“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 BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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