Picture this: it’s late, you’re among friends, and you’ve taken control of the music. It’s beyond a reasonable time to be awake, so it’s beyond time for reasonable songs.
But you’re in Spain – a place where No Scrubs and Come on Eileen can not be relied upon as “never fail” songs to get everyone dancing.
You need a new, country-specific playlist. A playlist full of passion and energy, guaranteed to encourage over-enthusiastic participation from Spanish revelers.
Here is that playlist.
1.Celia Cruz - La vida es un carnaval
It’s hard to overstate the importance of Celia Cruz - one of the “best-known and most-influential figures” in Latin music history. Feel the salsa. Allow yourself to be swept away by the infectiously uplifting chorus.
2. Rafaella Carrà - Hay que venir al sur
A throwback to a simpler time, when a video could consist solely of somebody giving their all in front of a glitzy curtain. The lyrics are great fun too: “Sin amantes, quien se puede consolar; Sin amantes, este vida es infernal.” Disco, eh?
3. Las Grecas - Te estoy amando locamente
The Hendrix-inspired beginning is epic, and if you’re not throwing your soul into lines like “Prefiero no pensar,” you’re not doing it right. Check out the dance moves too – Las Grecas were champions of doing things your own way.
Te estoy amando locamente was a huge success in the early 1970s, and reached a new generation as a cult classic when it was covered by the mysterious El Chaval de La Peca in the late 1990s.
4. Los Del Río - Sevilla tiene un color especial
Feeling bold? It may be time for Los Del Río’s ringtone classic, Sevilla tiene un color especial.
A word of warning: this song can go one of two ways. I’ve seen rooms embrace dodgy sevillana dancing, and I’ve also seen rooms nope their way out of the excessively Southern vibes.
Know your audience. But put it on anyway.
5. Gipsy Kings - Volare
A song of pure beauty. Show me someone who doesn't like Gipsy Kings and I’ll show you a liar. There are so many options from the rumba group - Volare, Bamboleo, Djobi Djoba... Choose one. Choose them all. This entire playlist could probably consist solely of Gipsy Kings and you’d still be on safe ground.
6. Alaska - A quién le importa
Alaska rocks a sort of Boy George-vibe, backed by Dead or Alive synths, but this song goes a way toward explaining what Spanish people mean when they talk about punky music.
Alaska’s style and sound were at the heart of the Movida – the period of pure creative freedom across Spain in the years after Franco’s death – and the lyrics here are synonymous with freedom. Over time, A quién le importa has become a go-to gay anthem.
If your crowd digs the Movida, there’s a ton of material to play with. Famed cinematographer Almodóvar even had a go.
7. Los Manolos - Amigos para siempre
It’s tropical, it’s bright, it’s got a bit of English in it. Happy-clappy good times. A song for cementing those burgeoning friendships.
8. Sevillanas - El Adiós
There are a million versions of this song, and whichever one you choose will be perfect. Particularly relevant if somebody is leaving, and you don’t want them to go yet. Because, obviously, algo se muere en el alma cuando un amigo se va.
9. Camilo Sesto - Vivir así es morir de amor
A personal favorite. From lines like “ya no puedo mas,” which demands to be bitten off and spat back out – to the desperate cries of “¡MELANCOLÍA!,” the song carries the perfect blend of high-stakes drama and love-struck passion. When this comes on, there’s nothing to do except jump headfirst into Sesto’s unrequited love.
10. The Refrescos - Aquí no hay playa
No playlist would be complete without a bit of ska – the playfully subversive playground of the 1980s and 1990s. Bonus points for playing this in Madrid, because it’s full of references to the capital. Once you’re on this road, there’s a whole host of choices to go for. Maybe even something – gasp – slightly political.
11. Bongo Botrako - Todos los días sale el sol
A new-ish song, but come on – watch this without a smile on your face. I dare you.
Many a chipirón will be feeling it.
12. Raphael - Mi Gran Noche
If in doubt, put on Raphael. First song of the night, song to attract people back to the dance floor, song to go out on a high – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Raphael is the man for any occasion. That whisper of mischief – on full display in the chorus – also makes a stunning outing in Raphael’s charmingly hortera and unnecessarily intense video for Escandalo.
Bonus extra track
I’ll say nothing. Paquito el Chocolatero. Use at your own risk.