This is the ninth post in a biweekly series. Read about the series — and just what we mean by “freestyle music” — here. Freestyle Fridays post on the first and third Fridays of each month.
Yolandita Monge was born Yolanda Rosa Monge Betancourt in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico in 1955. In 1966, eleven-year-old Monge won a radio contest, and producer Julio Alers took her under his wing. She recorded, performed, and became quite popular in Puerto Rico, but her career really exploded once she moved to Mexico in the 1970s. In 1980, she signed with record label CBS Records International. She released her biggest album, “Vivencias” (which includes the song you can’t get out of your head right now) in 1988, and became Billboard’s best-selling Latin artist of the year. Monge also acted on stage and in telenovelas; her prolific success led many to compare her career to Madonna’s. Five decades after that radio contest, Yolandita still performs today!
Let’s get this out of the way: I do not speak Spanish, but even I can see the problem with the title, “Por Ti (Call Me).” Doesn’t por ti translate to for you? What’s the deal?
Well, Monge’s “Por Ti” is the Spanish version of Italian singer Spagna’s 1987 hit “Call Me,” which hit #1 in the UK, and went to #13 on the US Billboard Dance Club chart. A year after Spagna’s hit, Monge recorded a Spanish cover of the song, now titled “Por Ti.” It became an instant hit and was remixed by DJ Pablo Flores to become a club anthem in Puerto Rico and the US. Listen to the Spagna version – they are pretty much identical, musically.
But why change the lyrics? Was it simply to preserve the rhyme? I can’t find an English translation of the lyrics to “Por Ti,” so if anyone can provide one, I’ll be happy pay 1-cent per word.
When I first started exploring freestyle songs, my friend Onix sent “Por Ti” to me. I’m not sure whether to thank or curse him, because this is one of the most insidious (though happy) earworms I’ve ever encountered. For a long time, I couldn’t decide if this song was actually freestyle, or simply pop. I’ve decided “Por Ti” checks off enough freestyle boxes for me to include it in this series. It’s similar to “Only in My Dreams,” but more Latin-flavored. I also love the video: Monge’s Katie Couric bob; her massive, shoulder-padded jacket; the tightly-clad, heavily-accessorized backup dancers who are supposed to be construction workers. I could do without the Roger Ailes-approved atmosphere of workplace harassment, though.
- Number 6 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart, 1989
- Number 1, Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart, 1988
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