The year 1999 gave us a gift, and took one away from us. It blessed us with “Mambo Number 5 (a Little Bit of…)“, an all-time one-hit-wonder hit where a 24-year-old Ugandan-Sicilian from West Germany bragged about all the girls he liked over instrumentals from a 1949 Cuban big band song. That song was performed by David Lubega, who you know better as Lou Bega, and we can’t get over the fact that Lou Bega’s stage name is just his last name with a space put in the middle of it.
1999 also took away a unique talent who really couldn’t have become famous any other time than the 1990s, since “a 53-year-old piano player with a severe stutter decided to scat over hip hop beats in an over-sized zoot suit” is a sentence that only ends with “selling millions of records in the process” between the years of 1994 and 1999. That 53-year-old stutterer was Scatman John, born John Paul Larkin, who passed away of lung cancer just months after Bega’s rise to fifteen minutes of fame.
The significance of that year used to be all that Lou Bega and Scatman John had in common, but no longer. Thanks to friend-of-AFFotD sarahindie, we were introduced to the best/worst/who-can-tell-anymore song we’ve heard all year.
Please before you go on, listen to the song. You’ll be glad you did.
Now, we know you have a lot of questions. Like, “What did I just listen to?” and, “Wait so Lou Bega’s decided to call himself the hatman? He has never been known as the hatman, right?” and also, “Do I love this song or do I hate it?” All of these are impossible to answer, so we will just make a list of THOUGHTS we have about this video, because we can’t pay attention to anything else right now.
- If anything good came from this song (which, again, if you’ve made it this far and have not listened to it, DO SO NOW IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE) it’s that it’s nice to think about Scatman John again. He’s doing about 80% of the heavy lifting of this song from behind the grave, because Scatman’s hooks still slay in 2019
- Speaking of Scatman John, we can’t get over how weird it is that he became such a big star. Here’s a quick rundown of our man Scat. He grew up with a severe stutter, and was bullied regularly because of it. He found solace in learning piano, and became a professional jazz pianist in the 70s and 80s. In 1990, he started trying to sing after moving to Berlin, and when his producer suggested he combine scat singing with hip hop effects and dance music, his wife further encouraged him to address his stutter head on. As a result, the song “Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)” is a song that is composed 50% of scat and 50% of inspirational lyrics about how he has overcome his stutter and you can too.
- We can’t stress this enough. This was a huge hit. It was a number 1 hit in 14 countries, and peaked at 60 on the Billboard hot 100 chart, and pretty much the only actual lyrics in the song are of a 50-something guy speak-rapping “everybody stutters one way or the other/ so check out my message to you/ as a matter of fact I don’t let nothin’ hold you back/ if the Scatman can do it so can you.” That’s our favorite thing now?
- Now for the song. Let’s crunch some numbers, shall we?
- 2: The number of references to “mambo” in here, which frankly shows a lot of restraint as far as we’re concerned.
- 7: The number of dancers hired. Let’s break that down more, shall we?
- 4: women who largely dance together with a dead look in their eyes that says “we were paid $100 in Percocet to do this”
- 3: guys who never dance together, but are always mirrored so it looks like it’s three people dancing when they’re on screen.
- 5: The number of various brimmed hats Lou Bega is wearing at once at the end of the video.
- Can we talk about Lou Bega’s lyrics? Because we don’t think even Lou Bega wants to talk about Lou Bega’s lyrics. Bega starts singing, “Shorty I’m not stoppin’, on a worldwide tour/ now everybody scatting, mix it up to the sound of the mambo.” It’s like Bega has created an alternate universe where the mambo and scat music only grew more and more popular from 1999 onward, as opposed to the world where we live in where they were one-time novelty acts. That’s some The Man in the High Castle level alternate-history world-building there.
- Also! Also! The non-scat chorus is literally “Scatman and Hatman (travel in time)/ Scatman and Hatman (going online)” and in the video Lou Bega pantomimes what it’s like when he goes online, and it’s the best thing. Invent the technology to put this GIF on our fucking tombstones.
- Just an aside but Lou Bega is 44, which is both way younger than we expected him to be, but also, for 44, he’s still got it. Credit where credit’s due.
- “Scatman and Hatman” is Bega’s first new single in 6 years, but it continues Bega’s proud tradition of never really writing his own song. Lou Bega made a career of taking other people’s songs, adding some flair to it, and calling it a day. “Mambo Number 5” is literally referred to as a “remake.” His last album was called, and if we were making this up we’d be making much more money as fiction writers, “A little bit of 80s” and yes, it was just Lou Bega covering 80s songs.
- THIS SONG SHOULD BE EITHER THE MOST POPULAR SONG IN THE WORLD OR MADE ILLEGAL IN ALL FIRST WORLD COUNTRIES.
- We’ll get back to the song, we swear, but if you’ve not listened to Lou Bega’s “Come On Eileen” you must. The moment he started singing (which um, singing is not really his forte, which is weird because we don’t think he actually plays any instruments…) we laughed harder than we have in years.
- Anyway, we’re wondering who runs Scatman Jones estate, because he gets a co-credit on this song, which is the first time Lou Bega’s ever given anyone credit for any of the songs he’s “remade.”
- As of writing the writing of this article, “Scatman and Hatman” has over 2 million streams on Spotify and the video has over 1.5 million views on YouTube. While that’s not exactly the “Song of the summer” that Bega wanted it to be, but it’s both way more hits than the song should have gotten and way fewer hits than the song deserves.
- Also, this is a song that by all accounts should be ridiculed mercilessly, right? But it’s got about 70K upvotes to just 2K downvotes on its music video. Guys, what…what if this song actually bangs?
Okay and with that we have officially exhausted our talking points about this song. Thank you for indulging us, America, it was really important that we get that out there. Now if you’ll excuse us we’re going to listen to this about eighteen more times.