Remembrance Wednesday: Ricky Martin – ‘She Bangs’
In pop music, it is a cruel state of affairs when one track or act is overshadowed by another, despite being comparable or better. Scissor Sisters’ third album ‘Night Work’ sank without a trace despite being their best effort yet and having a phenomenal buzz single, Ian McKellen collaboration, ‘Invisible Light’ . Now their only track heard on radio is modern classic ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’’ and you can buy the album for about £2 on Amazon.
Example 2, when Girls Aloud took a break and tried individual projects, Cheryl was the one to sell most records because she was prettiest and most high profile, despite her material being far less interesting than that of ‘ginger one’, Nicola Roberts. WAH WAH WAH WAAAH.
Another aggravating example would be anything by Janelle Monáe being ignored while the masses only heard her one line of input on the ‘Fun’ single that radio tortured us with this summer.
However, the case I am fighting today is that of ‘She Bangs’, first single to be taken from the second UK charting album of hip-swivelling, Latino ladies’ man (or so his videos would have us believe), Enrique ‘Ricky Martin’ Martín Morales.
Sometimes with one’s music output, you have a good little run, then something comes along that wipes out all memory of what came before it, but then sometimes you never quite reach the heights of that one big hit, which is the case with poor Ricky and ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ his trumpet-laden Latino banger that warns of a mocha-tinged mad wench who makes him take off his leather trousers and already see-through shirt to go dancing in the rain. Obviously that song is excellent and its legacy cannot be denied, but for me, ‘She Bangs’ is the real Martin classic. Yet according to Compare My Radio (a good site if you like statistics) Loca has been played on radio 51 times in the last month and She Bangs only nine times. Is there any justice in this world? She Bangsis my favourite.
Maybe it’s just because I like an underdog, maybe it’s because I like to make controversial choices to wind people up. Either way it’s a brass-hooked Latino banger that warns of the dangers of women. Hang on that sounds familiar… It’s Ricky’s comfort zone and he doesn’t need to stray from it, after all nobody wants to be reminded of his soppy Spanglish ballads.
Let’s do an in-depth, unnecessary analysis:
Admittedly, lyrically it’s no ‘Imagine’ but it does feature such interesting lines as:
“I’m just a link in your daisy chain”, “You wear me out like a pair of shoes” and
“Well, if it looks like love should be a crime / You’d better lock me up for life / I’ll do the time with a smile on my face / Thinking of her in her leather and lace”
That’s right, Ricky is so in love with this rampant lady, if love were to be outlawed he would be given a LIFE sentence, not just a fine or a few days of community service, jailed for life. Imagine being in love that deeply! Your lover refusing an appeal, exclaiming their guilt with no shame. Ladies can only dream! I don’t suppose Ricky would live up to your expectations, but not to worry, he seems happy enough as he is these days, so that’s jolly nice for him.
Latin piano during the verses, the occasional guitar chord, more trumpets than Mambo no 5! That little bit after the ‘daisy chain’ line where the brass starts wailing like a siren. Woh wohhh woh, sing-along backing vocals in the final chorus! A guitar solo! It’s got a ruddy guitar solo! It might as well be Santana! How could you listen to this without waggling your hips like a hula-hooping Grace Jones?!
In the music video in, our protagonist walks into the sea and attends an underwater grindfest in a bar attended by bikini-clad ladies and guarded by a mermaid and octopus man, my preferred set-up. He enters through an underground waterfall that somehow keeps the water out of the room and starts grinding on anything with two legs or a tail. Are they really underwater? Everyone’s just dancing like in a club yet sometimes a fish goes past and occasionally Ricky starts swimming. But then nobody is wet!… aside from Ricky when he pours water all over himself (can you do that underwater?) and all those women who are subjected to his charms… yeah everyone’s wet in one way or another. There’s even a cubicle for frolicking and Ricky takes his clothes off before getting spanked by a mermaid. Trumpeters line the walls, it’s the perfect party. I do sometimes wonder what would happen after the song finishes and they all stop dancing and stand around awkwardly in their pants. The aquatic party people are hardly likely to request ‘Shake Your Bon Bon’, are they?
There’s some interesting insight here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ricky didn’t do much (any) of the writing himself but there are some interesting links if you’re willing to do a bit of Wiki digging.
