One of the biggest Latin artists of all time, Ricky Martin is a globally recognized singer and actor known for his sophisticated, high-energy brand of pop. Martin initially gained fame in his teens as the lead singer of the popular boy band Menudo. He also became an actor, earning praise from the Mexican motion picture industry and starring as bartender Miguel Morez on the American soap opera General Hospital. While he won a Grammy for his 1998 solo album Vuelve, it was his 1999 English-language album Ricky Martin that propelled him to stardom. Buoyed by the hits "Livin' la Vida Loca" and "She's All I Ever Had," the record proved an international sensation, topping the Billboard 200 and selling over 15 million copies worldwide. Along with founding the nonprofit charity the Ricky Martin Foundation, Martin has remained a star, releasing a number of platinum albums, including 2000's Sound Loaded, 2005's Life, and 2015's Grammy-winning A Quien Quiera Escuchar. In May 2020, he was back on the Billboard Latin charts with the Pausa EP.
Martin was born on December 24, 1971, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a child, he sang in the choir and performed in school plays. When he was six, he began acting in television commercials. Shortly afterward, he took professional singing and acting lessons, which paved the way for his auditions for Menudo. In 1984, when he was 12 years old, he became a member of Menudo, debuting on the album Evolución. For the next five years, Martin was the lead singer of the group, helping them to become an international sensation. Once he outgrew Menudo in 1989, he went back home to Puerto Rico, where he completed high school.
After graduating high school, Martin spent several months living in New York before deciding to work his way back into the entertainment industry. He returned to Mexico, where he acted on-stage for a year and then returned to the music industry. In 1991, he released his self-titled debut album, which he co-wrote with his fellow Menudo alumnus Robi Rosa, who would become a regular collaborator over the course of Martin's career (often credited as Ian Blake). The album became a sizable hit on the Latin charts. Two years later, he followed it with the Juan Carlos Calderon-produced Me Amarás, which was an even bigger hit, launching him to superstar status in Latin America.
In January 1994, Martin joined the cast of the soap opera General Hospital, playing Miguel Morez. His recurring role was so successful that it landed him a role on Broadway, where he played Marius in Les Misérables. He left General Hospital to perform in the production and stayed with the play for about a year. In 1995, he released his third album, A Medio Vivir, a record that had a harder rock edge yet also featured such Latin styles as flamenco and Cumbia. It peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart. Martin returned in early 1998 with his fourth album, Vuelve, which fared even better, landing at number one on the Latin charts and cracking the Top 40 of the Billboard 200. Produced by K.C. Porter, with co-production by Draco Rosa and Desmond Child, the record spawned several hit singles, including "Perdido Sin Tí" and "La Copa de la Vida," the latter of which was also adopted as the official song of the 1998 FIFA World Cup as "The Cup of Life." Martin performed "The Cup of Life" at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards, where Vuelve also took home the Award for Best Latin Pop Performance.
In the spring of 1999, still riding the success of his well-received Grammy performance, Martin returned with his first English-language pop album — which like his first long-player also happened to be titled Ricky Martin. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart and made him an international superstar thanks to the blockbuster singles "Livin' la Vida Loca" and "She's All I Ever Had." A year later, Martin sizzled again with the release of Sound Loaded. His biggest Spanish-language hits were collected on 2001's La Historia, while 2003's Almas del Silencio was an album of new Spanish material. Life, from 2005, was a return to English-language pop. Martin then released MTV Unplugged in 2006 in both CD and DVD formats.
After the success of his MTV Unplugged concert, Martin embarked on a worldwide tour in 2007, and a live CD and DVD of the Black and White Tour appeared later that year. Following his final show in Madison Square Garden, Martin took a career break from music to focus on his private life, although a collection of his Spanish-language hits, entitled 17, appeared in 2008. In March 2010, Martin publicly came out as gay with a message posted on his official website. Also that November, he published a tell-all autobiography. The following year, he returned with his ninth studio album, Música + Alma + Sexo, which featured guest appearances by Joss Stone, Natalia Jiménez, Claudia Leitte, and reggaeton duo Wisin & Yandel. The album landed at number three on the Billboard 200 and topped the Latin charts.
Martin spent the next couple of years focusing his energy on his charitable Ricky Martin Foundation. He announced a new collection of romantic songs inspired by the end of a long-term relationship. The set's first pre-release single, "Adios," was released in October 2014. In January 2015, "Disparo al Corazon," the second pre-release single, hit the charts. The same month, a somewhat elaborate Internet hoax was perpetrated stating that Martin had passed away. He responded via Instagram, putting the rumor to rest. His tenth studio album, A Quien Quiera Escuchar, was released a month later. The album not only charted in the Top Five but, as a result of its strong singles and videos, landed in the top spot on Latin albums charts during the first week of 2016. Later that September, Martin dropped the hit single "Vente Pa' Ca," which featured Colombian singer Maluma.
The single "Fiebre," featuring reggaeton duo Wisin & Yandel, appeared in 2018. That same year, Martin portrayed model and fashion designer Antonio D'Amico in the miniseries The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, for which he earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. Martin returned to music in 2020 with two EPs, the ballad-oriented Pausa and the more dance-oriented Play. Released first in May 2020, Pausa featured the tracks "Cántalo" with Residente and Bad Bunny, "Tiburones," and "Simple" with Sting. It landed at number eight on the Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine and Matt Collar