Bailamos: meaning and flamenco roots of Enrique Iglesias' first hit

Enrique Iglesias' CD cover
Enrique Iglesias' CD cover
Bailamos remains one of Enrique Iglesias' best-known songs originally recorded for his 1998 album Cosas del Amor but released a year later on the soundtrack album for Barry Sonnenfeld's 1999 film Wild Wild West starring Will Smith. Subsequently, the track was included in Iglesias' debut English-language album Enrique and became his first international hit topping the Billboard Hot 100.
Will Smith reportedly heard Bailamos while attending one of Iglesias' concerts in March 1999 and later asked him to contribute the song for the soundtrack of his upcoming movie.
Originally written in Spanglish, Bailamos lyrics (literally meaning We Dance) are quite simple and revolve around the narrator's pleas for his dance partner to forget the shut out the world and dance with him through the night. The song was composed by award-winning British songwriters Paul Barry and Mark Taylor who penned dozens of pop hits artists like Cher, Tina Turner, Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga, and Jennifer Lopez.
Listen to Bailamos by Enrique Iglesias:
Compositionally, Bailamos follows the tonal theory, combining the Aeolian mode with the harmonic minor scale—a common technique seen in many Latin pop hits. In the harmonic analysis of the verse chord chains, the scale degrees (denoted with Roman numerals) show the following progressions in the key of A minor:
  1. Am–Dm–G–F–Am or i–iv–VII–VI–i;
  2. Am–Dm–G–F–E or i–iv–VII–VI–V;
  3. Am–Dm–C–G–E or i–iv–III–VII–V.
Progressions 2 and 3 close with the E major chord rooted in the fifth scale degree—a typical compositional technique known as the half authentic cadence and used in classical music to complete musical phrases. Marked in red, the E chord is a part of the harmonic minor scale and does not belong to the Aeolian mode which should contain the minor dominant chord rooted in the fifth scale degree.
Here are the progressions that accompany each line of the chorus:
  1. Am–G–F–Am or i–VII–VI–i;
  2. Am–G–F–Am or i–VII–VI–i;
  3. Am–G–F–Am or i–VII–VI–i;
  4. AmGFE or iVIIVIV.
Note how the fourth line reveals the iVIIVIV chord chain called the Andalusian cadence which is highly reflective of flamenco music. Pop music loves this distinct turnaround, and quite often you will see the Andalusian progression repeated unchanged throughout an entire composition. A similar approach is found in Bob Dylan's One More Cup of Coffee, Dire Straits' Sultans of Swing, Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal, and Percy Mayfield's Hit the Road Jack as follows from our article on the distinct chord progression of flamenco that captivated all pop music genres.
Discover more songs composed in Aeolian minor mode and check out their harmonic analysis in the following articles:
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