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Nov 14

THE VENGABOYS – “Boom Boom Boom Boom”

Popular48 comments • 5,449 views

#828, 26th June 1999

vengaboom The 90s in the British charts are topped and tailed by two mighty surges of Europop. The first was a club music – a polyglot of house, hip-hop and rave heralded by Snap! and epitomised by 2 Unlimited and Culture Beat. The second, led by Aqua, was also designed for dancing, but as much in school discos as tourist nightspots. It was a music built on gleeful gimmickry and seemed to sell mostly to the continent’s kids. And for a few months in the Summer of 1999 the Vengaboys were its hottest ticket.

The two waves of Europop have something in common: neither are remotely bothered about looking cool. There has been lots of impeccably high-fashion European music, of course, but when you’re pitching Esperanto pop at a market that’s a patchwork of cultures and languages, the nuances of style are sometimes the first casualty.

Not that the Vengaboys needed style. They had a bus.

Vengaworld, on first impression, is a world in which the Vengaboys get on the Vengabus and go party: it has a perfect cartoon simplicity that matches the cheerful inanity of “Boom Boom Boom Boom”. The most enjoyable touches on the single are its purely dumbest – the chorus, of course, but also the keyboard-preset “Woo! Woo Woo!” bits in the breakdown, and the robodude who pops up to announce “Ven-ga-boys-are-back-in-town” and “Let’s-have-some-fun”. In the video, he wears a sparkly red cowboy hat.

Ah, though, the video, one look at which causes me to hastily revise any generalisation I might have had about the Vengaboys and their audience. This is bubblegum music, no doubt, but hardly a kids’ cartoon. Instead it’s lap dances, topless burlesque, champagne foam spurting over bare thighs. What this Vengasmut makes me realise is that my perception of two Europops was an Anglocentric fiction. No matter who was buying them here, the Vengaboys are firmly in the same line as 2 Unlimited, Doop or “Mr Vain”. They’re trashy, trans-continental club pop, but with the sometimes wild invention of the early 90s switched for a need to keep things as simple and catchy as possible. The appeal to kids is a side-effect of this more ruthless approach. And it does its job, though the more you contemplate this feat of pop efficiency, the more it skirts the line between the childlike and the charmless.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    punctum on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Giddily merry and gleefully semi-knowing, “Boom Boom Boom Boom” was essentially Hi-NRG for the post-2 Unlimited generation with its jolly romp of a beat and its “Barbie Girl”-derived formula of slightly pleading lead female vocal set against gruff male Vocoder responses. Like 2 Unlimited, they were Dutch; unlike 2 Unlimited they did not specialise in hardcore imperiousness – although its “oh-woh-oh, wo-oh-hoh” refrain and pleasingly mangled syntax (“I wanna double boom”) ensured its instant catchiness and derive directly from venerable Hi-NRG practices (as indeed was the video – “I want you in my room” indeed), there is something attractively indie about the song’s central pledge of devotion (“Let’s spend the night together/From now until forever”). Subsequently marred by its adaptation for a never-ending ad campaign for crappy leather sofa superstore chain DFS (“Dou-b-le sa-vings!”), it still has an air of friendliness about it from which most other Eurodance of the period seemed to shy away. Oh yes, and shyness too – that always helps.

  2. 2
    Mark G on 4 Nov 2014 #

    This always brought Boris Yelsin’s dance at that rally to my mind, even though it wasn’t this song he was dancing to.

  3. 3
    James BC on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Funny similarity to Alright by Jamiroquai in the chorus. When I think of one I always get the other.

  4. 4
    mapman132 on 4 Nov 2014 #

    “We Like to Party” was their main US hit. I have vague memories of Boom^4 too: Wiki says it reached #84 in the US. Not really my thing though: 4/10 seems fair.

  5. 5
    StringBeanJohn82 on 4 Nov 2014 #

    “Boom Boom Boom Boom, I want you in my room”

    Your appreciation of this song depends entirely on whether you think this is Ramones-style bubblegum genius or not.

    The Vengaboys, whoever or whatever they were, were probably the absolute nadir of pop music. The 90s ended on a very poor note and pop music picked up significantly with the Popjustice/Richard X inspired stuff in the early 2000s. It’s hard to imagine something as amateurish, cheap-sounding and naff ever being a hit now, except perhaps as a one off holiday song. The Vengaboys though had a string of hits, all of which were nearly identical. It was pretty much the natural destination of SAW-style Fordist earworm pop where the riff was genetically programmed to sit in your head for days and the lyrics a kind of globish gibberish designed for (a) idiots and (b) people for whom English is not their first language.

