10th February, 1990

This is — and again, I'm guessing, I'm listening to these in real time, and unless I've encountered them organically haven't listened to any songs in advance — about as close to rave culture as this journey will ever take us. Happily, it's also just about as close to rave culture as I'm comfortable getting, for reasons which have as much to do with geography and history as education and taste.

The 4/4 beat (almost) straight through, that backbone of remixes and DJ sets, ties it to the mainstreaming of the dance underground that was then going on all around the world — it could easily fit on a mix with Snap!, C + C Music Factory, and Technotronic. But it's the sped-up tango bandoneón, the modified cumbia rhythm, and the timbale fills that make it the great crossover Latin Dance song of its era, and the first of several such dance crazes to appear on our journey. It's also the first time I was ever vaguely aware of a song that would appear on this list. I don't mean that I ever actually heard it (as far as I know) until today; but I read about the Lambada — the "forbidden dance" — in Newsweek and was both slightly scared and slightly aroused by what I read. (I was twelve; everything slightly scared and slightly aroused me.)

But unlike some of what's to follow, the Lambada doesn't seem to have had any staying power as a dance. Possibly that's because unlike, say, the Macarena (similarly the butt of jokes but still a common social dance), you can't half-ass it and have fun anyway — and if the video's any guide, one partner has to be comfortable in a thong. (Thereby full-assing it, ha ha.) But at twenty years' remove from the song — and the dance's — peak in popularity, it's hard to hear much of a punchline in the music. It sounds like what it is, South American exoticism by way of French producers, and for me, anyway, that's enough.


  1. Did you ever hear Paradisio's "Bailando," which was a faux Latino song recorded in Belgium for the Europop market that went number one in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Italy? I would call it the other great Latin Dance song of its era (I love it and "Lambada" far more than I love "Macarana"), except to have crossed over it would have had to cross the other way, from the European charts to the Latin charts, and I don't think it did. Angelina recorded a cover for the Latin and the dance markets, but I don't think it did all that well; her version wasn't nearly as good as the original (or as good as Angelina's "Release Me," which came in freestyle and house versions).

  2. Oops, blew the link for the Angelina dance mix of "Bailando":


  3. Er, by "the other great Latin Dance song of its era" I mean "the other great Latin Crossover Dance song or its era." Presumably there were equally great noncrossover Latin dance songs in that era. (Post corrected for typos.)