Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Miami Sound Machine's Surprise Ticket To Glory: Not Sounding Latin

"Conga" established the perfect formula for the Miami Sound Machine: cheesy latin-tinged '80s dance-pop. But with their two follow-up singles from Primitive Love, the group refined this formula in a revelatory fashion: they removed the words "latin-tinged." Now their dance-pop kind of just sounded ... like everybody else's! Were these the hot new singles by the Pointer Sisters? Whitney Houston? Sheena Easton? Who cared? They were hits!

First up: the perky "Bad Boy," which hit #8, but hopefully no actual bad boys actually hit Gloria Estefan during the making of this song. I don't think Emilio was that type. For reasons that elude me, two music videos were made for "Bad Boy." The first video is cute and hokey, but for some reason Vevo only uploaded half of it and the clip cuts off abruptly at the 2:11 mark. Not up to your usual standard, Vevo! If anyone really wants to see the shocking conclusion of Gloria's attempt to woo a Ricky Nelson-esque Hollywood heartthrob while prancing around Miami Beach, the full video is on Daily Motion.

Apparently, that video wasn't deemed worthy enough, as somebody decided to make a second, even weirder one. Now, what's the first thing you think of when you think about the Miami Sound Machine's "Bad Boy"? Why, the Andrew Lloyd-Weber musical Cats, of course. Apparently, "Bad Boy" was a Jellicle Song for Jellicle Cats, and Gloria found herself being invited to a magical Jellicle Ball. I knew these cats were bad, but ... flipping through a copy of Playcat? That's pretty bad. They also consume copious amounts of cat liquor, as well as KitKats. And boy, do they play a mean fish skeleton xylophone. At the end of it all, her WASPy boyfriend wants to know what the deal is. "So tell me the truth. You're seeing another guy." Gloria gives the only appropriate response: "Uh ... not exactly." She's seeing cats, dude. Get your head out of your ass. Not only that, but the ending even suggests that ... you've been dating a cat. You better get tested bro.

But just when everyone began wondering if Gloria Estefan was the Cuban Irene Cara, "Words Get In The Way" hit the airwaves and made everyone wonder if Gloria Estefan was actually the Cuban ... Karen Carpenter? Holy A&M! It's like they replaced Hal Blaine with a soulless drum machine and shoved Karen's tortured ghost out to the mic. Who knew those Latinos had so much suburban dread locked deep inside them? This one rocketed to #5, and clearly Gloria could see where her bread and butter lay.


Anonymous said...

Yea well first of all no discussion of Gloria Estefan and the MSM is complete without some mention of their "Doctor Beat" video which sent shivers down my spine. I think it was on the Gitmo torture list. Watch it I dare you. It's like that Ring movie - you have to make someone else watch the vid within seven days or else. I'm surprised that Gloria didn't bribe YouTube to take it down. It's scary dude - but I guess we all gotta start somewhere. Second consider Keith Richards rather harsh comment that The MSM was just "A Holiday Inn band...that made it." (See I don't agree.

I give Gloria a pass on the anglicized stuff because like any other singer of the time it seemed natural to go for the big time pop market which would necessitate English. It wouldn't have worked for her to pull a Jose Feliciano and sing with an accent. Jose couldn't help it but Gloria's her accent was pretty tame anyway - almost non existent. She did sing Spanish versions of tunes in concert and The MSM had recorded a number of Spanish version albums (I think). It's just in America at large it's gotta be English (aside from the occasional novelty tune like 99 Luftballons). You left out references to gems such as "Uh Oh, Uh Oh Falling in Love" and "One, Two, Three, Four, Five" or "Betcha Say That" all of which were pure pop with only the first using obvious "Latin" percussion.

Little Earl said...

Oh, I have stared into the abyss known as "Dr. Beat," I'm afraid.

This is just one in a series of posts which may or may not cover Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. I'm not sure they are recording artists who deserve intense scholarship. They have about five or six great songs and some memorably absurd videos. That is all.

Anonymous said...

In the early 90s I was close to being paralytically drunk in a South Beach hotel bar near the News Cafe (ground zero for So Beach). Someone told me that it was co-owned by Gloria and Emilio. I remember (trying) to say something to various women but the words were probably unintelligible and people thought I was an MS patient or seizure victim trying to work through the last stages of denial so they left me alone. Well okay at some point I went to the bathroom and ran into (literally) a small woman to whom I apologized and while she seemingly accepted my apology - she also uttered something like, "might want to cut back there". Upon return to my bar stool one of the uppity model types sitting nearby told me that it was Gloria Estefan I had stepped on/into. They were trying to shame me and belittle me but I was impervious to insult. I have no idea if it was actually her as well Miami Beach was and is full of Latin women and Cubanas in particular so it could have been anybody.