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Let’s Get Weird—All World All Time Best Song Competition: The XYZ Affair

And we close out the alphabet with...songs I actually like? Is this allowed?

A particularly weird 1700s political cartoon dealing with the XYZ Affair.
Old-timey political cartoons: Still absolutely bewildering. Watch out for the Gorgon with the guillotine, Elbridge Gerry!

Feel free to click on the first Global Song Competition post in which we determined “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” was Australia’s best ever contribution to music to learn the rules of this game. In short, we didn’t want to talk about the aftermath of the last regular season baseball series, so Andrew started a distraction contest to...

...determine the greatest song of all time, based on my limited knowledge of music and other countries.

First, we’ll go with the smattering of countries I can accurately point to on a globe and spell correctly—sorry, Kyrgustan (nope: it was Kyrgyzstan)—and then, we’ll go state by state in the good ol’ US of A.

*Note: Feel free to disagree with my choices violently, and suggest better songs in the comments. I will not listen to you, nor will it affect the outcome of this ridiculous distraction contest, but I want you all to feel both seen and heard, even though I don’t know what most of you look like, nor sound like, but I want you all to feel effectively placated.

Vietnam’s winner was “Duyên Phận (Thái Thịnh)” by Như Quỳnh (who again, was FIFTY TWO). For now, we skip Wales and head on to the end of the alphabet. Rather than vote on a country, we’re going to mix it up a little and just select one entry each from Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe...and two bonuses. Let’s get to it.

The Songs

1) Xhosa: Miriam Makeba - Pata Pata

That’s right, XHOSA! I know, I know, it’s a language and not a country. Give me this one for X. Besides, this is dang catchy.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the Billboard Top 40 weekly retro countdowns on SiriusXM are one of my small pleasures in life. One of the 60s countdowns introduced me to this song. If you can believe it, this song mostly sung in the Xhosa language reached #12 on the US pop charts in 1967. How great is that? It’s very much a 1960s dance song, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Makeba was banned from South Africa after speaking at the United Nations against apartheid. After nearly 30 years of exile, using her music as a way to continue to address apartheid, she finally returned home in 1990 with the help of the recently-freed Nelson Mandela.

If you’d like to hear the Xhosa language’s clicking consonants on full display, check out her live version of Qongqothwane. “The Click Song” indeed.

2) Yemen: Ofra Haza - Im Nin’Alu

Again, I know. Ofra Haza was Israeli, but of Yemenite Jewish descent. Yemen had a thriving Jewish community for hundreds of years, numbering 50,000 in the late 1940s. They were forcibly exiled, including her parents. Today, a single known Jew remains in the country, and they’re imprisoned.

And she originally recorded this song on her 1984 album Yemenite Songs. That’s good enough.

But six years before that was released, she first performed the song on Israeli TV in 1978, and that’s the version we’re going with. It’s a traditional song dating back to the 17th Century, and I just think the instrumentation fits it a lot better than 1980s pop trappings do.

She died at age 42 from AIDS, possibly contracted from a blood transfusion after a miscarriage, because we can never, ever have nice things.

(gets handed a note from Pinman) ...fine, except in bowling. Hail Pinman.

3.) Yugoslavia: Saša Lendero - Ne Grem Na Kolena

If you didn’t think we’d take an opportunity to shoehorn in Yugoslavia under the “all time” criteria, you haven’t been paying attention. I don’t even know what you’d call this? Traditional Mediterranean pop? It’s a hell of a lot better than Fat Kablob or whatever other nonsense we’ve tortured ourselves with. I’m all about this, especially once the chorus gets going a minute in. Something something, I am a Slovenian teenage girl.

Oh who am I kidding, I’m pretty sure the first 30 seconds of this are the producer filming a foot fetish video. PAGING ANDREW, ANDREW TO THE GOLD COURTESY PHONE. (Come to think of it, there appears to a mix of several potential fetishes in there, but never mind that. Actually do mind it, why are you even reading this? No one can possibly be reading this.)

Did I mention she’s smoking hot? Right, well she’s smoking hot.

What was I supposed to be doing again? Oh right, I was [rewatches video another 3 times]

10/10, would listen again.

4.) Zambia: WITCH - Home Town

ZAMROCK, Y’ALL! Honest to God, Zamrock was a real thing in the 1970s.

Here’s the story: At the time, the Zambian government had a requirement that 90% of songs radio stations played actually be locally produced. A bunch of musicians in the country were really into psych rock and acid rock, so they wound up with a whole genre of African-inflected Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, and Cream. I think that’s fantastic.

Sadly the country’s economy crapped the bed in the late 70s, and the music industry there never really recovered. But before its collapse, they gave us WITCH. WITCH, incidentally, is an acronym for We Intend To Cause Havoc, which is also fantastic.

I wasn’t sure which of their songs to go with, but settled on their instrumental Home Town. Turn on the black light in your parents’ basement and groove out. (You thought I was going to tell you to drop a sheet, didn’t you? I can’t legally encourage other teenage girls to do that, and we’re already on enough watch lists around here.)

For the record, Spotify has multiple Zamrock compilations if this is your kind of thing.

5.) Zimbabwe: Holy Ten - Pressure

So here’s the thing: Zimbabwe had a nameless counterpart to Zamrock. It wasn’t nearly as thriving, because the country was still the British colony of Rhodesia until 1980.

One of the bands was named Wells Fargo. They came up with the name - I am not making this up - after watching an American western movie on TV, and seeing “Wells Fargo” on the side of a covered wagon. If that isn’t the best thing you’ve seen, heard, or done today, then may I suggest you gouge out your eyes, plug your ears, and have all your done removed.

Anyway, I was going to go with Wells Fargo’s “Watch Out!” It was subversive enough to actually cause the Rhodesian government to crack down on their concerts. Not that it took much to get that particular government to crack down, but still. They wound up changing the line “Freedom’s coming” to “Big storm’s coming” to get back on the radio.

However, we’ve already got WITCH to represent that style, and the country was still Rhodesia when it came out, so let’s try something newer to show we’re still hip and cool and with it hahahahaha oh man.

There’s a new Zimbabwean hip hop artist named Holy Ten who has 192,000 followers on YouTube. I’d be lying if I said I’d heard of him before right now, but this song has 4.4 million streams in 7 months. That’s a pretty impressive total, so let’s just go with this.

I’d also be lying if I said I enjoyed that overproduced voice effect at all, but welcome to 2023. It was neat when Cher used it on “Believe” in 1999, but you’d think after 25 years, the industry would find something new. Then again, South Carolina just invited Darude to perform their pregame show, so what do I know. [“Sandstorm” intensifies]

Mostly I’m just typing all this so I can point at the YouTube commenter who actually wrote “0% computer voice enhancement 100% pure talent” and got nearly 200 upvotes for it.

Honorable Mentions

Aw here, have a listen to that Wells Fargo song.

And have an hour-long concert from early 80s Zaire too.

Vote in the Poll


Which song should win this tribute to the Quasi War?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Xhosa: Miriam Makeba - Pata Pata
    (7 votes)
  • 11%
    Yemen: Ofra Haza - Im Nin’Alu
    (2 votes)
  • 23%
    Yugoslavia: Saša Lendero - Ne Grem Na Kolena
    (4 votes)
  • 23%
    Zambia: WITCH - Home Town
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Zimbabwe: Holy Ten - Pressure
    (0 votes)
17 votes total Vote Now