    The only upside this sort of thing has is that it’s not as bad as Black Eyed Peas’ (their only obvious comparison for me) later bunnies simply by the fact that this stuff doesn’t take itself too seriously or attempt to root itself in anything other than the culture from which it sprang. [2]

  6. 6
    katstevens on 4 Nov 2014 #

    The VengaBoom Twitter is still going strong!

    SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU FORGET YOUR PROBLEMS

  7. 7
    Andrew Farrell on 4 Nov 2014 #

    It’s a little known fact that one of them went on to be Felix da Housecat…

  8. 8
    AMZ1981 on 4 Nov 2014 #

    The Venga Boys first hit (Up And Down – largely instrumental) appeared to be a vaguely credible club hit and you got the impression that they wanted to do something with the brand while they could, hence a string of increasingly inane pop songs built around a set of dancing himbos and bimbos. The result was a second rate steps but, as Edmund Blackadder once said, `You can’t argue with the box office.` Not only did this get to number one but it beat Britney Spears’ second single which only made number three. I believe the parent album was available by that time but given the massive first week sales of Baby One More Time this was a massive comedown.

    On a personal note this had the distinction of being number one when I left school and I must confess I was hoping for something with a bit more gravitas to mark the era. Fifteen years on this hasn’t aged as horribly as it could have done but the fact that something so insulting to the intellect could top the charts was a sad indictment of the era.

    Finally has anybody else noted that there are three number one singles to consist of the word Boom (two with no other word in the title) and all came in the nineties?

  9. 9
    thefatgit on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Benny & Bjorn get a writing credit for the opening verse after it strip-mined “Lay All Your Love On Me”. After that it’s Vengafun all the way. Nothing at all original or surprising, but why should it be? “Boom” x 4 is a ramora fish of a hook, that’s almost impossible to shake off once you’ve heard it, as well as the robotic “Vengaboys are back in town”.

    Until yesterday, I hadn’t seen the video. Very much lad mag territory, stopping short of Benny Hill misogyny. “Boys Boys Boys” by Sabrina from more than a decade before, seems a much more uncomfortable watch by means of comparison.

    I had the honour of seeing a live “performance” (lip-synched, natch) by the Vengaboys, supporting Steps at one of those “Party In The Park” local radio efforts in Swindon (no Billie Piper homecoming, unfortunately). The kids lapped up the dance moves and fist pumps. For us oldies, we had Edwin Starr open proceedings with a very exuberant 20 minute set. Lovely day, all round. Subsequently, I have something of a soft spot for The Vengaboys. Their bunnyable follow-up, might put my positivity towards them to the test. (6)

  10. 10
    iconoclast on 4 Nov 2014 #

    George Orwell’s seminal novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” mentions the “versificator”, a device which composed songs without any human input at all. Vocals aside, such a device seems to have been responsible for this hyperactive but joyless and inane three minutes during which the listener’s will to live is slowly but inexorably drained away. THREE.

  11. 11
    Doctor Casino on 4 Nov 2014 #

    In the US, their biggest impact was in soundtracking a memorable series of amusement park commercials. “Boom Boom Boom Boom” was not unknown to me, thanks to outlets like “The Box,” a request-oriented video channel curiously open to Europop obscurities like this and Toybox. I thought, and still think, that the chorus is fun but that the mix is far, far too thin, rickety, and even in texture… especially when all this booming is being discussed. Even P.O.D. recognized the need for a sonic boom backing the lyrical one. So, this is another one, like “Say You’ll Be There” that now just sounds like filler music for a kids’ show or a rhythm video game – “insert something peppy here.” Fine and harmless for what it is though – I wouldn’t necessarily rate it down with the 2’s and 3’s, it just doesn’t have “number one” quality at all.

  12. 12
    Andrew Farrell on 4 Nov 2014 #

    #9 far from lads mag, I would have thought – ladies liking ladies without noticeable interest by men, and a very come-hither gay man on the robo-vocals and red stetson.

  13. 13
    lonepilgrim on 4 Nov 2014 #

    maybe this sounds fantastic in a club but over headphones via Youtube it sounds like it was recorded in a biscuit tin. Like the previous entry the beat is a relentless production line on which the performers are forced to keep pace. I loved 2 Unlimited but this is mediocre at best. 3

  14. 14
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Not as bad as Boom Boom Boom but nowhere near the class of Mr Boombastic nor Boom! Shake The Room. This is a bit too cheery I reckon – what 2 Unlimited have over this is that there’s a bit of edge to the instrumental track for their stuff. No Limit has a touch of menace that this entirely lacks, given it’s more of a good time, holiday party thing. Weirdly though, I’d rather listen to No Limit as my good time, holiday party anthem, whereas this calls to mind the main drag in the town where The Inbetweeners go on holiday for the first movie. Somewhere I know exists, and good luck to those that like it and want to go there, but not somewhere I would ever want to visit.

