish harmonies (which is ironic when you consider that Aroma's four members weren't even born when doo wop was popular in the '50s and the girl-group sound hit big in the early '60s). Aroma's first album isn't for cumbia purists, but those who like their Mexican pop with a strong cumbia influence will find this to be a generally likable, if slightly uneven, debut.
by Alex Henderson