Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One Hit Wonder Or One Hit Blunder

Today Subject: "Mambo No. 5" by Lou Bega

Oh, the summer of 1999. Carson Daly and Total Request Live (TRL) continued day after day to aim for coolness but continued missing the mark. Limp Bizkit dominated the charts with a song about cookies and where they could be placed called "Nookie." Most importantly, Lou Bega scored a Top 10 hit with his ode to good times and good women called "Mambo No. 5" (insert jazz hands here).

It seems like every five years or so, Rock or Rap will take over the Billboard charts and within that time, some catchy, danceable Pop song will find it way near the top of charts where it will stay for a few months. During this time, people will learn the lyrics, dances and sing it repeatedly until DJs get tired of hearing the song themselves and cease playing it. "Mambo No. 5" was one of these songs.

It was a song you probably heard while talking to a girls named Monica and Erica or while driving to the liquor store as both of these things were included in the song and well, the song was in constant rotation on many different stations. Chances are, you were probably singing along to the song and bopping your head to this Mambo influenced number. Who could blame you? The song is very catchy, easy to sing along to and features lots of girls' names that you can say out loud.

Lyrically, the song is about having a good time with lots of women while on the dance floor unless it is what I have suspected all along, a song about being a gigalo but only when a Mambo song is playing. This confusion is easy as the verses are about two different things. The first verse is about flirting with four different women and not wanting to go to a liquor store. The second verse is about how to dance? The song does not know what it wants to do or where it wants to go unless they ended up at the liquor store and Bega was dancing with the women in the store.

The main musical element to "Mambo No. 5" is a sample of Perez Prado's 1949 song, "Mambo No. 5" which along with some extra percussion and a modern uptempo sound gave people a song to bounce around to. Other than that, there is not much else to the song. It is no more than a modernized version of a classic.

A lot of people loved this song. To illustrate this point, the song helped sell over three million copies of Bega's aibum, A Little Bit Of Mambo. Remember, this was in the waning days of CD singles and before iTunes (so yes, kids, this was a big deal). It also was a Top 10 hit in 18 countries which means millions of people were going around singing "a little of you makes me your man." It is a scary thought that for 3 and a half minutes in the summer of 1999, there were at least 100 people around the world daily shouting "mambo number five."

Honestly, I have to say I wasn't one of those people. The first time I heard it, my reaction was more of annoyance than cheerful dancing. Occasionally, I'll still hear it on the radio and have found the single to have not improved with age but to be less annoying as time has passed. Still, the urge to yell some woman's name followed by the song's title has not interested me in the slightest bit.

2000 Grammy nominated single.
Popularized an older song into late 90's mainstream culture.
Catchy chorus and beat.
It still gets the occasional play on certain radio stations.
The song helped sell over three million copies of the album and reached the Top 10 in 18 countries.

It is a bit annoying but not as much as when it came out.
Lyrically, it's a bunch names, a liquor store and a guide on dancing.
It's just a updated version of "Mambo No. 5" with Lou Bega adding lyrics and vocals.
Memorable lyrics are questionable.

Personally, I want to say blunder but this might be the rare occasion of a song I don't like being a one hit wonder. I tried as much as I could to find fault with the song but really could not other than it was just annoying. The lyrics are what they are and leave a lot to be desired, however, this song's reign near the top of the charts in addition to all the records it sold and the eventual Grammy nomination are enough ammunition to shoot down any comments and rulings I have about the song's placement in one hit wonder history. You may have won this round Bega, but I won the war. I mean does anyone remember his followup singles, "I Got A Girl" and "Tricky Tricky." Wait, I do...curses, Bega, you have won it all.

As an added bonus, here are the followup singles, "Tricky Tricky" and "I Got A Girl."


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I remember that song! I really liked it and it was so freaking catchy and made you dance even if you didn't want to! Nice post! I'd like to download the whole album, so bye bye.