Pilar Montenegro

Pilar

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In Latin America, one of the best ways for singers to have a major hit is to record the theme song of a telenovela -- a Spanish-language soap opera (or Portuguese-language, in Brazil) that generally lasts for around three to six months before reaching a definitive conclusion (in contrast to, say, As the World Turns, which debuted on CBS-TV in 1956 and was still going strong in 2005). Pilar Montenegro has starred in some novelas herself, and in 2004, the Mexican singer/actress enjoyed both radio and television exposure with "Prisionera"; the addictive song was not only a hit single, but also was used as the theme for the Telemundo novela of the same name. The novela was up against some stiff competition in the United States, where it ran in the same time slot as the phenomenally popular Mariana de la Noche (one of the many Televisa novelas that Univision has picked up). Even so, Prisionera the soap opera had an enthusiastic audience, as did "Prisionera" the hit single -- which is heard in three different versions on Pilar: the exuberant cumbia version used in the novela, a dramatic ballad version, and a flamenco-influenced version (which has the combination of gypsy and Middle Eastern/North African elements that audiences eat up in Spain). Despite the fact that this album has been influenced by everything from cumbia to flamenco to Mexican norteño, Montenegro is a pop singer first and foremost -- and the 44-minute disc's enjoyably romantic ballads are essentially Latin adult contemporary. Pilar includes one English-language track: "Love Is All You Need," which isn't in the adult contemporary vein but rather has an urban/dance outlook à la Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears. The tune is OK, although not overly memorable. Spanish-language pop is where Montenegro really shines, and gems like "Prisionera" and the grupero-leaning "Vamos a Darnos Tiempo" are what ultimately make Pilar worth the price of admission.

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