My first dip into Spanish pop was a rather tragic compilation called SuperVerano 2006 (Super Summer to you). It is tragic firstly because it's cover versions done by a band called La Banda El Diablo (well, quite). In fairness, of the originals I've heard, these versions don't sound too far away. But of course La Banda El Diablo may have slight artistic license, so the songs do begin to sound the same which I suspect may be down to the music itself. Also, it's very cheap sounding, but then it was only 5 euro, so it kind of was.
The most exciting song on the compilation is the (very close) cover of David Tavare's 'Summerlove', which Shakira and La Furtado aside, has been the 'exitos del verano' (that's hit of the summer to you). Incidentally, you can't move for 'Hips Don't Lie' and 'Te Busque' on Spanish radio, it's as if there's a law to play one or other every two songs. Back to 'Summerlove', it's Spanglish, as all the best Spanish pop is, and is the tale of well, summer love (duh!). It's very dancey and very Ibiza.
Another (Otra!) interesting song is Raul Paz's 'El Beso' ('The Kiss'). Not so much for the song, but the woman covering it who splutters it out in such a fabulous middle-aged Spanish could've-been singer lady way.
Reasonably self mocking is Batuka's 'Chi-Ka-Cha', clearly from the Las Ketchup school of shitting on the graves of Dali and Picasso and whoring out Spain with ditsy stupidity for a quick buck. The song is like Spanish Marvin & Tamara (remember them?), but twice as cheesy and no-where near as good. Not only is it offensive to Spain, it's offensive to pop.
Currently riding high in the singles chart is RBD, a band formed by actors from a TV show, 'Rebelde' set in a boarding school, like Miami 7 meets The OC meets Mexico. Now, they are Mexican, and as a result that makes them as Spanish as Usher is English (sorry Spain!). But, they are brilliant 90s style top pop sung in Spanish, so I picked up their album, 'Rebelde'.
A six piece (three boys, three girls) outfit in their school uniforms (when they are blatently in their twenties - ace!) singing boy-girl, girl-boy songs vaguely reminiscent of when *allStars and Steps were really good. It just couldn't fail to win my heart could it?
Debut single 'Rebelde' (yes, the same title as the album and the TV show) is a mid-tmepo affair which has it's quiet parts and it's fast parts. My favourite single of the album is 'Futuro Ex Novio' ('Future Ex-Boyfriend') is slightly rocky and sung entirely by the boys. It has ice-cream van style chime in the chorus, and has lines ending in "No comprender" and "Un momento", which I sort of vaguely understand. In fairness, the album doesn't really contain a duffer. Like all albums of this style, it has understated moments and it has it's "pow!" moments, but it never registers below brilliant.
I 'read' about RBD in a Smash hits style teen magazine and thought one of the boys (Alfonso Herrera) looked fit. Then the album pictures revealed that the one I thought was fugly (Christian Chavez) who colours his hair (like that one out of Aqua!) is actually quite fit and Alfonso is a bit iffy. This is the album photo that swung it. Confusing Spanish Pop!
Then I dipped my fingers into 'Spanish Britney', Natalia's 2006 album 'Nada Es Lo Crees' (vague pigeon translation: 'Not What It Seems'). The phrase '____ Britney' or '_____ Madonna' are bandied around in euro-pop far too lazily and is often in '___ Madonna's case, far off. However 'Britney' seems to mean, "washed up, ex-popstar who had a few very good singles but lots of bad albums and is a bit of a chav". I think the phrase is supposed to refer to 1999/2000 Britney when it meant "bird who sings who is a bit fit". So how does Natalia compare to Britney?
Hurrah! 'Nada Es Lo Crees' is a proper pop album. Worringly, the first great through-and-through pop album I've heard all year. Britney would kill for this K-Fed for this kind fo material. Opening track, 'Loco Por Mi' ('Crazy For Me') almost me think "Britney-who?", a stellar, sock-knocking-off 2006 pop song.
Of course, I don't 'habler' Espanol, but I get the idea that the title track is vaguely scathing, from the title, delivery and atmosphere of the song. One of those typical "it's so hard being young, rich and famous", 'aware', "I hate the media" songs. The obvious comparison is 'My Prerogative', which it shits on. From a great height.
'Por Ti [Call Me]' is amazing. It's one of my favourite songs of the year and it's crying out to be heard. Those lucky Spanish.
The whole album contains that sub-rock, sub-dance, sub-latin vibe that was really popular at the turn of the cenury, but that's not to make it sound dated. The album is as 2006 as "who is she!? where did you find her!?". It's sticks to what it's good at and stays with a continuous sound that never fails but avoids being samey. It's a culmunation of everything 2001 pop was and could've been ('No Fui Yo [Let's Get Wild]' even puts the Lumidee clap to good use).
Were this album sung in English it would your album of the year. I'm serious. In fact, rather promisingly, the credits seem to credit 7 of the 12 songs as being adapted from (I'm assuming) English. So if only we could adapt the other 4 songs (the other one's an intro), we've got the next Rachel Stevens album?
Natalia asks Britney who? Christina who? Shakira who? Ladies and gentlemen, this is our new icon.
She's a bit fit too, innit?
So I feel I've really tasted just a little bit of what Spain has to offer. Next time you visit those crazy Iberians, make sure you don't just go home with prickly heat and a sangria-induced-hangover.