The Most Insane Dance Craze to Ever Exist
August 3, 2022 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Todd in the Shadows' One Hit Wonderland gives a not-necessarily fond retrospective of the 1996 global phenomenon that was "Macarena" by Los Del Rio. It includes vintage footage of people of all walks of life dancing to the Macarena, and he was very right that "there was nowhere safe." There is also some much needed background context of the Spanish artists Los Del Rio and Fangoria, remixers The Bayside Boys, and the unforgettable dance. But if you are reading this and are over 30 years old, you already know the song and know it all too well. (SLYT)
posted by Down10 (50 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Slate's One Year also did a great episode on the Macarena and its almost inconceivable rise (and bizarre Canadian detour), if you'd rather listen than watch.

he was very right that "there was nowhere safe."

I was taking driver's ed during Macarena's radio heyday, and my instructor absolutely cranked it up and started dancing in the passenger seat while I drove. Madness.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:45 AM on August 3 [7 favorites]


This was my freshman year of college and during orientation, one evening, they had us gather on the football field to teach the chancellor the Macarena. How did we all know it?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:02 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Every moment of this video is a delight
posted by congen at 12:25 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


if you'd rather listen than watch

If you're more of a text person, there's also a The Number Ones.
posted by box at 12:33 PM on August 3 [7 favorites]


The thing you have to know about Fangoria is that back in the 80s they were Alaska y los Pegamoides, and then Alaska y Dinarama, and had some absolute classic hits from the movida. But Alaska also fronted the best Saturday morning children's TV ever, La Bola de Cristal, which was freaky as hell.
posted by sukeban at 12:40 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


I think that I'll be spending more quality time with Todd in the Shadows; I just started watching the one on "Mambo No. 5", and it turns out that Lou Bega isn't Cuban, or Latinx at all--he's... Sicilian-Ugandan, by way of Germany. Huh.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:55 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


(Which means that I was a surly teenager in high school when "Macarena" hit, and by that time I was only interested in Guns 'n' Roses and Héroes del Silencio, so I did my best to ignore it)
posted by sukeban at 12:56 PM on August 3


Is that Kurt Loder around 24:16?

Why, yes, yes it is.
posted by box at 12:59 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


I distinctly remember the earlier dance version being played late nights on KS104 in Denver in the early 90s. When the song finally became a hit I was surprised because we'd already been hearing it for a couple of years at that point.

So basically, I was sick of this song before it was cool.
/hipster
posted by Fuego at 1:01 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Incidentally, "Macarena detritus" is my new sockpuppet name.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:12 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


he was very right that "there was nowhere safe."

We got married in June of 1196, and we specifically told the DJ not to play two songs: Macarena and the Chicken Dance.

Reader, he played both -- and I bitterly regretted having paid up front.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:23 PM on August 3 [14 favorites]


I was in college, and had already basically bailed on pop music during this period (due to many IMO worse songs), so I was only tangentially aware of it, and have no idea how to do the dance. Didn't hear it at a sporting event either. I actually remember my mom asking if I knew the dance when I went home (for Christmas maybe?) and was like 'nope, no idea'.

So since I only hear it sporadically, I think it's fine. I think it's kind of interesting that it has fallen away as an easy dance song while the Chicken Dance and YMCA have stuck around.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:23 PM on August 3


And yeah, Todd is a gem. It's a blast when he discovers that a one hit wonder was anything but (Yello) or only had the one hit but oh my god they were so much bigger than their hit (Bobby McFerrin) or outside of their one hit, their musical history is just wild (Chumbawamba).
posted by Kyol at 1:28 PM on August 3 [13 favorites]


We got married in June of 1196

Happy 826th Anniversary!
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:34 PM on August 3 [41 favorites]


Nthing this channel is great, especially if you like snark.

Trainwreckords Van Halen III

Pop Song Review "Hey Soul Sister" (this is an earlier one, and he's more vocal about his hatred)
posted by Gorgik at 1:34 PM on August 3


I was on a LATAM Chile flight a couple of years ago, when I noticed that the twently-something flight attendant had a name badge that said MACARENA. It was one of those "when did you know you were old" moments.
posted by gimonca at 1:39 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Reader, he played both -- and I bitterly regretted having paid up front.

"What'd that guy say? Something about Macarena, the Chicken Dance? Sure, fine, got it."
posted by Countess Elena at 1:41 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


I hear many DJs have a "wedding/bar mitzvah" block of songs, and that they will offer to play them all or not. They don't want to argue over specific songs — you either want the whole block of cheese or you don't.
posted by Down10 at 1:45 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


the twently-something flight attendant had a name badge that said MACARENA. It was one of those "when did you know you were old" moments.

