If 1996 has a summer song, it is surely Macarena.
The catchy, flirty Latin dance tune by Los Del Rio hit No. 1 on Billboard magazine's pop charts this week, it rules Top 40 radio playlists, and it has spawned the most popular line dance since the Electric Slide.
"It's huge," said Scott Shannon, program director at New York radio station WPLJ. "As big as anything we've seen in a while."
Macarena was a moderate hit on the Spanish charts after the pop-flamenco members of Los Del Rio recorded the song in 1993.
Enter U.S. music giant BMG, which purchased the group's Spanish label a year later and applied American-style marketing to the song, introducing it on cruise ships and in clubs. After RCA Records licensed it for a compilation called Macarena Club Cutz, its Latin beat caught on first in Miami and then everywhere else by the start of this summer.
"I thought we had a hit, but had no idea we had a phenomenon," said Carmen Cacciatore, RCA director of international artists and repertoire.
Los Del Rio's original version was racy enough, with lyrics that urge "give your body joy, Macarena, that your body is to give joy and good things." When American dance-music producers caught onto the song, they remixed it in the studio to accentuate the beat and pour on a little more spice.
The Bayside Boys mix, the version now topping the charts, features an English-speaking woman who offers a play-by-play of her infidelities against her boyfriend, the no-good soldier Vitorino.
But according to Ken Drew, a Massachusetts disc jockey who has played Macarena at dozens of parties and wedding receptions this summer, the song's selling point isn't the steamy plot _ it's the sizzling rhythm.
"It's got a very catchy beat," he said. "Repetitive, but fun."
And that, America has learned, means you can dance to it. "Everyone can do the dance," Drew said. "Kids and grandmas . . . everyone."
Dancing the Macarena indeed is easy and fun, though at least as hokey as, well, the Hokey Pokey. It involves a similar right hand-left hand pattern, four 90-degree turns, and a swivel of the hips.
"No foot movements," Drew said. "You can improvise a little, maybe go down to your knees, but that's it."
One quiet weeknight recently in Hoboken, N.J., there was not much dancing at Bahama Mama's, a popular club on a street lined with bars and restaurants. At the first notes of Macarena, though, the dance floor nearly filled.
Mike Jorgenson, a 24-year-old stockbroker, abandoned his beer and joined his girlfriend, Kristen Iacobelli, who was swiveling madly.
"Yes, we've been doing the Macarena all summer, every wedding we go to," Iacobelli said. "But it still gets us dancing."
Bars around the nation are holding Macarena nights, and groups are aiming for endurance records. The U.S. women's gymnastics team did a pumped-up version of the dance at an Olympic champions' exhibition.
But, like many a summer fling, the charms of Macarena may be waning. The same night dozens of people sprang to the dance floor in Hoboken, Rob Warren sat at the bar and groaned.
"No,' he muttered. "Not again."
Macarena made easy
Here's a step-by-step guide to the Macarena:
1. Right hand out
2. Left hand out
3. Right palm up
4. Left palm up
5. Right to left shoulder
6. Left hand to right shoulder
7. Right hand behind head
8. Left hand behind head
9. Right hand on left hip
10. Left hand on right hip
11. Right hand on right hip
12. Left hand on left hip
13. Wiggle hips three times
15. Quarter turn on the side and repeat