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'Despacito (remix)' adds Justin Bieber, cultural appropriation to mix

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JULY 20, 2017

Cue the cuatro. Cue white girls gasping for air. Cue slightly saucy EDM background tones. Cue Bieber. Cue women everywhere melting.

If you live on Planet Earth, you know I’m talking about the “Despacito” remix, the Justin Bieber version of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s summer banger. Over these past few months, this tune has slowly taken over the charts and our lives.

But what’s wrong with this saucy tune? Something about Bieber’s “Despacito” calls us to remove ourselves from the song’s catchiness and ponder a more serious qualm.

Firstly, most people listening to “Despacito” don’t even know what despacito means.

“Despacito” is Spanish for “slowly.” The entire song is about sexual tension — ooh, spicy. Additionally spicy is the way Bieber says “despacito” when the beat drops. What can we say — we call it like we see it; when JB drops “despacito,” we may or may not begin an aggressive troll of Tinder.

What’s not so spicy, however, is the cultural appropriation committed through this entire escapade.

Despacito is not a true Latin tune. The entire beginning of the Bieber remix is in English. Odd. Even more peculiar is that the English section in the beginning of the Bieber version does not match the original’s Spanish opening verses.

The second crime here is that the original “Despacito” was brilliantly performed by one of Latin music’s grandest and most alluring daddies: Luis Fonsi. If you were not hot and bothered — and dare I even say, ready to rumble — after seeing Luis body roll in the original music video, you don’t have a sex drive.

Now that the Bieber version has taken over the charts, the Fonsi classic is being overshadowed and Luis’ brilliant body rolls are being forgotten for Justin’s runty wing neck tattoo. Unless those wings can fly us to the Holy Trinity of Latin sex gods (i.e., Luis, Enrique and Ricky), they are useless.

Latin music entered into the mainstream this past decade. My hypothesis: Jersey Shore and the rise of Shakira — from her hips not lyin’ to Waka Waka — made Latin music readily available to mainstream consumers. Rather than people using Latin music to learn more about Latin art and culture, songs like Despacito turn this entire community into a capitalist tool, trading in Latin authenticity for pop frill.

Listeners disregard the origins and meanings behind these songs just so they can seem cultured and spicy to their Snapchat fans.

In our current sociopolitical climate, this is alarming. We have a president who wants to build a wall to separate us from the same cultures we are appropriating.

Thus, the next time you blast “Despacito,” because whether you want to or not when Justin calls your soul you answer, think for a minute. Enjoy the song, but maybe try giving the original a listen.

And, if you’re feelin’ real woke, craft and send Bieber an articulate email about why it is incredibly disrespectful that he drunkenly forgot all the lyrics to his hit. We don’t expect much from a man who possessed an illegal capuchin monkey, but hey, it’s worth a firing of the phalanges.

Nichole Bloom is the blog editor. Contact her at [email protected].

JULY 20, 2017

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