The Rhythm of the Night
April 19, 2020
Todd plays "The Rhythm of the Night" on the piano.
CORONA - THE RHYTHM OF THE NIGHT
A one-hit wonder retrospective
Todd: You know, I don't do a lot of timely episodes on this show.
Clip of trailer for...Todd (VO): Like, uh, hey, that Us trailer brought back "I Got 5 On It". Should have done a One Hit Wonderland on that.
Todd: And, just, I just didn't get around to it. Moment passed. I'd get a lot more clicks if I wasn't so lazy. Well, here's an opportunity.
Clip of Corona - "The Rhythm of the Night"
Olga Souza: This is the rhythm of the night
The night, oh yeahTodd (VO): Uh, okay. There's, uh, this song that's been on people's minds lately. You know, uh, "Rhythm of the Night"...
Todd: ...by the band... [single cover for "The Rhythm of the Night" by...] ...Corona?
Todd (VO): People have been bringing that one up a lot more lately.
Todd: For obvious reasons. You don't need me to tell you why that one's coming back. The Black Eyed Peas sampled it recently.
Clip of Black Eyed Peas ft. J Balvin - "RITMO (Bad Boys for Life)"
Olga: This is the rhythm of the night
will.i.am: Baby tonight's like fuegoTodd (VO): The Black Eyed Peas are back, by the way. 2020 really is the worst year ever.
Todd: But yes, "The Rhythm of the Night" by the Eurodance act Corona.
Clip of "The Rhythm of the Night"
Olga: ...could put some joy upon my faceTodd (VO): A hit in the winter of '94 and '95. Decently big, but not, like, inescapably massive or anything. Before this year, I don't know this was really considered especially important or nostalgic.
Todd: Wasn't forgotten exactly, but...
Montage clips of Haddaway - "What Is Love?", No Mercy - "Where Do You Go?" and Real McCoy - "Another Night"Todd (VO): ...it was one of many Eurodance songs that hit in the early and mid-'90s, and that whole scene didn't gain a whole lot of devotion. There weren't stans or fanzines for [album cover for Best of Real McCoy: Another Night by...] Real McCoy or anything.
Todd: But you know what? '90s nostalgia has turned out much different than I expected. Especially the '90s music that's still influential right now.
Video for "The Rhythm of the Night"Todd (VO): I had never given a single thought to Corona's "The Rhythm of the Night". I don't know that I'd ever even listened to it the whole way through. I was a small child, [clip of infomercial for Dance Hits Supermix 2 compilation CD] I'd probably only remember it from dance compilation commercials on TV. [clip of "RITMO (Bad Boys for Life)"] And yet, the second I heard that Black Eyed Peas song, I had no difficulty remembering it. That is not a hook you forget.
Todd: So maybe it's time for a reevaluation of Corona and their biggest hit.
Video for "The Rhythm of the Night"Todd (VO): I mean, [sighs] timing isn't great, as I sit here recording this in April 2020, and all of us are trapped in our houses being terrorized by a fucking plague.
Todd: And by that, I am again, of course, referring to the return of the Black Eyed Peas.
Todd (VO): But Corona's making a comeback all the same. There is one name on...
Todd: ...everyone's mind right now, and that name is... Okay, I worry that this is coming off kinda tasteless of me. Uh, well you know what? I've seen...
Clip of Italian DJ on balcony playing "The Rhythm of the Night"Todd (VO): ...videos of those Italian balcony DJs. You know what they're playing? This song.
Olga: This is the rhythm of the nightTodd: If they're okay with it, I'm okay with it.
Crowd: Oh yeahTodd (VO): I mean, I'll try and keep the pandemic jokes...
Todd: ...to a minimum, but...
Shot of YouTube comment: "Today, Corona is the most popular group of the year #1 trend in China, Italy and America and goes viral in Europe, Iran, Arab countries, Brazil,Turkey,Argentina Chile and East Asia"Todd (VO): ...I mean, if you want, you can go check out the comments under the actual music video. They're...they're actually pretty funny.
Todd: It's funny to me at least. Granted, I am day-drinking at [holds up beer bottle] 11 a.m., which is now 6 p.m. by my fucked-up sleep schedule, so you know what? We're doing this. We can't go out and dance to it, so we'll have to do it in our rooms here, you know. Let's check out "The Rhythm of the Night". [starts mumbling "Rhythm of the Night" by DeBarge] Da-da da da-da rhythm of the night. [mumbles rest of lyrics] No, that's the other one, isn't it? You know which one I mean.
