Bully For Ballads

Gisselle, who made her name singing over sizzling merengue rhythms, has said that her new ballad-laden effort, Voy a Enamorarte, is not a new direction for her at all but rather a return to the beginnings of her musical career. (Following that logic, one might next expect to find the Puerto Rican singer returning to an even earlier artistic endeavor: dancing for Menudo.)

That may be so, but it can't rescue parts of Voy a Enamorarte from sounding like they were phoned in. Producer Kike Santander (who also wrote many of the songs here) is so skilled at fashioning airy arrangements it sounds as if he could've completed most of this album in his sleep. Indeed, while the plush likes of "Júrame (Balada)" (RealAudio excerpt) may have charm enough to push to the top of the charts, it's not easy to distinguish them from, say, Alejandro Fernandez's "Quiereme."

Gisselle is more captivating — and believable — as a merenguera, starting with "Te Voy a Amar" (RealAudio excerpt) and closing on "Júrame (Merengue)," a delightfully spry hybrid that amusingly recalls the Four Seasons' "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)." The party-starting "No Me Enamoro" (RealAudio excerpt) also is great fun. "Dime Luna," with its ricocheting rhythms, is even better.