By Noah Hubbell
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Still, despite her history as a performer, Ciria finds the comparisons to other Latino artists unavoidable, a situation she views as more than frustrating. "I've been doing this since I was twelve years old -- singing in English and Spanish, trying to combine their styles -- and I've watched all these trends form. Now it's almost cliche to be a pop Hispanic singer, and I'm thinking, 'How did this happen?'
"Jennifer Lopez's name comes up all the time, and up until the last three years, I've never been compared to anyone else -- it was a new thing," she adds. "It's frustrating, because I feel like I'm just late getting there. Everyone is saying, 'Just use it to your advantage, just to get in the door.'"
For the most part, Ciria remains good-humored about the newfound prevalence of Hispanic pop artists; she jokes that she's writing a song with the theme of "I was doing the Ricky Martin thing before it was so cool and chic." Yet as the hours and days go by and new Hispanic-tinged groups break onto the pop-music scene -- and she's not among them -- her patience wears thin. Especially when she is reminded of times when she came this close to being among those who rode the early Loca wave. A few years ago she expected to ink a deal with Interscope Records, but a Latino singer with a famous father was invited to sign the dotted line instead. "Enrique Iglesias is my deal-breaker," she says, with a tone that indicates there's some truth behind her joke. "I shouldn't say that, but I like to blame him because it's easier." Interscope (which has since merged with Universal/A&M/Geffen Records) signed Enrique around the same time execs there were discussing a future with Ciria; as part of the package, the label took on three Latina women artists whom Iglesias wanted to produce. Ciria was not one of them, and her deal was canned. Though the label hasn't yet invited her to join its increasingly spiced-up roster, execs there remain interested. Tony Ferguson, Interscope's vice president of A&R, says he liked what he heard on Meant to Be.
"There are a couple of songs on the disc that I consider really good," he says. "She has an air of believability when it comes to delivering a lyric, and I was impressed with her vocal strengths. But we needed the talent bar to be raised a little higher." And, Ferguson adds, though the music market may seem somewhat tapped out these days when it comes to Latin-based pop music, he feels the fact that it has become more mainstream will eventually help Ciria instead of creating a barrier.
So while Ciria waits to show the world outside of Denver her pop-worthiness, she's doing what she can on a local level. Sales of Meant to Be are going "reasonably well," she says; in fact, the disc is currently number three on the Top 10 sales list of USA 1 Stop -- a local distribution company that stocks retail stores including Tower and Virgin Records in and outside of Colorado. Ciria's name appears alongside such local heavy-hitting artists as Hazel Miller, Sally Taylor and Opie Gone Bad. Ciria has also received a boost this past summer by taking part in the Music Patrons Association of the Rockies' Summer 2000 "Jam in the Store" Tour. Designed to give local music a boost, the tour kicked off this past June and has placed acts like Nina Storey, Chupacabra, Matthew Moon and Yo, Flaco! in Denver-area Borders Books & Music stores; the series grinds to a halt the first weekend in September.
And though Ciria -- like any working performer -- is unlikely to be critical of any paying job, the Borders gig ain't a spot at Red Rocks, or the Pepsi Center, where Ricky Martin wowed "La Vida"-loving crowds last December. At a Northglenn Borders gig earlier this summer, as neon lights from PetSmart and Mattress Discounters reflected through the storefront windows, Ciria -- decked out in a Rhythm Nation-era Janet Jackson coat, black choker, black miniskirt and almost go-go boots -- faced a book-smart crowd and crooned, "Baby can you move with me, can you do to me/All the things that the right man would do?" (from "Can You Move With Me?"). Not exactly the kind of scene you'd expect on a Friday night at a suburban bookstore, a place where families converge to consider new coffee-table books while their kids pore over Beanie Babies catalogues. "It used to be hard to do gigs like that," she admits. "It's still not my favorite thing to do, but I'm better at being comfortable doing it. It's always easier when you have the band up there with you, and when you have people who are there because they have chosen to come and see you, rather than to have people who are just coming to buy a book and there you are.What are they going to think?"
However, even at gigs like this one, there are one or two starry-eyed little girls in the front row who can't take their eyes off Ciria, who don't want to leave when their fathers tell them it's time to go, who wait patiently for her to autograph a poster that they'll hang in their bedrooms. "They're my favorite [fans]," she says with a smile. "Honestly, that's the best part for me. I love kids, and I remember being that age and being fascinated by music by singers like Olivia Newton-John, Linda Ronstadt and Lulu. Because of it, I participated in choir and I danced, and I was involved in something creative all the time. So when people talk about Britney Spears and say, 'Oh, her fans are all ten years old,' it might be true, but it will leave a mark on them, and they won't forget. Hopefully, that's something I can do."