One-hit wonder extended catalog: Lou Bega

Photo Credit: BMG/RCA Records

Photo Credit: BMG/RCA Records


Each week, Poor Scholars digs a little bit deeper into the catalog of an infamous “one-hit wonder” by listening to their other “top hits” on Spotify to explore what exactly went wrong. This week, Poor Scholars’ Scott Phillips breaks down the other songs of Lou Bega.

The One Hit

Who can forget “Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…)“? We all wish we could, I’m sure. But Lou Bega crafted this catchy little tune in 1999 and it shot to No. 3 in the U.S. (thank you Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas for keeping it away from No. 1), and No. 1 in most of continental Europe. “Mambo No. 5” was even No. 1 in France for 20 weeks in a row, proving once again, that French people suck.

Disney also made their own version of “Mambo No. 5” replacing the names of the drugs women with their own Disney characters and softening things like “liquor store” to “candy store”.

Bega made “Mambo No. 5” by sampling the original track, recorded by Cuban bandleader Pérez Prado in 1949, but attracted controversy for his version of “Mambo No. 5” in large part because Bega wasn’t Latino (he was Italian and Ugandan). Others thought the song promoted womanizing, and even one theory believed the names of the women were referencing narcotics.

My favorite tidbit about “Mambo No. 5” though has to be that it was nearly used as the theme song of the 2000 Democratic National Convention. Take it away, CNN:

Lyrics turned out to be a problem in choosing the convention theme song. Convention producers had selected Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” because it was up-tempo and popular, like “The Macarena,” the Democrats’ convention theme in 1996.But the chorus of “Mambo No. 5” refers to a girl named Monica. Convention planners initially thought they could just rewrite the lyric, but late on the eve of the convention, they re-thought the whole idea.

“That’s out now,” said Wheeler, whose orchestra rehearsed the song. “That will not be played at all.”

Convention producers are now looking for another song – one just as catchy, but without a catch – that will rally the party faithful, inspire the crowd and get the campaign off on the right note.

Bill Clinton is the best.

The Other “Top Hits” on Spotify

“You Wanna Be Americano” – El Camino Album Edit – I’m sorry, guys, I tried to make it through all three minutes and eight seconds, but I couldn’t do it. Not only that, but our dog Payton — who listens to my bad jokes, bad impressions and loud music on a daily basis — went to another room to begin his second mid-morning nap. Even canines hate Lou Bega.

“Sweet Like Cola” – Lou tries to re-create the magic of “Mambo No. 5” by wearing a similar outfit and recording a similar introduction on “Sweet Like Cola”. Bega compares the taste of women to cola (better than Honey Nut Cheerios, right, Melo?), but this song is boring and uninspired. I think Lou was just broke and wanted to see if R/C Cola was desperate enough to bite.

“Boyfriend” – Another uninspired song about a woman who Lou is interested in. The first 40 seconds of the song is Bega describing in-detail why he is in love with this woman before the kicker: “I love you from head-to-toe, girl, but I hate your boyfriend.” Maybe if you wrote another halfway decent song, Lou, you wouldn’t be having these issues. The music video features arguably the worst dance-off of all time. The woman these two bozos are fighting over better re-evaluate the kind of men she dates.

The Verdict

“Mambo No. 5” will likely live forever, especially since Disney picked up on it and made its own version, but Lou Bega is one of the worst artists I’ve ever listened to. Lou, please stop making new music, hire someone who does stellar work with investments, and hand over those royalty checks for the good of America’s eardrums.


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