Macarena and Rocío are two of the most traditional and stereotypical Andalusian girl's names ever.
posted by sukeban at 1:46 PM on August 3 [8 favorites]


My favorite Todd in the Shadows video is the Trainwreckords episode about the Carpenters album "Passage". Some Trainwreckords that he covers are just bad, though almost always bad for interesting reasons - whether that's tension between the band and the record company, tension among the band members, or bafflingly incompatible competing artistic agendas. "Passage" is sometimes bad, sometimes baffling, sometimes actually great in a way that was never ever going to be a commercial success, and Todd's admiration and respect for what works on the album is just as interesting as his snark about the bad bits.
posted by Jeanne at 1:52 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Inescapable at the time, and not really to my taste, regrettably.

In comparison, The Lambada was a big smash a decade before, with a lilting Saya beat and a mellow bittersweet melody.
posted by ovvl at 2:03 PM on August 3


Lou Bega isn't Cuban, or Latinx at all--he's... Sicilian-Ugandan, by way of Germany. Huh.

So a little bit of every one of you makes him who he is
posted by pwnguin at 2:08 PM on August 3 [18 favorites]


AGHH before we get too far from talking about Alaska, I just have to introduce you all to Alaska y Dinarama's "Mi Novio es un Zombi". For some reason this was a huge hit in my high school Spanish class. I haven't thought about it in 27 years but it's all come back to me. Mi novio es un Zombi, es un muerto viviente que volvió del otro mundo para estar conmigo...

As for the Macarena, I didn't mind it. I can't dance to save my life, and the Macarena became the second dance that I can do at weddings and stuff (first being the chicken dance, natch).
posted by Gray Duck at 2:24 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


1996 was the year I was at the furthest possible distance from mainstream culture for a person with my background. So I knew the song but not the lyrics or the movements. But hey, people enjoyed something that wasn't all white, And some old guys were secured in old age. I'm for it.
posted by mumimor at 2:31 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Haven’t had the chance to watch the video yet, so apologies if this is in there, but there’s also a big Mandela Effect to the video - where did the arm crossing come from?
posted by Mchelly at 2:47 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Ha - “You don’t do the Macarena. The Macarena does you.”
posted by Mchelly at 3:15 PM on August 3


Mash-up: Macarena and Evita. (This is the only version of the Macarena I can stand. And it makes me laugh.)
posted by CCBC at 3:48 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, on the floor of the General Assembly of the United Nations, doing the macarena. Truly, it was a virus.
posted by papineau at 3:49 PM on August 3


Mchelly, I'd suggest that the arm crossing was spliced in from the Three Amigos salute (1986).
posted by hovey at 5:25 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


OMG I wish I'd seen this video during the Evita run. OMG OMG OMG.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:29 PM on August 3


It's a few years old by now, but his video about It's Raining Men is one of my favorites for just how wonderful the two women behind it turned out to be.
posted by wanderingmind at 6:25 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Lou Bega isn't Cuban, or Latinx at all--he's... Sicilian-Ugandan, by way of Germany. Huh.

And he was born David Lubega Balemezi.
posted by atoxyl at 7:33 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


SPEAKING OF Madonna, let's not forget that Mr. Shadows has a whole playlist going through the acting career of Madonna.

I love Todd - I get a little sad since Todd makes me remember Lindsay Ellis and I miss her stuff, too.
posted by alex_skazat at 8:17 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Oooh! I usually have the weirdest Macarena story. I'll bet someone in here can top it, but in normal polite society, I've yet to meet someone who can.

Doing the Macarena for the first time, dressed like Marilyn Manson, as part of a Marilyn Manson lookalike contest to win some Manson merch at a local record store. And, yes, I won. If self-linking a blog post with no ads is very much verboten, then - mods - delete this and I'll type a shortened version as a comment instead.

