“Despacito” Is…OK, I Guess

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This weekend, I read a Voxsplainer by Alex Abad-Santos about this summer’s mega-megahit, “Despacito.” What’s the deal?

Quite simply, “Despacito” is magic….chord progressions and melody….American listeners and even artists seem to be burned out on [the electronic dance music sound] and are craving something new….intimate vocals, and shifts away from high-energy choppy vocal synths and swirling drops….“Despacito” is a scorcher of a tune — the experts I talked to all agree.

Alternatively, here is Wikipedia’s more restrained description:

It is a reggaeton-pop song composed in common time with lyrics about having a sexual relationship, performed in a smooth and romantic way.

I’m going to preface this with my usual disclaimer: I don’t know much of anything about music, and what I do know is limited to Top 40 classical and Top 40 classic rock. Anyone who takes music seriously should just ignore what I have to say.

Which is this: I’ve listened to “Despacito” many times over the past month. I wanted to give it a fair try, since it often takes a few listens to really get into a new song. But no matter how many times I listen, it only seems…OK. I don’t hate it or anything. But a scorcher of a tune? I just don’t get it. The tune seems distinctly ordinary. I haven’t found myself humming it in the shower. I haven’t added it to my playlists. It’s just…OK.

I’m genuinely curious about this. “Despacito” didn’t become a megahit by appealing to music afficianados. It became a hit by appealing to millions of teenagers with no more knowledge of music than me. What do they hear that I don’t? In particular, what do they hear in the tune that I don’t? I’m as susceptible to a tune with a great hook as anybody, but I just don’t feel it. Is it really an addictive earworm for most people?

I assume my audience is not exactly the perfect group of people to ask about this. Still, you go to war with the audience you have, not the audience of plugged-in teenagers you wish you had. Anyone have anything to say about this?

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Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

payment methods

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