  15. 15
    JLucas on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Well I like it

    7

  16. 16
    Chelovek na lune on 4 Nov 2014 #

    #6 that is seriously disturbing….not least as Twitter only started its operations was it seven years after the single was out….

    Now, the Vengaboys (why did they call themselves that?) Their two singles prior to this one struck me as:the first, uninteresting, and; the second, irritating and charmless. (I remember, I guess a bit later, seeing a poster for their album vandalized so that the title of one of the featured singles had been amended to read “We Like To Fart”. Which would be about right.)

    So I was surprised by “Boom Boom Boom Boom” – turning up the tackiness, making the pop aspect a bit more aggressive, and making the lyrics and rhymes vaguely ludicrous – larger than life, bright colours, laser beams in your eyes. Maybe more reminiscent of the London Boys (who could also be atrocious) at their best than 2 Unlimited. So, yeah, I’d put this in the “bubblegum genius” category. A pity nothing else they did were terribly much cop (not least the Carry On titled attempted “comeback” “A Rocket To Uranus”). But this: yes, 8.

  17. 17
    katstevens on 4 Nov 2014 #

    I think the key to the Vengaboom Twitter’s success is the Vengaboys are actually BLACK LACE reincarnated.

  18. 18
    flahr on 4 Nov 2014 #

    My flatmate: “Vengaboys played Trinity [College, Cambridge] May Ball one of the years I was there. We turned up just as they reached the chorus of “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom”, listened, and then decided there was clearly no point remaining.”

  19. 19
    Rory on 4 Nov 2014 #

    The Vengaboys’ “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!” (the punctuation is important!! Isn’t it??) is a milestone in my personal Popular journey, if not on its own merits then for the moment it represents.

    But for me, that moment wasn’t mid-1999. At that point I probably would have matched Tom’s score for this, purely on the basis of seeing the ads for The Party Album! (punctuationisimportant) on Australian TV, because I doubt I’d heard the entire song. I was still, in 1999, fairly skeptical about dance music, house music, electronic music, and their permutations, although examples of them were creeping into my listening.

    Fast-forward to mid-2000, though, and my life was in flux, at the tender age of 32. Our landlord had sold our house from under us, and my wife and I took that as the spur to “go thermonuclear”: I quit my job, we went travelling, and then I looked for work overseas while she brought in some more cash back home. It turned out to be the start of a year of uncertainty, and at the end of it we ended up here.

    At the beginning of that year, though, was the travel. A trip we had already been planning for mid-2000, and had been dreaming about for as long as we’d been together, now became heavily symbolic: a journey filled with possibility, with our stuff all in storage and who knew what ahead.

    We spent a month in Madagascar, travelling there from Canberra via Perth, Harare and Johannesburg. It was the kind of trip you write a book about; at least, I tried to, before getting bogged down in what came later. I was left with only a string of blog entries, a 90,000-word journal transcript, photographs and souvenirs that look like relics from another world, and a lingering sense of unfinished business. Unfinished because there were moments on that trip that hang in my memory as some of the best in my life, and I want to do more with them than just turn them over in my head.

    One of those blog entries was about that inescapable soundtrack of travel, the background music: the music you hear in a foreign place seems to play louder and longer in your head than so much else. Besides Abba, country and western, and a string of Gasy tracks that haunt me even today (the ones that got away, and a few that didn’t), the music of Madagascar in mid-2000 was The Party Album!

    Perhaps I’d been primed by Aqua, or perhaps by the Eurodance compilations I’d picked up in Germany in 1998, but whenever the Vengaboys went into a minibus tape deck I found I could listen and not hate it. Soon I was singing along on the long journeys between Malagasy towns, turning the taxi-brousse into a Vengabus. As I wrote in my diary on one of our last days in the country:

    “Somewhere halfway back, the Malagasy music was replaced with – in a flashback to the week before – the Vengaboys. … By the time we were out on the main road to Fianar, passing through busy Betsileo villages, the album was in its free-form techno second half – good music, actually, but so 1990s electronic that it made a surreal soundtrack to what we were staring at out the back of the truck: jam-packed streets at a market-day, with men in traditional garb walking along the road in the same direction as us, disappearing behind us into the mist. All to a techno soundtrack. Unforgettable.”

