Justin Bieber cha-cha-ed into the world of latin music and topped the charts. It seems that there’s a simple solution for Latin artists looking to cross over: be more white.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” was all over the Latin music charts before Bieber got his hands on it. Non-Latino communities ignored it. Once it was Bieber-ed, though, white people everywhere know what “Despacito” means (BTW: it means slowly, which is appropriate, as the song is taking forever to go away).
But what the song means to Latin music fans is less clear. I reached out to the Latino community to see how they felt about the Biebs taking over this popular Latin song. For many, Despacito has become DespacitNO.
One Puerto Rican American angrily tells BTRtoday that she cannot escape his “stupid” version of the song.
“He is the worst,” she says.
Nelson, another Puerto Rican living in the States simply calls the song “whack.”
BTRtoday was already a little confused when Bieber first decided to give the fiery world of Latin pop music a whirl. The parts sung by Fonsi and Yankee are still very much about their Puerto Rican culture. But when Bieber comes in, it’s baffling.
It would be cool if Bieber was encouraging his fans to explore new cultures and languages. But it’s clear he’s not. In fact, he forgot the words while singing live and improvised with gibberish and added stereotypical Spanish words like “burrito.” In the video, you can hear audience members reacting in disbelief of his insulting version of the song.
As a Chilean born and raised in the U.S., I’m bothered when a Latin song spends 16 weeks at number one song on the pop charts only after a white male steps in.
But maybe I’m just being too sensitive, maybe the Latin community really isn’t feeling offended.
Catalina, a twenty-something born and raised in Chile shares that she thinks this version may even be better than the original version. “Something in his voice makes reggaeton sexier—yeah I said it,” she confesses. “I think an important point to consider is that Latinos don’t think about who sings or ‘how connected’ that person is to reggaeton, we just love to move to it. Most of this generation’s songs suck, but damn it’s nice to dance to them if it sounds sexy or happy.”
Puerto Rican twenty-something Diego agrees. “What did y’all expect?” he says about Bieber butchering the lyrics. “Bieber is controversial so everyone’s opinions are going to be skewed.” He concludes that the song, no matter how bad it may be, has helped Luis’ career and has helped Puerto Rico by creating more interest in its tourism.
One Venezuelan millennial living in Philadelphia is less supportive.
“It’s garbage,” she says. “The fact that the American public is claiming he discovered Luis Fonsi it’s laughable, Bieber doesn’t even know the lyrics and made a mockery when he pretended to sing it.”