Clip of "The Rhythm of the Night"
Olga: Rhythm of the night
This is the rhythm of the nightBefore the hit
Todd: You know, it's weird that certain countries have, like, pop stereotypes. [promotional image of Girls' Generation] I know what Korean music is supposed to sound like, I know what [album cover for The Man-Machine by Kraftwerk] Germany is supposed to sound like. ["The Sign" plays over promotional image of Ace of Base] I know what Sweden is supposed to sound like, but I've never seen Italian pop pick up a stereotype exactly. Which is weird because Italy defined pop music for years. [image of The Best of Italo House] So much so that the genre was named after it.
Video for Eiffel 65 - "Blue (Da Ba Dee)"Todd (VO): I have covered an Italian act on this show before, but...their sound always struck me as kinda Scandinavian.
Todd: I'm talking about the very first wave of house music.
Todd (VO): Yes, the phenomenon that swept the world. Especially Italy. It did not start in Italy, but once it reached its shores, clubs were soon filled beyond capacity as this infectious craze feverishly overtook the entire nation.
Todd: [pause; looks at script] Yeah, I probably need to rephrase all of that. Okay, note to self, delete all that from the final cut. Don't forget, Todd.
Todd (VO): Okay, but specifically we're talking about Italy's special take on the genre, Italo house. Italo house kind of overlaps with [clip of Snap! - "The Power"] Eurodance, which...basically encompasses every single early '90s dance song you can think of. And I'm still kind of an idiot when it comes to most dance music.
Todd: But Italo house I can usually recognize right away.
Video for Black Box - "Ride on Time"Todd (VO): It has a very distinct sound, especially that piano.
Todd: Like, any dance music with a lot of piano chords like...[plays along on piano] There, that's Italo house.
Video for Lee Marrow - "Don't Stop the Music"Todd (VO): But our story begins before the rise of Italo house, in the waning days of Italo disco.
Lee Marrow: You gotta do it
You gotta do itThere we meet our aspiring pop star, Lee Marrow. [album cover for The Best of Lee Marrow] If you're wondering why he has an English name, uh well, his real name is Francesco Bontempi. I guess he was shooting for the English market since his songs were in English.
Todd: Unfortunately, the only hits he ever had [image of map of Europe with Germany, Switzerland, and Austria highlighted] got big in German-speaking countries. And if you're thinking Italian with an English name being popular in Germany is weird, uh...wait til you hear it.
Clip of Lee Marrow - "Shanghai"Todd laughs
Todd: This has not aged well!
Lee: Here in ShanghaiTodd (VO): I think this comes from the lineage of other exotic '80s pop songs. You know [brief clips of...] "Africa", "One Night in Bangkok", "China Girl". That all kind of banked on old stereotypes from old movies.
Todd: But I'm not sure he's even doing that right.
Clip of "Shanghai"
Lee: Free in Shanghai
You can laugh, you can dance, you can flyTodd (VO): Shanghai is a place of freedom to relax. Like, this is not a stereotype I know. Yeah, and the...the rice hat and the kimono, and the [hums Oriental riff]. Yeah. Yeah, all that stuff is probably best forgotten.
Todd: Okay, well he had a second minor hit in Germany also. Let's check that out.
Clip of Lee Marrow - "Sayonara (Don't Stop)"
Female Singer: Sayonara, don't stop
Sayonara, don't stopTodd can only bury his face in his hands
Female Singer: Sayonara, don't stopTodd: Stick with what you know, I guess. Even if what you know is making a song about places you don't know anything about.
Female Singer: Sayonara, don't stopTodd (VO): Okay, "sayonara" and "don't stop" feel a little contradictory to me.
Todd: I'm not entirely sure he knows what "sayonara" means.
I love you even if you're strangeTodd (VO): Woof.
Todd: Okay, well that about does it for Lee Marrow's solo career.
Video for Lee Marrow ft. Lipstick - "Do You Want Me"Todd (VO): He kept putting out his own records without success for a few years. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of information about when or why Lee Marrow switched to his new project, Corona...
Todd: ...but I can speculate that he noticed the new house music that was springing up.
Todd (VO): He did try to get in on that, too, but I guess he realized that operating under his own name was a liability.
Todd: That scene had a pretty specific sound and image, and it wasn't mumbly middle-aged men.
