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Disc Debuts: 'Cómplices' by Luis Miguel (Warner Music Latina)
Mario Tarradell / Dallas Morning News

SONGS THAT CHALLENGE: The pairing is nearly flawless. Mexico's beloved superstar crooner Luis Miguel interprets a dozen tunes by famed, respected Spanish songwriter Manuel Alejandro. Not only that, but they both produced the disc. Cómplices won't alienate the fans of Mr. Miguel's elegant, strings-laden Latin pop repertoire. But there's much more bite here than usual. And in turn, Mr. Miguel is singing with unbridled passion, meeting each provocative lyric with equal fire.

POETRY WITH POWER: Mr. Alejandro crafts musical poems that taunt, caress and tempt. Mr. Miguel basks in the words. He sizzles during "Dicen," a story of volatile love. On "Amor a Mares," he captures the fluid sultriness of seaside romance. Then there's that final track, "Se Amaban," the devastating tale of a love triangle and its destructive aftermath. This is chilling stuff, not your formulaic radio fodder.

BOTTOM LINE: Praise to Mr. Miguel for again abandoning his bolero comfort zone in favor of weightier material. He's all the better for it.

At a moment when most of what we know about Mexican pop culture comes from VH-1's "Viva Hollywood," it's great that Luis Miguel has come to save the day. While J-Lo, Ricky Martin and Shakira were busy Anglicizing their sound, Miguel, now 38, was doing it his way, albeit smoothly, with a richly earnest, romantic voice whose caramel-coated tones oozed perfectly through the grandest of strings and the slightest of Latin rhythms and in his native tongue.

More solicitous than hot, Miguel's cool fire made him into a Mexican Sinatra of sorts. He sold platinum in the U.S., dated Mariah Carey, even sang with Ol' Blue Eyes on Frank's "Duets II." While there's no real translation for "ring-a-ding-ding" in Spanish, the comparison is fascinating since "Complices" was written and produced with Manuel Alejandro, Spain's version of Nelson Riddle. Yet their gallant take on the intensity of improbable amor, "Si tu te atreves," isn't solitary like "Night and Day." Rather it smolders - its strings build, Miguel's voice leans into its love's hard history with subtle theatrical passion. The quavering "Estrenando amor" and the envy-drenched "Te desean" cry out in a similar fashion.