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Dance and the Longevity of Music


Is it a proven theory that songs associated with dance moves perform better in music charts, because they have established themselves within the societal framework via dance moves, and have hence made themselves difficult to dislodge?

Now if all that seems difficult to digest, just think of the hit song Gangnam Style: popularised by the Korean singer Psy, it featured lyrics sung exclusively in Korean. No non-native speaker would have had a clue about what he was rapping about without the help of translation. Yet the song, featuring moves that might have appeared to be lassoing and horse-riding, became popular - you weren't in with the hip crowd if you didn't know the moves - and went on to become a worldwide phenomenon.

If we look back at the 1990s we might have been less surprised by the magnitude of Gangnam Style's success. For the Psy army's success was preceded by a Spanish dance hit, which was coupled with easy to learn dance steps and a catchy beat, and which spent over a year in the Billboard Top 100. A year! Imagine listening to the same song rehashed over and over again, and seeing the dance moves from last summer enacted a year later.

It sounds cringe-worthy but at the time no one had any reservations about doing the Macarena. (To this present day, some still don't.) The song was the brainchild of Antonia Romero and Rafael Ruiz, whose partnership as the Spanish group Los Del Rio went back three decades. The lyrics to Macarena emerged as an improvised element by Romero, at a party in honour of a flamenco dancer called Diana Patricia. Addressing her by the name Magdalena, a sultry reference to Mary Magdalene, Romero ad-libbed the words that would later form the lyrics to the chorus. The words translated actually mean, "Give joy to your body, Magdalena, for your body is for giving joy and good things."

But when the duo recorded the song in the studio, the reference to Patricia seemed irrelevant, so they changed it to Macarena, a neighbourhood in their town of Sevilla. The original song, wholly in Spanish, was a hit in Latin America, but received little airplay within the United States and worldwide until the verses were amended to include English lyrics by the producers Carols De Yarza and Mike Triay. Their version, Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) rode the popularity of the original song and the funky dance steps to the top of the charts in 1996. Perhaps they already realised then, that aligning a song to dance moves would help it on its way to truly becoming an iconic piece of music.

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