As a longtime star of the Latin pop scene, Marc Anthony has established a prolific career where his new releases continue to top the Billboard charts, 25 years after he debuted with freestyle record Rebel. For the past decade, Anthony has put out an album every three years, his most recent coming in 2010 with Iconos, a collection of covers of Latin pop songs and ballads. Anthony’s newest, 3.0, is his eleventh studio album and continues the play-it-safe approach Anthony has followed most of his career, with his integration of samba, pop, and occasionally Latin folk. Anthony’s albums continue to be crowd pleasers and chart-toppers. 3.0 does indicate a slight departure from Anthony’s sound, though, with a higher emphasis on original salsa. It’s his first album of new songs since 2004’s Valió la Pena, with his material consisting of cover albums and soundtracks until now.
One of the album’s best tracks comes early with “Volver a Comenzar”, which scales back initially with gliding acoustics before launching into an irresistibly infectious assortment of brass and passionate vocal performances, enjoyably rápido! It’s an outstanding effort that generally summarizes what Anthony does so well: integrate his flawless vocals with hook-driven brass arrangements, while a series of trickling keys and tropical percussion comprise a lively background. Longtime Anthony collaborator Sergio George is hard to beat on the production front, from lively gems like “Volver a Comenzar” to midtempo jaunts (“Flor Pálida”) to semi-ballads (“Cautivo de Este Amor”). A track like “Cautivo de Este Amor” is generally as slow as Anthony will get on 3.0, an album full of liveliness that never feels intent on taking a break. A ballad or two may have provided more variety, but as per traditional salsa albums this is an approach that has resulted in plenty of sales and positive fanfare, so there’s little reason to modify it.
Despite its solid performances, the main issue with 3.0 is its sameness throughout. This doesn’t make the album bland by any means, but many listeners – especially those who can’t speak Spanish – may become overwhelmed with the number of tracks that pursue a similar approach. An effort like “Espera” features a passionate vocal performance, as usual, but the spurts of brass sound overly forced; the result isn’t disjointed, but rather devoid of monster hooks that predecessors like “Volver a Comenzar” so seamlessly flaunted. With its moving strings, “La Copa Rota” invokes a romantic atmosphere that would be ideal for a candlelit dinner, and along with “Cautivo de Este Amor” comprises some of the album’s most subdued efforts, less explosive in their hooks but fully able in their hypnotic romanticism. It sounds like something that could have easily been included in Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight trilogy. That it invokes feelings of longtime love is part of the charm.
For longtime fans, there will be little to fault with 3.0, Marc Anthony’s first collection of new songs in almost a decade. The revitalization of samba within his sound is entirely welcome, and although there are tracks like “Espera” and the trickling “Dime Si No Es Verdad” rely too much on Anthony’s soaring vocals instead of driving hooks, most of the tracks on 3.0 are memorable. Sergio George’s production remains spotless, and Anthony’s vocals seem just as invigorated as ever at age 44. Although Anthony’s days of topping the US charts may be in the rear view mirror, his role as a fan-driven and niche-based artist is still thriving. It’s easy to see Anthony releasing albums like 3.0 well into his later years, as his passion for creating music and vocal performances never seems to dwindle.