10th July, 1999

And here we have the second and final entry in the "wave" of Latin Pop that was supposedly taking America by storm in the summer of 1999, that wave that constantly threatens to come ashore but never actually does. The years ahead will be littered with names who will be hyped as the crossover Latin star who will finally make the US pop machine pay attention to Latin music instead of ghettoizing it; I'll let you know when I see it happen.

Enrique is, of course, a familiar name to those who have accompanied me this far on this travelogue, and he'll grow more familiar still in the years ahead; but given the refracted vision of this blog, the blog of a gringo trying to explain Latin Pop as much to himself as to anyone else, it feels noteworthy that this song, his eleventh number-one Hot Latin hit, was his introduction to the English-language audience that would cement his legacy as a multiplatform hitmaker for decades to come. "Bailamos" is, to date, his only number-one hit on the Hot 100, and the degree to which it was aimed at English-language success can be gauged not just from the bilingual chorus, or even its placement in a high-profile Hollywood schlockbuster (Wild Wild West did no one's career any favors), but from the fact that it was at number one for two weeks on the Hot 100 and only one week on Hot Latin. Which feels almost perfunctory: Enrique releases a song, of course it goes number one; but he will never again be as assured of that top spot as he was for the first four years of his career.

And the song? You know it, even if you think you don't. Generic Latin-lover phrases like "let the rhythm take you over" and Intro to Spanish phrases like "te quiero, amor mío" populate a sweeping, faux-flamenco production that has about as much to do with any traditional Spanish music as Wild Wild West does with nineteenth century technology. It's with a nod of recognition that you read that the song was written and produced by the team behind Cher's "Believe" -- it may not be as haphazardly futuristic, but it's fully as cheesy and orgiastic: both "Believe" and "Bailamos" are big, powerful mecha suits designed to throw the established personas of the stars at their center into giant, cartoonish relief; and if Cher's camp den-mother persona is more to your (or my) taste than Enrique's sulky Latin-lech, there's a lot of people with the opposite preference.

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