It’s just kinda like, "It’s happening." We can’t control it.
June 13, 2017 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee currently have the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 list (for the fifth week in a row) with "Despacito" -- the first primarily non-English-language song to hit #1 since the Macarena in 1996. Having Justin Bieber on this remix helped push it to the top (a Biebsless version peaked at #44), but Spanish-language songs are getting more and more popular in the mainstream as the Latino audience grows.
posted by Etrigan (21 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's not just English --- I was checking out the Brazilian charts on Spotify a couple weeks back and it's number 1 there, too. Despacito is unstoppable.
posted by Diablevert at 9:45 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]

I really like this song -- and while part of it is the growing Latino market -- but I think adding Bieber to the track is the most important thing for mainstream appeal in the US. Even though he's still working on his grownup voice, it's distinct and appealing, and he's wildly popular following an enormous wave of really strong hits in the last couple of years (and his Spanish accent isn't bad, actually).

What I think will keep more Latin hits from riding the Billboard chart is that the things that make them sound like Latin music -- the dembow beat, the tinkling Flamenco guitars, the Latin percussion -- are so different from the R&B and Euro-influenced sounds that typically fill the US charts that they feel like novelties even if they're not. That is, I don't know if the Spanish-speaking market is big enough to keep these sounds on the charts while the rest of the US catches up and starts to feel as if these sounds are part of "their own" music, too.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:50 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]

I like to imagine an alternate timeline in which Selena wasn't senselessly murdered, so I can rock out to the even more insanely brilliant Latin music of alt2017. Despacito doesn't really do it for me, but had she been allowed to mature into the crossover sensation she was destined to be, I think we would have had a much richer injection of Spanish-language pop by now, one that has allowed audiences to grow beyond the "novelty factor" element that uncleozzy astutely identified. Note that she was killed a year before Macarena peaked.

So where's the next Latinx Beyoncé at?
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 9:58 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]

The Times's Popcast had a great episode a couple of weeks ago on the state of Latin Pop and this song specifically.
posted by beisny at 10:31 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]

So where's the next Latinx Beyoncé at?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Mexican Adele. Carla Morrison's music helped me study for so many verbal exams when I was in college.
posted by pxe2000 at 10:34 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]

So where's the next Latinx Beyoncé at?

Dunno who it would be, but probably in Monterrey taking in whatever dark magic suffuses that place.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:39 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]

I heard “Despacito” for the first time this past weekend and it seemed pretty similar to most of the radio-friendly Latin music that I have heard before—do those of you who listen to Latin music think it is really a stand-out track or was it just a “right place, right time” mix of circumstances?
posted by koavf at 11:39 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]

My teen and I love this song so much. We had a nice long conversation about Latinx songs which inspired us to queue up a bunch of songs in Spanish including Enrique Iglesias's Bailando and Los Tigres del Norte's La Puerta Negra (cause you gotta have the old school is too.)
posted by vespabelle at 12:30 PM on June 13

So where's the next Latinx Beyoncé at?

In an ideal world, Go Betty Go would have all minds of platinum hits...but I guess punk is the wrong type of latin- especially for a woman these days.
posted by happyroach at 2:54 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]

As a latin american, it basically sucks that this fairly generic, not too creative song will be what a generation of gringo people think of as 'latin' music, just as it sucked for the Macarena, etc.

There's more, better music south of the Rio Grande, lots of it.

Even keeping the reaggaeton, oversexed vibe, I give you Calle 13.
posted by signal at 3:32 PM on June 13 [8 favorites]

this fairly generic, not too creative song

It does sound very generic to me, like it was designed by a committee to include a specific set of sounds and references. Same with the video, especially the street and nightclub scenes -- domino playing older guys, gyrating women, and so on.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:20 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

So wait. You're telling me that a big, dumb, catchy pop song went to #1 on Billboard? Stop the presses.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:40 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]

I am not a sexy man but I become ridiculously sexy to my wife when this song plays. So, basically, I'm a fan.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:42 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

* Clarification - when the original song plays, I become sexy. When the Beiber version plays, she loses all interest and return to Candy Crush. I'm serious.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:43 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

I am legit shocked that Daddy Yankee's Gasolina didn't make it to #1 way back when. And there's so many good Latin songs out there (big dumb catchy pop songs even!) right now that I'm also legit shocked that Despacito is the one on top.

Definitely putting it on Bieber--mainly because this song is so typical that I can't think of another reason why it'd be so successful on the US charts.

Also I'm picturing Pitbull sitting in a mansion in Miami seething. You know that dude thought he'd be the next 'mostly another language' number one.
posted by librarylis at 7:16 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

Yeah this sounds like 1000 other songs to me except for Justin Bieber whose voice has so much processing you can't even tell if he can sing or not, plus some outtakes from an Axe body spray commercial .... I'm not feeling it ....
posted by freecellwizard at 8:09 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]

I hate this. I hate that the 'mainstream' is US style big dumb pop, I hate that this is 'Latin music' even though growing up in a south american country this always felt as a foreign thing depite its popularity, I hate the 'latino' label as well, I hate Daddy Yankee, I hate Luis Fonsi, I hate Bieber, I abhor the video, and I hate the song itself. (I'm sorry to sound somewhat negative).

I'll be at my gloomy corner listening to Juana Molina instead. Or even dance to the Sucu Tucu.
posted by fmoralesc at 1:20 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]

can't stomach the bieber warble...
posted by judson at 7:33 AM on June 14

I fully enjoy the fact that the beebs doesn't know the song well enough to sing it when asked.
posted by numaner at 1:11 PM on June 14

On the day of the Puerto Rico Day Parade last Sunday, I swear I heard "Despacito" ten different times just from cars driving by my house, and it had one line in English: "This is how we do it down in Puerto Rico/ I just want to hear you screaming Ay, bendito!"

so maybe there is a connection there? that might be why it got some extra attention in the past month? maybe NYC's radio stations thought the Nuyorican audience would dig it

But also I think the language barrier is a bigger problem than the unfamiliar rhythms and tones, for a non-Spanish-speaking audience, and this song makes an effort to overcome it. The one line in English really grabs my attention when I usually tune out music like this. The hook uses words (suavecito, poquito) that Americans who don't speak Spanish will still recognize. And outside of all of that, the vocal track is clean enough that (unlike most of the similar music I hear from cars driving by) I can catch most of the words. All of those things make it easier to connect to the song and remember it.

The song came out back in January and didn't hit number one until June, so I think those two things - Puerto Rico topicalism + radio mix with a line in English - combined to make it something English-language stations would play. I didn't hear "Gasolina" from any English-language stations.

(I like Pitbull a fuck of a lot better but I don't hate this song, or I didn't, until it got stuck in my head last weekend)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 10:13 AM on June 18

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