A worldwide pause. Pausa. That's what happened when the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year.
At the time, Ricky Martin was gearing up for a world tour alongside Enrique Iglesias and the release of a full-length album titled Movimiento. Instead, he was forced to hunker down in L.A. with his husband Jwan Yosef and their four kids, where he worked on Movimiento's replacement: Pausa.
"When everything started, I said, 'Wait, what am I going to do with all this energy?'" the 49-year-old tells PEOPLE from his home in Puerto Rico about the six-track record he released in late May. "It’s funny because most of the lyrics were already written. They were exactly what people needed to hear when we started this lockdown."
"We haven't seen the PTSD. We haven't seen the trauma that this is causing," he adds of the coronavirus. "I just want to give the audience Pausa, which is relaxing and peaceful."
The album opens with track "Simple" — a song alongside the legendary Sting singing in Spanish. The lyrics and light tropical sounds inspire a much-needed calmness at the start of quarantine.
"Siempre habrá una luz que llene mi voluntad, un paso cada vez más cerca de la verdad," sings Martin, before being joined by The Police frontman. "Un bálsamo que alivie el peso de la humanidad. Simple."
(In English: "There'll always be a light that fills my win, a step closer to the truth. A balsam that eases the weight of humanity. Simple.")
The track is a reminder of gratitude and faith — and projected sense of hope for a better future. (What better feeling for the start for the ongoing uncertainty?)
Like its opener, the album — which prefaces a yet-to-be-released part two aptly titled Play — features laidback and calm lyrics that Martin admits that he even needed during this time.
"This album really became my medicine at a certain moment because, to be honest, I was really anxious," he says candidly. "The uncertainty of not knowing what was going to happen, having to cancel a tour. People were telling me, 'Ricky, you're never going to be able to go back on stage.' These are the things that were throwing at us."
"I believe that this album, Pausa, became my balance," he adds.
Martin enlisted Carla Morrison's soothing voice on "Recuerdo," Puerto Rican compatriots Pedro Capó on reggaetón-driven "Cae de Una" and Residente and Bad Bunny on 2019's "Cántalo." (The trio performed the song at the 2019 Latin Grammys.) He also featured Spanish singer Diego El Cigala on flamenco-inspired "Quiéreme" — all collaborations that "mean so much" to him.
The only track without a collaborator was the optimism-filled "Tiburones," which he performed — backed by a virtual children's choir — at last month's Latin Grammys, where Pausa took home the award for best pop vocal album. (The album was also up for album of the year.)
Now, Martin is gearing up for the 2021 Grammy Awards where his work is nominated in the best Latin pop/urban album category — the same category he won in 2016 following the release of A Quien Quiera Escuchar, his last album.
Martin admits that receiving nominations is always feels good, but this time, it's different.
"This feels a little bit more special because it's a special year and where I'm at, it just felt differently and I'm very happy," he says. "I love music and I am codependent enough to say that I do need the reaction of not only the audience but in my case, the industry."
"When you get nominated, it's the industry telling you, 'Hey, Rick, you did a good job this year. Congratulations.' Yes, I need that," he adds. "It's not a source of inspiration, but hey, when you walk into the studio, you say, 'This has got a Grammy potential.' You hear the songs that do and the ones that don't, it's inevitable."
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