(also nthing Todd in the Shadows as consistently fantastic. His wild ride of Trainwreckords about the last Creedence album is *chef's kiss*)
posted by revmitcz at 9:35 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


If you're here for more music snark references, look no further than Pat Finnerty's What Makes This Song Stink series, and IMO the best of them all - the Train episode. (yes he gives many nods to Rick Beato)
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:21 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Dot is a nut so they call her Macadamia
She's cracked in the head and kooky in the brainia...
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:56 AM on August 4


I'm gonna crosspost this here:

So, back in 1996, I was in Oruro, Bolivia for Carnival. We went dancing. We're having a good time, when all of a sudden this weird song comes on and the everybody except us lines up and starts doing these moves, hands on hips, cross arms, shake etc., everybody except us.
We look at each other like whattheduck? Turns out it was the Macarena, which was inescapably popular and had a dance, and neither of us had heard of it or seen it, probably because we'd been traveling through Perú and Bolivia for more than a month without watching TV or listening to the radio or going to parties.
It was a really strange thing to watch a disco full of people get excited about and start doing the same dance to a song you'd never heard, kind of like those scenes in movies where everybody dances in sync spontaneously and you're like 'yeah right, that would never happen in real life'.
posted by signal at 4:42 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


The last wedding I went to was very, very dance heavy at the reception. This was one of the few dances I knew, and let me say that it is a much longer song than I remembered. Oof.
posted by Torosaurus at 5:02 AM on August 4


Dot is a nut so they call her Macadamia
She's cracked in the head and kooky in the brainia...


There is a coda to the Macarena, and it's that in 2002 Las Ketchup, a group formed by the daughters of a flamenco musician called El Tomate, tried to repeat the Macarena phenomenon and dance, with a song that used as its chorus a Spanish-ish version of "Rapper's Delight". It got to #1 in Europe and a bunch of other countries, but it was mostly ignored in the USA. Enjoy "Aserejé".
posted by sukeban at 6:28 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Asereje was a great song - with the chorus hitting hard versus slow quiet verses, like a punk grunge song, except with standard pop lyrics and instruments. No way it would have ever become a 'dance' smash with a basic dance like the Macarena everyone can do, as the Macarena is a comfortable 100 bpm and Aereje at a Blitzkrieg Bop-esque 170 BPM.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:26 AM on August 4


A friend recently noted that Macarena seemingly killed the US appetite for foreign-language hits — after it hit #1, it would be 16 years until Gangnam Style broke the US top 10 in 2012, the longest gap since before 1960. And 21 years until the next Spanish #1, Despacito.
posted by mubba at 9:38 AM on August 4


I just have to introduce you all to Alaska y Dinarama's "Mi Novio es un Zombi".

Thank you very much
posted by trig at 11:34 AM on August 4


June of 1196

The chicken dance is in all of the illuminated manuscripts these days
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:48 PM on August 4 [4 favorites]


I remember being in the outskirts of Tehran, in the back as my cousin drove with the headlights off through back roads so as not to attract the attention of the morality police because we had mixed genders in the car. We got to the house where the party was, the women ducked into the coat closet to change out of their hijab, and everyone descended into the basement where the party was… and I distinctly recall everyone doing the Macarena (with a little extra Iranian flavor embellishing the moves, of course).
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:00 PM on August 4 [6 favorites]


We got married in June of 1196, and we specifically told the DJ not to play two songs: Macarena and the Chicken Dance.

Reader, he played both -- and I bitterly regretted having paid up front.


And, you’ll still hear both of those horrors at receptions even today. I kind of understand Macarena, being, ostensibly, a dance tune with a beat. But, wtf is up with Chicken Dance? How did that ever become a “traditional” part of wedding receptions? Personally, I take a bathroom break whenever either of those tunes start playing.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:28 AM on August 5


For the benefit of anyone else who got intrigued by the pre-dominance dance remix that came up at about the 7 minute mark, it is Macarena (La Mezcla Guerillera 130 BPM) (youtube link). It's available for digital purchase and streaming on the usual services.

I really wish they'd got Fangoria to give the same treatment to the added-English version to make the best of both worlds - a fat rave banger remix of the version everyone knows.
posted by BuxtonTheRed at 5:07 AM on August 5


It seems like – thanks to the way the internet has fragmented the 90s monoculture into a million pieces – these kinds of all-consuming pop-culture phenomena (mercifully) don't really happen any more. Am I mistaken about that?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:32 AM on August 5


But, wtf is up with Chicken Dance?

I used to have season tickets to a (very) minor-league hockey team. They would play this between second and third period every. single. game! It didn't matter how I planned out bathroom break, beer run, walking around aimlessly, etc. I always walked back into the arena right as it started playing. In my head for days.

There is no song I loathe more.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:08 AM on August 5


I won a Macarena contest at a staff meeting at work once. The prize was a really nice inflatable pool floating bed. It was black and yellow striped like a bumblebee, and I used it as a camping mattress for years.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:46 PM on August 5


It seems like – thanks to the way the internet has fragmented the 90s monoculture into a million pieces – these kinds of all-consuming pop-culture phenomena (mercifully) don't really happen any more. Am I mistaken about that?

Yes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:00 AM on August 11


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