Barry Manilow

Copacabana (At the Copa)

Song Review by

Opening with an infectious, faux-Latin percussion beat and a disco-fied string/horn backing, Barry Manilow's "Copacabana (At the Copa)" immediately signaled itself as a departure from the sort of MOR balladry that had given the singer his greatest success. The song is doubly unique in Manilow's repertoire, since not only was it danceable, it was also a story song with dark and even sleazy subject matter -- wild nightclubs, showgirls, gangsters, murder, alcoholism, insanity. However, it's all handled with a campy theatricality that makes it tempting to attribute the song to a lingering sensibility developed in Manilow's early days, when he performed with Bette Midler in New York City's gay bathhouses. (In fact, "Copacabana" was even turned into a stage musical in the early '90s -- obviously, with a great many additional songs.) Issues of stereotyping aside, though, the song is hugely entertaining regardless of whether you treat it as kitsch; its dramatic, show tune-esque musical flourishes help evoke the atmosphere of both the Copa's nightclub past and the disco it becomes. That theatrical flair also means the song is just plain fun to dance to, which is why the story of Tony the bartender, Lola the showgirl, and Rico the killer has become an enduring dancefloor favorite. "Copacabana" scraped the lower reaches of the Top Ten in 1978, but even though it wasn't Manilow's biggest hit, it remained one of his best-known -- and best-loved -- songs, particularly among more rock-oriented audiences.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Even Now 1978 Arista 5:43
Greatest Hits [Bonus Tracks] 1978 Arista
No Image 1985 Arista
The Complete Collection and Then Some... 1992 Arista / Legacy 4:05
Greatest Hits: The Platinum Collection 1994 Arista 4:05
Ultimate Manilow [Arista] 2002 Arista 5:40
The Songs 1975-1990 2002 BMG International 5:45
Scores: Songs from Copacabana and Harmony 2004 Concord Jazz / Concord 5:02
The Essential Barry Manilow 2005 Arista / Legacy 5:46
The Greatest Songs of the Seventies 2007 RCA 4:02
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa [Original Soundtrack] 2008
Various Artists
Interscope 0:00
Music and Passion: The Best of Barry Manilow 2008 Sony Music 3:57
Lo Esencial de Las Clásicas de... Universal 92.1 FM 2008
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 5:41
Happy Holiday! 2009 Stiletto New Media / Rhino
Essential 3.0 2010 Arista / Legacy / Sony Legacy 5:46
The Music of Barry Manilow 2010 Arista / Legacy 5:44
Jackie: The Party Album 2010
Various Artists
EMI / EMI Music Distribution 3:55
Super Hits 2011 BMG / Commercial Music Group / Sony Music Entertainment 5:46