“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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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