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Popular Spanish music artists

Mala RodriguezAlthough Spain isn't the only erstwhile colonial power to have been thoroughly upstaged by its brash former charges when it comes to pop, the scale of Latin American domination of Spanish-language chart music outstrips even the US's hold over Britain. With isolated exceptions, such as the Miami-based Enrique Iglesias, Spain has produced few international stars to compete with Shakira and Don Omar since the days of Iglesias senior.

The fact that Spanish singers have found success outside of Spain harder to come by shouldn't be taken as a sign the country has created little of appeal to a wider audience, just that there's more for the rest of us to retrospectively catch up with.

The history of Spanish chart music is inseparable from the politics of the country. Necessarily safe and conformist in the long years of fascist dictatorship, the release of pent-up creativity in the late 70s and early 80s gave the country a scene every bit as exciting as the more acclaimed British new wave or German neue Deutsche welle. Unpredictable and outlandish to this day, there's an awful lot more to Spanish pop than ageing lotharios doing the Macarena. Here are 10 classic clips.

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His plaintive balladry might have paved the way for nine tenths of the most boring music Spain would produce over the course of the next 50 years but Raphael deserves to be remembered as much more than a precursor to snooze-inducing crooners such as Julio Iglesias and Alejandro Sanz. Songs such as 1966's Amo, on which his tremulous voice is paired with understated organ and guitar, updated traditional folk themes with a crispness that his saccharine imitators have rarely come close to matching.

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A singing, dancing screen superstar since the age of 11, few performers captured the buoyant mood the Franco government was desperately trying to impose on the nation like Pepa "Marisol" Flores. Working within the ye-ye style Spain had imported from France, the strutting Corazón Contento contains enough unrestrained joy to compete with anything the neighbours across the Pyrenees were producing at the time. Flores, a lifelong socialist, despised Franco and is reported to have donated all awards he gave her to the Communist Party of Spain for auction.

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While Britain lapped up songs with Spanish trappings, such as George Baker's Una Paloma Blanca and Sylvia's Y Viva España, throughout the 70s, ones actually recorded by Spanish artists found little favour. Perhaps the biggest and best pan-European hit the UK missed out on was Porqué Te Vas by London-born singer Jeanette. A masterpiece of downbeat easy listening, its mixture of fatalistic lyrics and incongruously jolly trumpets works like an Iberian take on the beautiful bleakness of the Carpenters and proves once again there's often more depth of emotion in derided MOR pop than other, more fashionable, genres.

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The most significant turning point in the history of modern Spanish pop wasn't a concert or the release of an album – it was the demise of General Franco. Freed from the weight of state censorship, the bands of the progressive "movida Madrileña" that sprang up after his death wasted little time in going marvellously off the rails. Helping set the stage for a music scene that remains one of the strangest and most fantastical in Europe, acts such as Alaska y los Pegamoides mixed punk, disco and horror-movie references to startling effect. Lead singer Alaska went on to front a variety of other projects, including the wonderful Fangoria.

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