21st April, 1990

Strange things were happening in the Latin chart as the first year of the 1990s got underway, at least at the top. First "Lambada," a Brazilian dance song as filtered through a French dance outfit, then this, an old Italian pop song as played by a French flamenco outfit. Where have all the Latin Americans gone?

Gipsy Kings have more in common with Los Lobos than with anyone else we've seen so far in this journey; as a Serious Muso Band with a specific ethnic identity that didn't get in the way of big-time crossover success (the tasteful-liberal kind we'd associate with NPR today), their success on the Hot Latin chart is another entry in the logbook of my suspicions that Billboard was maybe counting sales and airplay of anything in Spanish regardless of whether actual Latin stations were playing it. But enough with the meta, how's the song?

It's good, as no one will be surprised to hear: an acoustic uptempo jam that sticks fairly closely to the classic Domenico Modugno and Dean Martin versions of the song (a.k.a. "Nel blu dipinto di blu") which sat like twin huge roosting birds on the Billboard pop charts of 1958 and refused to budge. It's maybe lighter on its feet than Modugno was (Martin was always pretty light), but it's still very much the same kind of ethnic cheese: entirely enjoyable if you're not hung up on questions of identity politics, hipness, and "authenticity," somewhat less so if you are. Regardless, it's a pretty undeniable chorus, which far more than some theoretical midcentury cult of Italian masculinity was surely what gave it legs in the 50s, as well as what did the same, to somewhat lesser effect, three decades later.

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