    I was right; it was.

    On our trip out through South Africa, spending a day in Pretoria, I picked up the album for 30 rand. We played it a lot that year, and it was The Party Album! more than any other that opened my ears to sounds that I would explore in much greater depth in the following decade.

    The second half of the album (track 6 of 17 onwards) is the better part of it, and much less easily dismissed than you might expect from this track. “Overwhelm Yourself” and “All Night Passion” are excellent album cuts, and not just because I’m pretty sure that the former is my misty Malagasy soundtrack.

    The singles are all in the first part of the album, and it’s fair to say that “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!” isn’t my very favourite; I prefer “We Like to Party!” and “Up and Down”. But I can’t deny those beats, that essence of Dutch doof-doof; or the sense of fun that imbues every moment; or the happiness they evoke in me, by bringing back memories I hold so close.

    I would give it 10, but that would be silly. For me, though, it’s an 8.

  20. 20
    Rory on 4 Nov 2014 #

    #16 “the Vengaboys (why did they call themselves that?)”

    «Venga» es español para el «come on». Los Vengaboys encanta Ibiza y las Islas Baleares.

  21. 21
    swanstep on 4 Nov 2014 #

    @Kat, 6. I kind of like the idea of BBBB as a viral object twisting silently forever in twitter-space, like it’s been pushed though an airlock.

  22. 22
    Rory on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Of course, now that I’m prompted to look it up, I learn that my copy of The Party Album! is some odd South African version with a track listing that doesn’t match any of the versions on Wikipedia. It’s basically the Greatest Hits Part 1 1999 re-release, but with “Vengababes from Outer Space” as its last track.

  23. 23
    swanstep on 5 Nov 2014 #

    The slope-topped NYC building on which the Vengaboys are projected at the beginning of the BBBB video is the Citicorp tower. One of the tallest buildings in the city, it stands on a central elevator shaft and some precarious stilts *in the middle of its sides*, with one corner over the top of an old church. See more about it here if you don’t know it, including the amazing story of a young woman’s undergraduate thesis that proved that the building could be toppled by a once-every-fifty-year storm (and it soon emerged that with predicted power outages a once-every-16-years storm could bring it down)…. just a couple of weeks before a hurricane bore down on the city.

  24. 24
    lmm on 5 Nov 2014 #

    I came to Aqua later, but I remember this at the time. It was simple music with a simple purpose, but it did what it set out to do. That video puts a very different slant on it; the song felt like clean-ish fun – closer to B*witched than to what I thought of as dance music. I guess it’s all context.

  25. 25
    swanstep on 5 Nov 2014 #

    Benny & Bjorn get a writing credit for the opening verse after it strip-mined “Lay All Your Love On Me”.
    @thefatgit. I can’t hear anything LAYLOM-derived apart from maybe a vocal rhythm in BBBB’s first verse. That’s a lot of publishing to give up for so little!

  26. 26
    thefatgit on 5 Nov 2014 #

    Indeed, Swanstep. I guess there must have been rumblings of plagiarism behind the scenes, so Dennis van Den Driesschen and Wessel van Diepen had to concede half the credits to Andersson & Ulvaeus. The dadada-dada-dadada* bit shared by both songs are identical albeit in a slightly different key.

    *Any musicologists lurking might be able to explain this better than I.

  27. 27
    lockedintheattic on 5 Nov 2014 #

    #19 – Fantastic comment.

    I can quite see the appeal in those circumstances. I had a similar experience with a Black Eyed Peas bunny in rural Indonesia in 2010. That story will have to wait a while though.

  28. 28
    Ed on 5 Nov 2014 #

    No writing credit for John Lee Hooker, though?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSnQ0bdHW0s

  29. 29
    DanH on 5 Nov 2014 #

    As Mapman said before, “We Like to Party” was the only time the Vengabus made a stop to American shores. Reminds me of grade 9 dances more than anything else. I’ll hold off on another Euro song that gives me the same memories for now, because while the song itself isn’t bunnied, the group still is for another few months.

    This one is nowhere near is memorable…and I get it mixed up with “Boom Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back to My Room)” half the time ;-)

  30. 30
    daveworkman on 5 Nov 2014 #

    I spent some time in Romania in the mid 00’s where this sort of thing was still popular – and like Rory at #19, despite my better judgement I grew to love some tracks, because they soundtracked a really important part of my life…but I feel I should share this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0ehKEm8q0A) – the Romanian language version was a favourite of mine, then I heard the English language version…you have to wait until the end of the chorus for the payoff…

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