Clip of Black Box - "Ride on Time"Todd (VO): No, you need a classic soul-gospel type belter with a really loud voice.
Todd: So I can only assume that's why he started Corona.
Clip of Corona live performance
Olga: Believe me, babyTodd (VO): He grabbed a singer. That's Brazilian model, Olga Souza. I've seen clips of them performing through the early '90s, but they don't release a song until late 1993.
Todd: And that is what we'll be looking at today!
The big hit
Clip of live performance of Say When! - "Save Me"Todd (VO): The original "Rhythm of the Night" has nothing to do with rhythms or nights. It began life as a completely different song called [single cover for...] "Save Me" by the Italian group, Say When!.
Todd: I could find out absolutely nothing about this group. I don't think they ever had much success.
Say When: A little boy is lost in spaceTodd (VO): The verses of this song are pretty close to the version we know, but it has an entirely different chorus.
Say When: Save me, save me
When you lose controlWhen Corona got their hands on this song, they threw out the hook completely.
Todd: Possibly because he...
Video for Stevie Nicks - "Stand Back"Todd (VO): ...didn't want to be sued by Stevie Nicks.
Stevie Nicks: Stand back, stand backTodd: Yeah.
Video for "The Rhythm of the Night"Todd (VO): So, the version we know has an entirely different chorus, which is good 'cause...this song is basically all chorus.
Olga: This is the rhythm of the night
The nightThat booming hook is written in my brain, but I couldn't have given you a note of the verses. It's not like the chorus is like thought-provoking lyricism or anything, but it does grab hold of you.
Todd: So what about it has made it persistent in the memory bank so long while...
Video for Cathy Dennis - "Touch Me (All Night Long)"Todd (VO): ...say "Touch Me" by Cathy Dennis has been completely lost to time?
Todd: Well, we'll get back to that.
Video for "The Rhythm of the Night"Todd (VO): But I'll be honest, I got completely derailed while researching this song. I can barely think about the song now 'cause as it turns out, Corona...
Todd: ...are liars! Pack of lying, liar lie-faces!
Clip of Milli Vanilli - "Girl You Know It's True"
Milli Vanilli: Girl, you know it's trueTodd (VO): One of the biggest controversies of the '90s, back when we had comparatively little of importance to worry about, was Milli Vanilli. They made a few terrible, but very popular songs... [clip of Milli Vanilli perofrming on MTV] and then it turned out it wasn't even them making those terrible songs.
Rob Pilatus: So, we give this Grammy back now.
Clip of interview with Martha WashOn the back of that, former Weather Girl, Martha Wash, also started making a stink about how [clips of C+C Music Factory - "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)"...] she had sung the biggest hits of the early '90s, [...and Black Box - "Strike It Up"] including some of the really big Italo house hits and yet there was a bunch of skinny bitches in the videos pretending to be her.
Clip of Martha Wash performanceTodd (VO): So after that, I assume everyone learned their lesson and cut it out with the lip syncing.
Todd: But upon further research that is not remotely true. It didn't stop for a second.
Clip of - ""Todd: [sarcastically while giving a thumbs up] Convincing.
Video for "The Rhythm of the Night"Todd (VO): In this specific case, Olga Souza is not the voice you hear there.
Olga: Oh, I can ease you of your painThat voice belongs to [single cover for "Anche Tu" by...] Giovanna Bersola, also known as Jenny B.
Jenny B: This is the rhythm of the night
The nightTodd (VO): I have no idea why no one got angry about this one. Might have been because...[clip of Olga Souza performing "The Rhythm of the Night"] I think Olga did perform live. I mean, she's singing along with Jenny B's backing track, but she is at least singing. Or it may be that everyone just realized that this isn't indie rock.
Todd: [shrugs] It's dance music. No one actually cares.
Clip of Jenny B performanceTodd (VO): I have no idea why Jenny B didn't just become the frontwoman. It's not like she's not photogenic or anything.
Todd: And Jenny B's voice is apparently super important here if I can still hear it in my head twenty-five years later.
Clip of "The Rhythm of the Night"
Olga: I know you wanna say it
This is the rhythm of the nightTodd (VO): Olga is, you know, a decent singer herself, but Jenny B's voice cuts through everything.
Todd: And I don't think this is, like, the best Eurodance song. I'd put "Rhythm Is a Dancer", or "Ride on Time" above it.
Todd (VO): But I think that one line hits the appeal of this entire genre.