Desmond Child has writing credits not only on She Bangs and Livin’ La Vida Loca, but also numerous Bon Jovi songs, including ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’. Also in his impressive song list are ‘I Was Made for Lovin’ You’ by Kiss, ‘Poison’ by Alice Cooper and ‘Old Before I Die’ by Robbie Williams. Producer Walter Afanasieff has credits as producer and arranger on swimmers’ favourite, ‘My Heart Will Go On’, by Celine Dion, as well as ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child. Also with a writing credit is the man credited with having recorded the first rap song in Spanish. That’s a good pedigree for a Latino pop song.
If all of that wasn’t enough to convince you of the huge amount of effort and talent behind She Bangs, there’s also the obligatory Spanish language version, with such beautiful lyrics as:
“She is the queen in my chess, playing with me is her pleasure”.
All in all, it’s a genius song, ridiculously catchy and just that little bit better than Livin’ La Vida Loca, I just wish people would realise this and remember poor old She Bangs every once in a while. At least trusty old Ken Bruce on Radio 2 occasionally plays it. I suppose Ricky is too uncool for Radio 1 as well now. But 9 plays on the whole radio network in a month! That’s fewer plays than in my house! Shame on you, radio, shame on you.
Remembrance Wednesday: The Tamperer ft. Maya – Feel It
There are many songs within the genre of pop that toe the line between excellent and completely terrible and unfortunately many of these eventually fade away and are forgotten by almost everyone. Except me, usually. I become increasingly aware of this when I’ve had a few ales and request one of these songs to a DJ in a club, and he hasn’t got it any more as he had to make room for the 30 new David Guetta tracks that came out in the past year.
Once I’ve got home and sobered up a bit, I find one of these songs I’ve been mourning and finally listen to it again to try and work out if it’s as good as I thought it was last night. This happened recently with ‘Feel It’ by The Tamperer ft. Maya, forgotten Italian three-hit wonders of the 90’s. Yes, three: Material Girl sampling and excellently titled but misleading ‘If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better’, and Gimme Gimme Gimme sampling ‘Hammer To the Heart’ soon followed. I wonder if anyone did any research into the former and investigated the life-enhancing effects? I bet they were minimal.
‘Feel It’ was based on a not very subtle sample of The Jacksons’ ‘Can You Feel It’ and I think that’s where most of the joy lies, all except one very obvious part. The lyrics recount the tale of a woman’s adulterous lover making an amorous misstep but she forgives him, only for the other woman to get a bit clingy. Obviously nobody cares about that part and they’re only interested in the classic line:
“What’s she gonna look like with a chimney on her?”
That line is one of the lyrical beauties of the nineties, lodged into the brains of many people who are unable to recall its origin. Poor Tamperer. My discussions with DJs usually go something like…
“Can you play that song by The Tamperer ft. Maya?”, ‘What’s that?’, “You know, the one about the woman with a chimney stuck on her head?” ‘Oh yeah! I remember. No’. I couldn’t help having a little web search for the line to see if there was some kind of meaning behind it, rather than the writer just looking at a chimney and thinking ‘that would look great on someone’s head’.
I saw that many before me had searched for the term and there were a few explanations. There was the one that I had accepted to be the original meaning, that ‘chimney’ was slang for a black eye. I’d never heard that term, certainly no one uses it where I’m from. Maybe it is like when someone looks through a comedy telescope on TV and gets a black circle around their eye, but with a chimney and a sooty circle instead? Whatever the case, this explanation made sense with the preceding line:
“I think she crossed the line / and I’m ready for the ride / I’m ready if it’s fighting time”
This disturbed me somewhat, especially as the woman, presumably ‘Maya’, in the video looks like she wouldn’t hesitate to smack someone”. However, then in some dark corner of the internet I came across this interview and an accompanying video which claim that the lyrics AND vocals were stolen from an underground dance song called ‘Drop A House’ by Urban Discharge (nice), which came out several years earlier.
Wikipedia says nothing about this sampling, only noting the Jacksons sample, but the interview makes for fairly interesting reading. I don’t want to get involved in the legal side of things (neither does The Tamperer, apparently), but the line “Wanna drop a house on that b****” does give a plausible origin of the chimney that could find itself upon a woman’s person.
Whatever the real origin and meaning of the lyrics, I’ll try to forget all that and just imagine that she is trying to put her fellow off the other woman by making him imagine how silly she would look embellished with rooftop paraphernalia. I’ll just enjoy the song for what it is, a piece of nineties nonsense, best enjoyed drunk. I don’t think pop music should condone violence and I certainly prefer my pop stars to look like this.