18th February, 1989

The phrase "cultural tourism" has been bouncing around in my head lately, and I thought it was worth taking a moment to explore it, especially as it relates to this song. As a thirtysomething white American of indeterminate but definitely European ancestry, I'm not exactly the ideal person to be examining this music. I speak Spanish, and I've lived in Central America, but all my critical instincts are still very much in line with normative Eurocentric American culture. So anyone who wanted to accuse this project of cultural tourism would have a strong case, my only defense being that it's a worthwhile project and no one else seems to be taking it on.

But cultural tourism, and the attendant appropriation necessarily involved, is far from being the exclusive province of us hetero white males. Case in point: this song, and its parent album Isla Del Sol. A hasty or inattentive Anglophone listener might just categorize it as self-evidently Latin, i.e. What Those Spanish-Speaking People Do, but Mexico is not Bermuda or Trinidad, and though Yuri was born in the Caribbean port of Veracruz, she was very much a product of mainstream Mexican culture by this point in her career. The video makes the tourism explicit: Yuri is the only Hispanic (meaning Spanish ancestry) person in it. Everyone else is Afro-Caribbean — with her shock of platinum hair, she stands out as quite literally a tourist in an underdeveloped island neighborhood — and the underlying rhythms are calypso and soca, rather than the harder-hitting Cuban salsa which has formed the basis of most tropical dance music in the Latin charts so far.

In fact, a case could be made for racist imagery in the video, though the image of an attractive blonde woman being chased by a crowd of clearly horny black men doesn't have quite the same dog-whistle connotations that it would in the US. Nevertheless the narrative — overtly sexualized white woman arrives in sleepy, dingy West Indies and causes chaos with her good looks — is pretty awfully regressive. But that's the video; we're here to talk about the song.

If anyone had the strongest claim to being called the Latin Madonna in the late 80s, it was Yuri. And not just for the blonde mane, the upbeat dance music, the winking sexuality — then every pop starlet ever would be Madonna. The sexuality in this song would be better called brazen, especially by the conservative standards of Latin pop culture: rather than being ashamed of or scandalized by her effect on men, she revels in it: her first words are a list of what makes her hot to trot. High heels, miniskirt, plunging neckline, sunglasses, tight belt, loose hair — it's pretty much a catalogue of What To Wear If You Want To Be Called A Whore (or worse) in 1989 Mexico. Which is why locating the song in the Caribbean makes a kind of sense; in Latin America as everywhere else, foreign places are decadent and depraved, and the normal rules don't apply there.

And of course the title is a reference to the sexual playfulness of Pedro Almodóvar's Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women On the Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown), which in Yuri's hands becomes "Men On The Verge Of An Outbreak Of Jealousy" — because, of course, they all want her. It's all done with a light touch, of course, as befits a cod-soca dance number; in a comic bit of outrageousness straight out of Zuleika Dobson, she even claims that they're lining up to commit suicide.

This is the second uptempo dance song from Yuri that we've had, and if it's not quite as great as "Qué Te Pasa," that's a lot to live up to; it's certainly my second favorite Yuri song so far, which puts it well ahead of the pack.

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