22nd August, 1998

One of the flattening effects of examining the Latin chart from this top-down position, as it were, is that we never get much of a feel for the nitty-gritty of a single country's pop scene: with so many competing constituencies making up the US Latin market, it's small wonder the chart moves slowly and relatively lumberingly: flukes excepted, it's the artists that have the widest transnational appeal who consistently show up on this particular radar.

This is one of the flukes. Like most countries, Mexico has long had its little galaxy of well-scrubbed teenpop stars and "manufactured" groups given plenty of time by local variety or light entertainment programs, but that aren't known outside the country -- or even sometimes outside the capital. Onda Vaselina (wave, or sound, of grease) was originally put together in 1989 by Mexican pop lifer Julissa to perform in a production of Grease, at which time their ages ranged from six to twelve. Nearly a decade and several casting changes later, they were perhaps closer in appeal and musicianship to Saved by the Bell: The College Years than to their pop contemporary Ricky Martin.

But then an odd thing happened: "Te Quiero Tanto, Tanto," a seriousface guitar ballad (so seriousface that the chord progression follows vaguely but not actionably in the footsteps of Cat Stevens' "Father and Son") became a hit off the back of the popular telenovela Mi pequeña traviesa (my little imp), and if Youtube is any indication, was the song of choice for Mexican quinceañeras, graduations, weddings, and reunions in 1998. The vocal performances are wobbly, the backing is dull montage-bait, and the song itself is hackneyed and syrupy -- all of which is why, despite myself, I kind of like it. Look at these spunky kids, putting on a show. I wouldn't be surprised if they were trying to save the rec center from some evil developer.

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