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By the time Thalía entered the studio to record what would become her self-titled album, she was a gigantic, supernova-size star in the Latin media world. Her previous album, Arrasando, had spun off not a couple, nor a few, but rather a whopping five hit singles, including the chart-topping "Entre el Mar y una Estrella." And of course, she was long recognized from her years as the reigning telenovela star, not to mention the tabloid attention she enjoyed in the wake of her three-million-dollar wedding to Sony boss (and Mariah Carey ex) Tommy Mottola in 2000. So, hoping to keep up her hot streak and further break herself internationally, Thalía works with the best in the business -- the Latin pop business, that is. As usual, she gets production work from the one and only Emilio Estefan, Jr., but more notably, she works almost exclusively with the songwriting team of Estéfano and Julio Reyes. Estéfano, in particular, was the songwriter of the moment in Latin pop circles. He'd penned a long string of huge hits for an array of artists, and you can bet he was brought aboard to help Thalía attain the heights to which he had taken her peer, Paulina Rubio, two years earlier on the smash Paulina album with its numerous hits. Like Paulina, Thalia is a buffet of delights -- finely prepared pop songs of all types, each with its own flavor and appeal, some tastier than others, sure, but practically all of them delectable. Highlights are too plentiful to detail, though the explosive album-opener, "Tu y Yo," and the sentimental power ballad "No Me Enseñaste" are among Thalía's best ever performances and were both Billboard Hot Latin Tracks chart-toppers. In fact, Thalia is air-tight solid for the bulk of its playing time -- until it suddenly segues into a three-song promotion for her upcoming English-language crossover album, that is. It's a shrewd move, commercially speaking, but it really pours a cold shower on what otherwise is a near-perfect album. Actually, Thalía's English-language recordings are much debated in terms of quality, to be fair, but amid that debate there's a definite consensus: her English songs are always met with mixed reception, even among her most ardent supporters. So if you put aside these final few songs, you have for yourself as great an album as Thalía ever recorded. Amor a la Mexicana is an excellent album, too, but Thalia is a very different creature. It's an album that's as much the result of Estéfano's songwriting genius as it is Thalía's unmatched appeal. It does sound a little dated in hindsight -- closely tied to the production trends of its time, too closely perhaps -- but not nearly to the extent of Arrasando. A touchstone Latin pop album, no question, Thalia is also one of Estéfano's crowning achievements. A tough act to follow, this one, as both Thalía and Estéfano would discover when time came to reunite and record El Sexto Sentido three years later, to markedly less success.

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