Gloria Estefan – Wepa
There surely must come an awful time in every pop star’s career when they realise that whatever new song they release will be automatically shunned from popular media purely because they’ve been going for so long that they’re classed as belonging to the past – even if the song is an absolute corker.
At this point, should an artist give up and just lob the song on iTunes and Spotify, blast it out on their social media and hope for the best (and an avoidance of this blog) or should they try and get mainstream promo with whatever TV and radio shows will take them in attempt to get the song out there beyond the core fan base? If nothing else, they might at least score a hit on some obscure Billboard chart.
By 2011, Gloria Estefan’s singles chart career was all but over. Her last top 40 hit had been in 2000 (Music Of My Heart with N*Sync), and the following decade had seen the release of just two albums (one in Spanish) and two greatest hits collections (which are an automatic tick in most people’s minds that an artist is no longer current). Despite this, Gloria had decided to return – once again – to her dance roots, a trick she’d tried (with middling results) on 1998’s Gloria! On this occasion she recruited Pharrell Williams, who was at the time experiencing a slight dip in popularity himself – to co-produce.
Wepa was issued as the first single from the album Miss Little Havana, premiering in June. A thundering Latin dancefloor track, on first listen this admittedly sounds like a bit of a shouty mess of a song, particularly compared to Gloria’s previous output. Lyrically there isn’t much here other than a ‘hey we’ve worked hard, now let’s party’ vibe. However, after a few listens, things fit into place and that ‘mess’ is actually Gloria and Pharrell trendsetting, with the wobbly beat and chanting of “Wepa!” coalescing to make a mighty dancefloor stomper. Had a new artist released this, it would have been classed as edgy and modern, but because pop is so brutal and Gloria has been around a long time it fell into the ‘desperate’ category instead, which is obviously completely unfair.
Given that neither Gloria nor Pharrell were hot properties at the time and mainstream radio showed not a flicker of interest, the song didn’t go anywhere. If only she’d waited a couple of years and released this in 2013 when Pharrell was at his Get Lucky/ Blurred Lines peak – things might have been very different. Sadly, Gloria has a bit of form when it comes to being just a little ahead of the curve – in 1998 Gloria! was halfway through its campaign when Cher dropped Believe, temporarily suspending the dancefloor’s upper age limit – but only, it seemed, for one pop star. I will never forgive H from Steps for stating during a review of the song on Live & Kicking’s ‘Hit Miss or Maybe’ segment that with Don’t Let This Moment End Gloria was copying Cher’s success.
What also didn’t help was that the video for the song didn’t debut until three months after its release, at a time when the title track of the album was being presented as a ‘buzz’ single. Even an attempt to appeal to the LOLpop crowd through a remix (one of apparently forty-three official ones!) featuring LOLpop king himself Pitbull couldn’t help. And with no dedicated UK push for the song, Wepa didn’t trouble the digital charts over here. Saying that, every cloud does have a silver lining, and as I mentioned earlier, every flop has an obscure Billboard chart to call home – Wepa hit no.3 on the Tropical Songs countdown.
Entered chart: Did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? The distinctive chant of “Wepa! Wepa! Wepa!” is crying out for Rihanna to do some kind of urban version. Or perhaps an out an out banger with Calvin Harris.