OK, here’s the hamster scoop: Last fall a U.K. indie-artsy outfit named the Cuban Boys took note of the wacky hamster sample (manipulated from the old Roger Miller country-novelty track “Whistle Stop”) on the popular (and now defunct) hamsterdance.com Web site. (Dancing hamsters, big with six-year-olds, who knows why?) The Cubans slapped some dullish prog-keyboard riffs over Rog’s yodeling, sent it to famed DJ John Peel as their umpteenth submission, and what the hell—he bit, the track exploded on U.K. radio, and it became a top five hit (“Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia”) around Xmas. But quickly after, some Germans had the right idea: They decked the same yodeling up with a slamming Eurodance beat, some utterly wack David Seville and the Chipmunks rodent raps, and best of all, giant hunks of Vengaboys doofus one-finger organ interludes.
THAT is the version that’s topped the charts around most of the world, by the eponymous (and now visible on hampsterdance2.com) “Hampton the Hampster.” (The word eponym means the mythical thing after which something is named. So unless an expert on mythology comes forward with evidence to the contrary, I’m going to assume “Hampton the Hampster” means “big giant hamster that came from outer space just south of Stonehenge,” which would fit it right into the Webster’s slot.) American radio being the dim-witted challenged-child of the G-pop (say it again: “global pop”) world, “The Hampsterdance Song” has been consigned stateside to the pop underground, topping the charts on Radio Disney and finding itself in good company there with another fab non-hit current novelty, “I Want to Be a Millionaire” by Jack & Jemma, from the TV show’s “soundtrack” CD. (The new pop underground’s major outposts are Radio Disney and the Nick/Fox Fam/Disney channels, which Billboard keeps correctly pointing out are now major niche players in breaking new acts w/o any help from CHR radio or the press. And by now “novelty rock” occupies a regular little automatic % of those outposts’ G-pop turf, just ’cause of the age groups they’re extending down to.) Where “Millionaire” holds up like any great chirpy-squeaky Aqua or Toy-Box track, “Hampsterdance” is in another classic novelty mode: For the first 30 hearings it sounds like the greatest thing ever recorded, but then after the 31st you find yourself wanting to go, uh . . . shoot a few hamsters.
The across-the-board current novelty-dance hit that surely everyone’s heard by now, though, is “Who Let the Dogs Out” by self-described “junkanoo” kings the Baha Men. (“Junkanoo” being some kinda Caribbean offshoot, even touching very early KC & the Sunshine Band’s official history; according to late-’60s/early-’70s r&b/soul singer Clarence Reid’s bio—he cowrote a bunch of hits, “Clean Up Woman” and “Rockin’ Chair” included, and was also the guy who did “Blowfly” records as his X-rated alter ego—it was he, working out of Miami his whole career, who hipped KC to junkanoo music. Since I’ve never heard Hanson’s old mid-’90s cover of the Baha Men song “Back to the Island,” I disclaim any opinion . . . I’m just passing the info on.)
Radio Disney actually plays two different mixes of “Who Let the Dogs Out”: Mostly the full-bore Eurodance mix with honking organ (awesome), but just recently also a more bare-bones mix (boring). At Shea Stadium last week, 52,000 people barked along to the Eurodance mix at the end of a Mets game; the next day, the Baha Men played the album version live at the end of a Backstreet Boys-appearance TRL, and their three new singers (Bahas not Backstreets) were indeed pretty wild. (Apparently Backstreet set a new TRL wild-in-the-street record; there were about 4000 fans in Times Square. None of ’em singing the Baha Men song.) This song is flat-out inspired, looney-tune near-genius at work. Plain old nonsampled human voices as barking dogs for rhythm effect, why not? And the video makes the Bloodhound Gang look like Rhodes scholars.
When wondering out loud a while back if the pop world was in a pre-Beatles phase (a good thing, say I), I hardly dreamed that the Chipmunks, Bobby “Boris” Pickett, and Nervous Norvus were also coming along for the ride under modern guise. “Hampsterdance,” “Millionaire,” “Dogs,” and the BH Gang’s “Bad Touch” is ‘n fact an extraordinary amount of novelty tunes for barely six months, and three of the four work as great music anyway. (I’ll let Alvin and his gang figure out what to do with “Hampsterdance.”)
I dunno if the wacky stuff is a blip or a real trend; such is the wonder of the new millennium’s G-pop world order. (Again: “global pop,” altho it also works just fine as “garbage pop,” the original term kindly coined by my fellow music fan KM Shattuck, of Orange, CA, and the Muffs. And G-pop also stands for “groovy,” or any darned thing you want it to. And the man can’t bust our music, ha ha.)
So what’s next, an old-style break-in novelty record (à la Buchanan and Goodman), calling all the girls (Mandy, Britney, Christina, Jessica, and the other half dozen) trying to get a date? Or vice versa, even more obviously: I’d title it “Prom Date 2001,” and whichever boybander is the last call wins. Suggests all the obvious promotional tie-ins, like a real-life prom escort by Nick or Aaron Carter, or whoever’s got that day free. Maybe all five of 2Ge+her?