Olga: This is the rhythm of the nightTodd: [shrugs] This is the rhythm of the night.
Video for DeBarge - "Rhythm of the Night"Todd (VO): DeBarge was the first band to name a hit, "Rhythm of the Night", but...that song doesn't sound like the night to me at all.
Bunny DeBarge: To the beat of the rhythm of the nightIt's too happy, it's not intense enough.
Todd: That's a daytime song if there ever was one.
Video for "The Rhythm of the Night"Todd (VO): You want a little night music, you want to go out clubbing and have some fun, music like this is still what I imagine twenty-five years later. And the thing is, even though I said the verses didn't matter...
Todd: ...the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate the verses.
Olga: Won't you teach me how to love and learnTodd (VO): I've always had a soft spot for dance songs where you go out dancing to escape total misery. And that's kinda what it's about. It's a very desperate sounding song.
Todd: Which is funny because the verses come from a completely different song, they have almost nothing to do with the new chorus...
Olga: Oh, I can ease you of your painTodd (VO): Like, the original song was about romance. You know, "You can save me, I can save you from loneliness and so on, and so on." It has nothing to do with rhythm at all.
Todd: In fact, there's a line about how you can be my sunshine or something?
Olga: Oh, sunshine in an empty placeTodd: I thought this was "The Rhythm of the Night"?!
Todd (VO): But in an abstract kind of way, the verses and chorus kinda connect anyway. The rhythm is love, love is dance, dance is the night. It makes sense when you're listening to it.
Todd: I think that's why it's stuck around as long as it has.
Video for Sean Finn & Corona - "The Rhythm of the Night"Todd (VO): The Black Eyed Peas were not even the first to bring this song back recently. Last year, there was a remix that briefly charted. [clip of Bastille - "Of the Night"] In 2013, Bastille did a bizarre cover mash-up of it and "Rhythm Is a Dancer". I can totally see why a semi-gothy dramatic band like Bastille would be attracted to it. ["The Rhythm of the Night"] It's one of those dance songs that makes dancing seem like the most important, soul-cleansing thing you can possibly be doing.
Todd: And if you feel a little excluded from that 'cause you can't dance, well...don't worry.
Todd (VO): Olga doesn't seem like much of a dancer herself.
Olga: The night, oh yeahTodd does an impression of Olga dancing in the video
Olga: The rhythm of the nightTodd (VO): Oh, man. Rhythm is a dancer. And lack of rhythm is also a dancer.
Todd: She can't dance, they don't let her sing. Why did they pick her to begin with?
The failed follow-up
Video for Corona - "Baby Baby"Todd (VO): As is typical for the acts on this show, Corona are only one-hit wonders in the States. They had two or three more hits across Europe.
Todd: I could probably start making this show about actual one-hit wonders, but for now I'm gonna stick with my provincial definition of one-hit wonder like the ignorant, ugly American that I am.
Olga: Baby, babyTodd (VO): The album finally came out in 1995. And if you were upset about the lip syncing and about Jenny B's credit being stolen, it might make you glad to know that only happened for the one song.
Todd: For the rest of the album, Olga Souza lip synced to a [single cover for "Play My Music" by...] completely different woman. Her name is Sandy Chambers.
Clip of live performance of "Baby Baby"
Olga: Everytime that you're by my side
I can't get...Todd (VO): For what it's worth, I don't know if anyone in the band ever confirmed the lip syncing. I was a little nervous that this might be a false rumor that got misreported.
Todd: But, like...that's clearly not the same voice that sang "Rhythm of the Night".
Olga: Cold chill down on my spineTodd (VO): I'm not great at picking out different voices, but, like, listening to this...
Todd: ...I would have to wonder when Olga Souza picked up a British accent!
Clip of "Baby Baby"
Olga: Why can't we just stay togetherTodd (VO): But as we've already established, no one cares. I don't even know why they bothered having a frontwoman at all. I guess they wanted to seem like real pop stars, so they needed to put a face to the voice.
Todd: It didn't work. [shrugs] It's hard to give your band a personality when there's not the actual person singing!
Clip of David Guetta performing at Ultra Music FestivalTodd (VO): Now, your modern EDM producers have realized that they don't need an actual face there at all.
Todd: But I guess at the time, you needed to pretend to be a real band if you wanted to get on MTV.
Video for "Baby Baby"Todd (VO): In any case, this is their second hit, "Baby Baby". #1 in Italy, top 10 in twelve countries. Is it any good? [pause] Um...
