PSY rode his invisible horse all the way to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 last week. (And now he’s bouncing shirtless!) “Gangnam Style” was always destined for K-pop greatness, but the hilarious dance routine also overcame the language barrier and made the song an international phenomenon.
While the Korean superstar has made quite a splash worldwide, it’s not the first time a floor-filler has relied on quirky choreography for chart success. Who hasn’t put their dignity aside to do the Macarena or wished someone would teach them how to Dougie? Unfortunately for PSY, these songs tend to alienate music-buyers in the long run. Will “Gangnam Style” buck the trend, or is Korea’s most popular export since Kimchi destined become a one-hit wonder like the pop-wizards behind the following dance crazes?
1. “Lambada,” Kaoma (1989)
French pop group Kaoma caught lightning in a bottle when they adapted a Bolivian folk song to capitalize on a dance craze sweeping South America. “Lambada” sold five million copies worldwide, and eventually peaked at #46 on the Hot 100. It spawned two movie adaptations and inspired thousands of badly-dressed couples to learn the salsa-based choreography. Kaoma even revisited the dance craze on their follow up, “Dançando Lambada,” but it failed to catch on, and the band was largely forgotten until “Lambada” was sampled on J. Lo’s 2011 hit “On The Floor.”
2. “Cha Cha Slide,” DJ Casper (2000)
DJ Casper made line dancing cool again for a hot minute back in 2000 with the “Cha Cha Slide.” The catchy jam tapped into the Chicago stepping movement and soon became popular in urban clubs where patrons would enthusiastically follow the DJ’s instructions. “Cha Cha Slide,” naturally, spawned an album of slide anthems. After that, DJ Casper was never heard from again, but his signature song remains popular at basketball games and school discos to this very day.
3. “Teach Me How to Dougie,” Cali Swag District (2010)
The Dougie originated in Dallas, Texas and was immortalized in Cali Swag District’s self-explanatory hit “Teach Me How To Dougie”. Not that the dance really needed instructions. It basically involves moving side to side! Nevertheless, the simple choreography took off and has been performed by superstars like Beyonce and, um, La Toya Jackson. The song reached #28 on the Hot 100 in 2010, and it marked the beginning and end of Cali Swag District’s streak of hits.
4. “Macarena,” Los Del Rio (1995)
If you were old enough to stand unassisted in 1995, chances are you did the Macarena. The cheesy rhumba-based dance lesson makes “Gangnam Style” look like a mildly successful entry on the Bubbling Under chart by comparison. Los Del Rio spent a terrifyingly long 14-week stint atop the singles chart and sold more than 11 million copies of the tune worldwide. The Spanish duo even released a festive version called “Macarena Christmas”! And while the lovely pair are warmly regarded as one of the biggest one-hit wonders of all time, don’t feel too sorry for them — they still bring home $250,000 a year in royalties from the song…each.
5. “We Speak No Americano,” Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP (2010)
While not having any specific choreography of its own, this international smash had clubbers bluffing their way through vintage dance moves. The handiwork of Australian DJs Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP, “We Speak No Americano” samples a 1956 Italian song called “Tu Vuò Fà L’Americano.” It was an instant sensation, topping the charts in 18 countries and peaking at #29 on the Hot 100. Like many other names on this list, Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP were never to be heard from again.
6. “Party Rock Anthem,” LMFAO (2011)
In many ways, LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” is the blueprint for PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” It’s the original half-sung, half-spoken slab of electronica with an irritatingly catchy chorus and iconic choreography – in this case lifted from an Australian dance craze called the Melbourne Shuffle. RedFoo and SkyBlu struck gold with the inescapable party anthem, spending six weeks on top of the chart and selling seven million downloads – making it the third highest-selling digital single of all time in the US. LMFAO briefly escaped the curse of the dance craze by repeating the success of “Party Rock Anthem” with follow-up single “Sexy And I Know It,” but their current hiatus indicates that all that shuffling and crotch wiggling finally took its toll.
7. “Ai Se Eu Te Pego,” Michel Teló (2012)
This has been a really quirky chart year. A Korean pop star riding an invisible horse and a gangly Australian songsmith in body paint reached the upper reaches of the Hot 100, while a relatively unknown Brazilian singer called Michel Teló crawled to #81 stateside with his international novelty hit “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”. The catchy pop song reached #1 in nine countries and sold 16 million downloads worldwide, based largely on the intricate dance which has become a staple at soccer matches in Europe and South America. Learn the steps here.
8. “The Ketchup Song,” Las Ketchup (2002)
In 2002, “The Ketchup Song” picked up where the “Macarena” left off. The instructional dance anthem became an instant party favorite around the world and topped the charts in 26 countries. Spanish trio Las Ketchup hoped lightning would strike twice with a classy Eurovision entry called “Un Blodymary” (“A Bloody Mary”), but it could only manage 21st place in the annual competition and they disappeared into the pop ether.