’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)”
The one hundred first No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” by Los Del Rio. Thanks to an accompanying dance that was relatively easy for people of any age and skill level to learn, this track achieved tremendous global success as it rode a wave of mainstream pop culture interest, appearing in venues ranging from baseball games to the Democratic National Convention to The Oprah Winfrey Show to countless Bar Mitzvahs, weddings and proms. “Macarena” topped the Hot 100 for 14 weeks, was the No. 1 song of 1996 and was the No. 2 song of the ’90s. (Curiously, the No. 1 song of the ’90s is “How Do I Live” by LeAnn Rimes, a track that peaked at No. 2.)
Los Del Rio was, and still is, a duo from Spain (Antonio and Rafael) who were nearly 50 years old in 1996 and whose only charting songs in the United States were three flavors of “Macarena” in the mid-’90s — the original, the Bayside Boys Mix, and a Christmas version. The Bayside Boys are another duo (Mike and Carlos), who added the dance beat and wrote English lyrics for the verses, performed by an un-credited performer named Carla Vanessa. The result was a divisive recording perceived by many to be an important part of ’90s culture, if not a fondly revered one.
Not that it matters, but “Macarena” is about a woman named Macarena who likes dancing, fashion, traveling and infidelity.
Los Del Rio’s’ lock on No. 1 kept several other songs sidelined to a No. 2 peak, including our favorite song of 1996, “Twisted” by Keith Sweat, as well as another great tune, “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis, which became one of the longest-running No. 2-peaking songs in history, with nine weeks in the runner-up position.
Take a few minutes to listen again to “Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix)”:
There are a few positive things to say about this recording, so let’s start with those. Culturally, its impact at the time was a uniting one, and that’s nice. We also remember finding it cool that two uncool older guys could find such volcanic mainstream success later in their careers; that must have been very gratifying for them. And it could be argued that the song’s success helped bring broader visibility to the influence of Latin culture on the United States. Musically, however, it’s a struggle to find anything positive to say. The first 20-or-so seconds (before any vocals are introduced) do a nice job of generating some excitement and beckoning interest and participation. And the sing/chant of “Hey, Macarena!” in the chorus is appealing and catchy. But mostly this track is just cringe-worthy … irritating, unsophisticated, cheaply made, cloying, corny and hastily slapped-together by people whose interest was making a quick buck. Listening to this song is emotionally equivalent to receiving a phone call from a telemarketer.
Was it dope? Not at all. “Macarena” was transparently a cheesy novelty song and a fad, no doper than Beanie Babies.
Does it hold up? More than any song we have discussed or will discussed in this ’90s No. 1s Revisited series, the answer is no, a thousand times over. There is no place for “Macarena” in modern culture other than to belittle ’90s culture.
Dopeness: 1 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?