By now, you probably have sung along to or danced to “Despacito – Remix” by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee and, everyone’s favorite messy boy of pop, Justin Bieber. The song has garnered both commercial success and praise from critics, a friend of mine even called it, “Latin and full of fun!” This is the same way people describe me.
“Despacito/ Quiero respirar tu cuello despacito,” sings Bieber alongside a rich and sexy guitar beat reminiscent of traditional mariachi music. “Deja que te diga cosas al oído/ Para que te acuerdes si no estás conmigo.”
The song is full of Latnix elements and while most of my peers at HWS cannot understand a lick of the lyrics, they still play it at dartys or in the heat of the night. The song evokes the sensual nature Romance languages are known for. If you understand Spanish then you know the song is clearly about embracing a lover slowly and indulging in the heat of the moment.
The lyrics are not only a metaphor for the slow passion that builds up within someone, the songs itself slows down to contribute to the theme of slowing down. It makes the listener want to savor the spice of the lines even more, since you have time to repeat them before the big beat returns as Fonsi and Yankee carry the song until the next chorus.
Overall, this is a beautiful song both lyrically and composition wise that pays true heritage to its influence. The only point that I must critique is how the song serves as an example of the double standard regarding language use in America.
Recently, I have seen grotesque videos on Twitter and Facebook with people screaming, “Speak English in America! Get out of my country!” to people using languages beside English. It becomes infuriating to witness this yet than see the use of a song like “Despacito – Remix” used by the majority who continue to vilify languages beside English. It is nothing short of cultural appropriation. The same way La La Land whitewashed Jazz, the use of other languages or beats in popular songs that do not contain artists representing the culture being stolen from is offensive and frustrating.
While “Despacito – Remix” doesn’t commit this offense since Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee are both Latin and they do not manipulate the instruments or beats, one should be mindful of how they appreciate the cultures that they think are “cool” but know nothing about.