Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Culture: Viva Forever and the 17-Year Rule

TORONTO, ONTARIO - About a year ago, this blog mentioned The Imbayakunas, an Andean-Canadian group that was performing near the base of the CN Tower in Toronto. They've been back on a number of dates this year, and when I take the volunteer post in the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre at the foot of the 6213 steam locomotive on one of those days, they can be heard playing in the background.

While most of their repertoire is classic Andean music or at least in some way related to it (Simon and Garfinkel's "El Condor Pasa" was, in fact, derived from a Andean folk song), the group includes some popular music. I'd grown used to them playing Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" and The Eagles' "Hotel California." This past weekend, though, I heard a new melody coming from the pan flutes, rondador, drums, and other instruments--"Viva Forever" by the Spice Girls.

I have to admit that as much as I've been somewhat dismissive of the semi-manufactured Spice Girls, I've always thought "Viva Forever" was actually a pretty good pop ballad. A collaboration between the group and producers Matthew Rowe and Richard Stannard, it has a catchy melody and the lyrics mixing Spanish and English are reasonably creative. I happened to be in Europe when it was at the peak of its popularity there in late summer 1998, so there was no way I could miss it--unlike in the US, where the single was never even released (though it was part of the "Spiceworld" album). It's the only Spice Girls song that has ever made any of my personal play lists. Apparently Pavarotti thought it was worthy too, since he did a collboration with the group and included it on one of his own albums.

I've noticed in my lifetime that many songs tend to come back with a cover version that is in some way musically superior to the original. To cite two examples off my lifetime top-10 list, the 1986 Crowded House hit "Don't Dream It's Over" returned seventeen years later in 2003 with a Sixpence None The Richer cover, and the 1988 Roxette single "Listen to Your Heart" returned seventeen years later in 2005 with a dance version but also an amazing unplugged version from D.H.T.

My prediction is obvious: In the summer of 2015, seventeen years after its original release, some group is going to do a cover of "Viva Forever" that will blow the Spice Girls away. Maybe they'll even include instrumentals from the Imbayakunas.

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