Spain has raised the bar for kitsch with its latest Eurovision Song Contest contender, a reggae-rapper with a grotesquely inflated toupee and a minuscule plastic guitar.
Rodolfo Chikilicuatre has seized the popular imagination with his absurd and satirical "Baila el chiki chiki" (Dance the chiki chiki), an irresistible piece of nonsense that romped home in a televised contest watched by two million Spanish fans who voted by text and email.
The Elvis-parodying performer, flanked by two cheesy dancers, has had to remove mocking references to Spain's recently re-elected Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, his conservative opponent Mariano Rajoy, and the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, to meet Eurovision rules that ban songs with any political content.
But the names Jose Luis and Mariano survive, along with Chikilicuatre's grandmother, his nephew and "my mulatta waving her knickers in her hand", who like to "dance the chiki chiki".
The triumph of this mildly suggestive ditty has prompted an explosive polemic over the suitability of the song for the contest that takes place in Belgrade on 24 May. Many Spaniards take Eurovision seriously, despite a track record that has been largely dismal.
"State television is irresponsible to let Spain be associated in Europe with Chikilicuatre," lamented El Mundo, whose editor called upon Spanish television's director Luis Fernandez to answer before a parliamentary committee for the damage caused to Spain's image.
El Pais newspaper commented: "His humorous fabrication sums up the grubbiest of so-called popular music... the painful rubbish Spain has taken to Eurovision in the last 20 years. Let's see if our contribution blows up this deplorable festival of sequins and grinning presenters. We wish him luck."
Chikilicuatre is not the stumbling clot he seems, however, but a seasoned comedy actor, David Fernandez, 38.
His act's all-but-meaningless lyrics and tacky image is the brainchild of the singer-songwriter Pedro Guerra and the comic actor and film director Santiago Segura, creator of the monstrously corrupt Madrileño screen cop Torrente.
"El chiki chiki" faces stiff competition at this year's contest from Ireland's entry, to be sung by a rubber turkey puppet called Dustin, the early bookies' favourite.Reuse content