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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Across The Pond And Beyond: The Macarena

I am convinced that the more people who partake in a fad, the more obnoxious it becomes.

We all have been caught up in the idea of the 'next big thing'.  One little craze or object or gimmick that seems so innocent and non-threatening at first, but soon explodes into the newest 'must have' or 'must do'.

Right off the bat, I can name a few examples of this from my childhood.  Remember the Skip-It?  That little plastic thing that you hooked around your leg and swung around so that you could skip over it over and over again?  Everyone at school during third grade seemed to have one, so naturally, I had to get one too.  Mine was blue, and it had a counter to tell you how many times it went around in one full rotation.  It was great for a while, but by fourth grade, it seemed like every family had at least one Skip-It on sale at a garage sale.

Then there was the asinine fad that developed in the 1990's where girls would dye their hair with Kool-Aid packets.  Thankfully as a guy, I never took part in this fad, but I know some girls who walked into school with cherry red, lemon lime, and even Purplesaurus Rex coloured hair.  I think the fad ended when some of these girls were attacked by bees out on the playground.

You see...some fads were sillier than others.

Fads even made appearances on dancefloors, night clubs, and high school proms.  You had the Hustle, Disco, Electric Slide, conga lines, and step-dancing over the years.  It seemed like for a one year cycle, a party just wasn't a party until you danced to the latest dance craze.  Then the next year, it was something completely different.  It was a never ending struggle to keep up.

Fifteen summers ago, one particular dance craze swept the nation and spread like cold germs inside a public school.  Almost everyone I knew of could do this dance back in the day, and the song reached a few milestones of its own.

It was a dance craze based on a song recorded about four years prior to the year it really hit it big on the charts.  What made the song even more unique was that it was a song that was entirely sung in Spanish at first, but after a remix where English lyrics were mixed in with the Spanish ones, the song dominated the 1996 music charts.

(Though, given that 1996 was a very weak year on the Billboard least in my own opinion...I can see why it had such staying power.)

SONG:  Macarena
ARTIST:  Los Del Rio
ALBUM:  Fiesta Macarena
U.S. RELEASE DATE:  August 15, 1995

I imagine that I've probably lost some of you readers along the way for even mentioning the most requested song of 1996.  I can't say I blame you.  At the time of its release, I found Macarena incredibly irritating.  I think part of that reason being that it was played everywhere, all the time.

Macarena was on the Billboard chart for sixty weeks total, fourteen of which were spent at the top position.  That meant that a lot of people were buying the record, listening to the record, dancing to the record, requesting the record.  By 1997, the song itself had sold eleven million copies, and made Los Del Rio incredibly wealthy.

The popularity of the Macarena took over the world in 1996.  It was played at various sporting events, dance clubs, convention halls.  You name it, it was being played.  A reported 50,000 people danced to the song at Yankee stadium in 1996.  The song was played at the 1996 Democratic Convention in an effort to get all of the delegates excited about the election.  Regardless of what your feelings are about the song, you have to admit that for a song to be played during a politcial convention, it had to be huge.

There was even a Christmas themed album that was backed up by the Macarena beat!  And yes, my workplace has played it during the holiday season.  And yes, I find it more irritating to listen to than the original!  And I know it's not Christmas yet, but if I had to suffer through it all holiday season, then all of you will too!  HAHAHAHAHA!!!

Have I scared you all away yet?  I certainly hope not.  This blog entry isn't over yet.

I just wanted to illustrate the scary power this song had.  Taking over the radio airwaves, check.  Keeping songs away from the #1 spot for a quarter of the year, check.  Bastardizing Christmas carols, check.

The power of the Macarena was incredible.  You wanted to look away, but you couldn't.  You wanted to turn the dial to another station, but it was playing on all of them at once.  Like it or not, the year 1996 was not the 'Year of the Rat' was the 'Year of the Macarena!'

Then 1997 came, and the Spice Girls invaded, and the Macarena was flattened by a healthy dose of girl power.

Another fad bit the dust.

Though, it was a nice little distraction while it lasted.

It seems hard to believe then that it took four years for the song to reach the top of the Billboard charts.

Yet it was all because of these two men up above. 

Los Del Rio was comprised of two men.  On the left is Antonio Romero Monge, and on the right is Rafael Ruiz.  Both of them are from the town of Dos Hermanos in the country of Spain. 

In March of 1992, they toured South America, where they invited to a private party thrown by Venezuelan empresario Gustavo Cisneros.  It would be at this party that the conception of Macarena would come to be.

At this party, the entertainment was provided by a flamenco dancer who impressed Los Del Rio immensely.  In fact, Antonio Romero Monge was so inspired by the dancer that he wrote the chorus to the song on the spot.  He decided to make the subject of the song after the flamenco dancer, but chose to use the name of Ma'dalena.  The initial chorus was;

"Dale a tu cuerpo alegría, Ma'dalena, que tu cuerpo e' pa' darle alegría y cosa' güena'"

Which loosely translated means, "Give your body some joy, Magdalene cause your body is for giving joy and good things too".

Either that's really broken English, or the song isn't nearly as innocent as we were all lead to believe.

At some point, Ma'dalena was changed to Macarena, and the song was released in the summer of 1993 in Spain.  I don't know exactly what date it was, but apparently a possible one could be given in this Heineken commercial.

Not quite exactly HOW the Macarena came to be, but a nice little distraction, nonetheless.

In all actuality, when the song was released in 1993, it was nothing like the version that made the song famous three years later.  It was initially a soft rumba like dance song.  Over the next three years, the song would be re-recorded and re-released five additional times.  The song became very popular in Spain and Mexico, as well as Puerto Rico.  The popularity in Puerto Rico was especially evident because a politician used it as an unofficial song during his election campaign.  The song was played all over Puerto Rico as a result of this, and because Puerto Rico was a base for most cruise ships to dock at, thousands of people heard the song as a result.  It might have been the starting point behind the Macarena infusion.

It wasn't until 1995 that the song began to make its way into popular American culture.  That year, it was remixed by the Bayside Boys and produced by Grammy award winning producer Carlos de Yarza, and by the summer of 1996, the song was a powerhouse on the Billboard charts.

So, I guess the lesson that one can learn in all this is not to give up on your dreams.

Granted, I may not have been the biggest Macarena fan out there, but certainly millions of other people really dug it.  It remains a fixture at many wedding receptions and other celebrations, so clearly it has made a mark. 

And, hey, it took four years for Los Del Rio to have the song become a worldwide smash.  But they made it happen.  As someone who has dreams of making it in the world of publishing, it does give me hope that I can achieve success later in life.  I mean, neither Ruiz or Monge were spring chickens when they had their breakthrough song.  If anything, it shows their resiliance, and their fight to keep the dream alive, and that's something that I want to do to.  I won't rest until my name gets out there in the publishing world, and even if I have to wait until I am 65, so be it.  If there's anything the Macarena has helped me understand, it's that success can happen at any age, and that if you're resiliant and strong enough, and have a little bit of luck along the way, you can have success too.

Although I never want to hear the Macarena ever again.  I'm sure after this blog post, none of you would want to either.  Though, if you insist on doing it, or wanting to learn it, here's a guide in pictures.  Enjoy.

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