SINGAPORE, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Latin America's King of Pop is better known for his good looks, intoxicating music and raunchy act on stage, but he has been using his fame to good use, promoting causes that are close to his heart.
Last year, the singer accepted the Latin Billboard Awards' Spirit of Hope Award for his humanitarian efforts through the Ricky Martin Foundation, which is run by his brother and help a wide range of mostly children-focused institutions and projects.
Now, Martin is crusading for a new cause closed to his heart: child prostitution and pornography.
The People for Children project aims to educate people about the issue. "Awareness is the most important thing. This is the most intense problem that society will be facing in the next 10 days, even stronger than the problem against drugs," Martin told reporters, while on an Asian tour promoting his new album - Almas del Silencio (Souls of Silence), his first Spanish album in five years and his first album in three years.
"The priority is about rescuing girls from the street and being able to show them the real meaning of love," the singer said. "That's my mission, beside my music, that's all I want to do. I want to find ways to rescue these kids. The album is called Souls of Silence, because I think these kids are in needs. For me silence is the way I find balance, the way I feel focused. But for them, silence is hell."
Martin acknowledges the subject is a difficult one: "Some people are willing to learn and understand about this issue, some people don't even want to hear, because they don't want to hear about pain. But little by little, we're making small steps with this."
The Latin pop sensation was the biggest male solo artist in the world in the late 1990s with hits like the 1998 World Cup Soccer theme, La Copa de la Vida, Livin' La Vida Loca and Maria.
But over the last two years, the 31-year-old Martin has taken a low profile, concentrating on his private life and causes. This was the first break after a career started as the lead singer of teen Latin sensations Menudo when he was 12.
"After the intensive adrenaline of the previous album, I needed to spend time at home and search within and I think it was the most amazing decision," says the singer, who meditates on a regular basis and often talks about spirituality.
Yet, he is now back in form with a Spanish album at the top of the charts. He has also an English album in the bag ready to be released in February and that is bound to surprise his fans. "It's a very different album, I'm doing things I've never done sound wise. We really played with the technology, spending long days in the studio, just daring...It's not Latin at all," he says.
Martin explains that the album was actually recorded before Almas del Silencio over a period of 18 months. "I started working on the album in a very dark moment of my life and a very dark moment for society too (Sep 11, 2001). But it's very optimistic and without being preachy, I think most of the lyrics are about ways to finding strength," he reveals.
The singer is planning a worldwide tour next year to support the new album. Longer term, he would like to try returning to the stage (He played Marius in Les Mis on Broadway for 6 months) or starting a film career.