I didn't say anything when the "Despacito" remix came out in April, causing non-Latinx Americans to collectively lose their shit, even though it had already been trending for months across the globe. I didn't say anything when media outlets called it "Justin Bieber's song," even though it was the genius brainchild of Puerto Rican and Latin American artists. I didn't say anything when people said Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee should be "grateful" that Bieber catapulted their song to fame in the U.S., even though both of them have been busting their asses since the '90s and have cultivated amazing careers. And I didn't say anything when Bieber botched the lyrics, replacing them with words like "burrito."
On top of all this, there’s now a White People™ effort to catapult Taylor Swift's new single "Look What You Made Me Do" to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That way, some argue, "Despacito" won't beat Mariah Carey's "One Sweet Day" record of holding the #1 spot for 16 weeks. ("Despacito" has been #1 for 15 weeks now.)
It’s the end of the line for me, because it’s insane to try to prevent a ridiculously successful song from breaking a record Carey has held for 20 years just for the funsies. White People™ (which doesn’t include every white person, before you clutch your pearls) have historically dominated every sector of society — the music industry included. That’s the main reason there’s such a grudge against "Despacito," so I will begin by saying you can keep this bullshit charade to yourself.
For those unfamiliar with the song, here's a quick rundown: "Despacito" is a single by Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. The song came out in January, and quickly went viral throughout Latin America and beyond. But it wasn't until they launched a remix with Justin Bieber that its popularity exploded in the United States. "Despacito" combines everything that's great about Latin American music: It's the perfect reggaeton and pop crossover, with sensual lyrics that read like a love ballad, and it would get stuck in your head quicker than you can sing along to the "pasito a pasito" bridge.
Besides being the jam of the summer, "Despacito" is also a record-breaking work of art — it’s the most streamed song ever, the first song in Spanish to hit #1 since 1996’s "La Macarena," and the most popular YouTube video in history. There are approximately 1,571,838 think-pieces out there deconstructing why, so I won’t speak to that. What I can do is explain about what the song it means to me as a Puerto Rican and Latina living in the diaspora.
I never thought I would see Fonsi, a veteran pop singer, and Yankee, a successful exponent of a genre that has historically been vilified, come on top in the U.S. at a time when the president has made his political career by insulting Mexicans and Latinxs in general; where speaking in Spanish in public can lead to violence.
And say what you will, this song is fun and has united people everywhere. In a time when there’s so much division in the U.S., that such a song exists is an accomplishment.
So, trying to prevent "Despacito" from matching and breaking Carey's record is a nasty reminder that White People™ won't let communities of color enjoy their success if they can do anything about it. It's why people refused to accept that Beyoncé's Lemonade was a narrative for Black women and resorted to “reverse racism” claims; it's why the backlash against the South Korean boy band BTS winning a Grammy earlier this year had such racist overtones; it's why emerging artists of color continue to be marginalized every day.
And this is not a tirade against Taylor Swift, either. Her new song is just not good enough. (#1989Forever) And I don’t think it will break innumerable records, be translated and parodied in every imaginable language, and leave a mark in music history — no matter how much Swift’s well-oiled PR machine pushes for it.
Now, if you excuse me, I'll just wait for MTV to give the Video Music Award for "Song of the Summer" to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee on Sunday. I’ll do it while wrapped in a boricua flag — because this is how we do it down in Puerto Rico. In the meantime, just keep your White People™ efforts away from "Despacito." It’s 2017, for fuck’s sake. The world won’t end if a song in Spanish achieves such success.
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