Enough already with “Smooth.” Yes, it’s great. Yes, it’s sorta hysterical. Yes, for our entire lives we’ll all get it stuck in our head for the whole summer the first time someone points out how hot it is outside. But the meme-ing of the song on (and even outside of) the Internet has long been approaching Smash Mouth levels, and “Smooth” deserves better. It might not be a timeless classic, exactly, but it’s good enough to merit being remembered for more than t-shirts broadcasting how inherently funny the phrase “‘Smooth‘ by Santana feat. Rob Thomas” is. (Even if it is a really, really goddamn inherently funny phrase.)
Besides, it’s not like that was the only blockbuster single off Santana’s Supernatural to be worthy of generational re-appropriation. Second single “Maria Maria” was nearly as big a hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for a staggering 10 weeks (still two fewer than “Smooth” — yes, Carlos Santana was somehow that huge at the turn of the millennium).
It’s got as brain-sticking chorus, arguably an even better central riff, a shoulder-shrugging groove that’s absolutely insidious, and some fantastic ad libs courtesy of producer Wyclef Jean. And while nothing may ever compete with “Santana feat. Rob Thomas,” “‘Maria Maria’ by Santana feat. The Product G&B” is hardly without its charms either. Yet for the better part of two decades, “Smooth” has only snowballed in infamy, while “Maria Maria” has largely been left to the nostalgia bargain bins.
That is, until today (June 16). DJ Khaled‘s Rihanna-led (and Bryson Tiller-featuring) “Wild Thoughts,” released this morning not only heavily samples and interpolates “Maria Maria” — it’s practically a cover with different lyrics, copying and pasting everything from the groove to the riff to Wyclef murmuring “East coast… west coast…” (OK, not that last part, sadly, but everything else.) It’s not a perfect song, but it’s a super-fun resurrection of the now 18-year-old single. And it makes perfect sense that Rihanna — who would’ve been in her early teens when the song was released, the perfect age for a pop smash like “Maria Maria” to become formative for her — would be the person to bring it back to life.
So, let us follow the Bad Gal’s lead on this one and help elevate “Maria Maria” to the cultural touchstone status currently enjoyed by its album-mate. Let’s get it on Twitter, let’s do it next karaoke night, let’s have The Chainsmokers drop it at a key moment in one of their quasi-ironic retro DJ sets. Hell, let’s figure out exactly who the hell The Product G&B are and get the lowdown what they’re up to. Most importantly, let’s give “Smooth” a break for a year or two, or else forget about it.