Let It Loose

by: Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine

After years of under-the-radar album releases and a regional following at best, Miami Sound Machine rocketed to mainstream recognition with one song, "Conga." That one song changed everything for the group, especially lead singer Gloria Estefan, who suddenly became a pop star by default. So when it came time to release the follow-up to Primitive Love, the album that had spun off "Conga," the Miami Sound Machine billing was changed to the more marketable "Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine" (and an album later, just Gloria Estefan). Thankfully, the change of billing is the biggest change from Primitive Love to Let It Loose. The unabashed dance-pop remains, most importantly the token romantic ballads and dance songs (the often goofy album filler remains too, of course). If you really want to analyze the albums relative to one another, you'll find that Let It Loose essentially is a rewrite of Primitive Love -- almost song for song, in fact, with a very catchy pop song opening the album, followed by the title track, a romantic ballad, some side-closing filler, a second-side-opening dance song, some filler, another token ballad, and then some more filler to close out the album. But this is precisely why Let It Loose is such a great little album. You see, Primitive Love had been a mid-'80s dance-pop gem as far as mid-'80s dance-pop goes, and Let It Loose is a marked improvement. For instance, the slight misfire of "Body to Body" is now the bull's-eye pop of "Betcha Say That," the pretty-good ballad "Words Get in the Way" is now the really good "Can't Stay Away from You," and so on. The one exception is "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," which isn't quite on a par with "Conga," but then again, that's raising the bar awfully high. In any event, listeners ate up every spun-off single, all five of them, which was more than enough to drive the album well into the Billboard 200 Top Ten. Its appeal and popularity aside, Let It Loose is all the more special because it marks the end of Miami Sound Machine in name as well as sound. When Estefan would return with Cuts Both Ways in 1989, she'd drastically shift her sound toward adult contemporary, and while that opened up a new and lucrative market for her to tap with much success, it meant the end of goofball filler like "Love Toy" and bubblegum delights like "1-2-3." ~ Jason Birchmeier

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