La Mordidita: meaning behind the three-chord Latin hit

A Quien Quiera Escuchar CD cover
A Quien Quiera Escuchar CD cover
La Mordidita is a notable Latin dance hit released by Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin in 2015. The song was written by a team of six songwriters and features a guest verse from Cuban artist Yotuel Romero.
Filmed in Colombia, the music video for La Mordidita shows Ricky Martin performing with a group of modern dancers on the streets of Cartagena. The fact that the official video exceeded 1 billion views on YouTube marks it as one of Ricky Martin's best-known songs.
Like many Latin hits of the 2010s, the Spanish lyrics reflect the party anthem trend of the time. The lyrics are sparse but effective in their main purpose of warming the crowd for the upcoming weekend party. The text nevertheless has the time to juggle a few metaphors, comparing the passion of love with a raging sea and the caress of lovers with the symbolic biting off the forbidden apple from the Garden of Eden. The meaning of the song title La Mordidita—which also forms the core of the chorus—can be translated into English as The Nibble or A Little Bite.
Watch La Mordidita (Official Video) by Ricky Martin:
The song harmony of La Mordidita is somewhat elemental and is based on the looped three-chord progression that separates it from other Ricky Martin hits such as Livin' la Vida Loca and Vente Pa' Ca, both of which are composed using more developed musical forms.
Compositionally, La Mordidita follows the classical 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 E minor: Em–Am–B or i–iv–V.
The progression closes with the B major dominant chord which anticipates the Em tonic chord at the beginning of the upcoming phrase—a technique referred to as a half authentic cadence. Marked in red, the B chord is a manifestation 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.
Discover more songs composed in Aeolian minor mode and check out their harmonic analysis in the following articles:
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