Todd: The thing about Eurodance or, you know, at least the very big hits of Eurodance is, uh...it all kinda sounds the same.
Todd (VO): Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm sure there are people who are more into this stuff that'll get on me for saying that. Like, "La Bouche is completely different from Culture Beat. What's wrong with you?" Yeah, sure. But you still know what you're gonna get.
Todd: Like, all these songs, they have the soulful chorus, the pounding beat, some kind of instrumental riff in the middle.
Clip of Corona - "Try Me Out"
Olga: Try me out, please baby try me outTodd (VO): Some are more memorable than others, but the formula's basically the same. And generally when I'm doing these episodes, I find that I agree with the weight of history. If one song seems to have outlasted all the other hits, there's usually a reason.
Todd: A lot of Eurodance songs were annoying, these included.
Todd (VO): They all feel a little generic to me, and they don't have that sense of drama that "Rhythm of the Night" had. Corona's thing that made them stick out was that [clip of Real McCoy - "Another Night"] unlike their peers, they didn't have any rapping. [pause] Honestly, they maybe...
Todd: ...could've used a second voice to add a little bit of flavor.
Video for Corona - "I Don't Wanna Be a Star"Todd (VO): The one follow-up hit of theirs that sticks out to me is, "I Don't Wanna Be a Star".
Olga: I don't wanna be a star, oh babyIt's one of the first nu-disco songs. It's one of the first signs that people were realizing that disco actually wasn't that bad. But I wouldn't really put this up there with, like, Daft Punk or even Jamiroquai or anything.
Olga: I don't wanna be a star, oh babyTodd: Eh, don't worry. You won't be.
Did they ever do anything else?
Clip of Corona - "Walking on Music"
Olga: Walking on music, yeahTodd (VO): I'm not exactly sure what happened here...but, around 1996/97 their label just spontaneously collapsed.
Todd: Yeah, there's not a lot of information out there about one little Italian record label, but... [image of logo for...] Disco Magic Records went bankrupt. Corona switched over to Lee Marrow's own record label, but...
Todd (VO): ...that appears to have tanked the band completely. No one listened to Corona's second album. [image of map of...] Except in Spain. They still hit the top 10 in Spain for some reason.
Todd: But other than that, yeah. Not so great.
Video for Corona - "The Power of Love"Todd (VO): After that, Marrow quit the band and let other producers handle it. Corona kept putting out records, and Olga was finally allowed to do her own singing. But I can't tell you for sure that Corona was sunk by bad business or even bad music.
Todd: Corona got in on Eurodance when it was at its peak. It was all downhill from there.
Clip of The Chemical Brothers - "Block Rockin' Beats"
Chemical Brothers: Back with another one of those block rockin' beatsTodd (VO): After that, dance music shifted rapidly. [brief clips of Fatboy Slim - "The Rockafeller Skank"...] Big beat, [...and Aqua - "Barbie Girl"...] bubblegum dance. [clip of Corona live performance] Olga took to Brazil for a while. Their sound got a lot more Latin American, and eventually they went back to Europe where they've just continually kept putting out singles and touring.
Todd: Their hit-making days are well behind them, but they seem to be doing fine.
Did they deserve better?
Todd: Not really. Even if it was, I don't think this is the time for me to say, "Yes, we all needed more Corona!" [throws hands up]
Clip of "The Rhythm of the Night"
Olga: This is the rhythm of the nightTodd (VO): As with all things, Corona could not last forever.
Todd: Ha, fingers crossed.
Todd (VO): But these dance acts, they're not meant to be listened to like rock bands or pop stars with, like, biographies and personal attachments.
Todd: Except for the members of the band themselves, I don't think anyone really wanted or needed anything more from them.
Todd (VO): And yet their biggest hit really has stood the test of time. A lot more than much bigger hits have in hindsight. And of course, they're suddenly back in the spotlight now, and...you know, they're not thrilled about it.
Todd: And yet, the negative association seems to have helped people appreciate this song more.
Olga: The rhythm of the nightTodd (VO): If people play this band now, it's in defiance of the stupid virus that shares their name. People are still dancing to it even if only in their own homes.
Todd: [shrugs] That's not a terrible legacy to have.
Olga: This is the rhythm of the nightClosing Tag Song: Hermes House Band - "The Rhythm of the Night"
"The Rhythm of the Night" is owned by ZYX Records
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!!