Despacito: The Truth Behind the Hit

As I was lounging around in my dorm, with my ukulele in hand and my feet on table, I scrolled through this year’s top songs yearning for a tune to play. Towards the very tip top, I apathetically clicked on the ‘Song of the Summer’, the one and only “Despacito Remix” by none other than Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi and JB. It’s been stuck in my head since I started writing this article, so it’s no lie that it’s one of the catchiest songs out there. CNN, somehow, made sure to be vocal about it too. But as you sing along and throw in that “burrito” for the end of every sentence in the chorus, do you really know what you’re saying? 

Although originally released in January, it has since built an impressive resume, breaking one record after another. Reaching a whopping 3 billion views on YouTube- and being the first one to do so- is an impressive accomplishment, no doubt. The song is also the most streamed song of all time, and has since tied with Mariah Carey for being the longest-leading No. 1 hit on Billboard Hot 100.

There’s no lie; they are quite the lyricists. But I will confess that I found it so very difficult to keep singing and saying the lyrics out loud without stopping every few seconds. Being bilingual in Spanish and English, I really do understand every lyric throughout the whole song, not just the 30-second JB feature. And let me tell you, if there was a parallel universe where the song was originally released in English, radio stations would have to give PSAs before playing the song.

And speaking of radios, this is a personal callout post to all the radio stations this summer, who could not go for more than 20 minutes without playing the reggaetón hip-hop hit. I bet you’ve probably heard your parents, who are clueless about pop culture, sing along too.  

When I started hearing the song more often, I started to get more and more tired of it. Because of my conservative upbringing, mainstream songs that glorify sex weren’t exactly at the top of my must-listen list. I remember my mother so briskly stating: “There are 13-year-old girls singing this song, and they haven’t a single clue what it means”. Of course, she said it in Spanish. But the whole thing was a déjà vu situation. It warmly reminded me of the ‘Harlem Shake’ craze that happened back in 2012. Here’s a refresher, or perhaps a first look:

The lyrics of this worldwide trend read: “Con los terroristas. Do the Harlem Shake,” accompanied by a hard synth drop. The lyrics directly translate to “With the terrorists. Do the Harlem Shake”. Now imagine 700 million views emerging from 40,000 versions of the song. And imagine the amount of people that were innocently singing along to something that perhaps would make them uncomfortable if translated into their native tongue. 

Even yet another example would be the infamous “Gasolina”, released in 2004, another reggaetón hip-hop single by Daddy Yankee himself. “Gasolina” directly translates to “Gasoline”, which seems innocent enough. An average person might assume that “Gasoline” is just in fact, “Gasoline”. But the fact of the matter is that “Gasoline” is a euphemism (spoiler alert). I don’t exactly want to spell it out but let’s take a look at the lyrics:

Daddy Yankee (who is a man): A ella le gusta la gasolina (she likes the gasoline)

Glory (who is a woman): Dame más gasolina (give me more gasoline)

Daddy Yankee (who is a man): Como le encanta la gasolina (she likes the gasoline)

Glory (who is a woman): Dame más gasolina (give me more gasoline)

Got it? Got it.

If you haven’t been enlightened on the wonderful imagery that “Despacito” has been sharing this summer, take a look- proceed at your own risk of course-:

You, you’re the magnet and I’m the metal

I’m getting closer, I’m making a plan

Only thinking about it, the pulse speeds up

Now, now I’m liking it more than usual

All my senses are asking for more

Let’s do this without hurry

 

Slowly

I want to breathe your neck slowly

Let me murmur things in your ear

That way you remember when I’m not with you

Slowly

I want to undress you by kissing you slowly

I sign in the walls of your labyrinth 

And make your body a manuscript

 

Wanna see your hair dance

Wanna be your rhythm

Show my mouth

Your favorite places

 

Let me overcome your dangerous zones

Until I provoke your screams

And you forget your last name

 

If I ask you for a kiss, come give it to me

I know you’re thinking about it

I’ve spent some time trying

Mami, this is giving and giving it

You know your heart with me goes bom, bom

You know that babe is looking for my bom, bom

Come try from my mouth, see how it tastes

I wanna, wanna, wanna see how much love fits inside you

I’m not in a hurry, I wanna go on the journey

Let’s start slow, and then, wild

 

I can guarantee you one of the most uncomfortable positions to be in in the world is singing these lyrics -especially once you get into the song- with your parents in the car. I have been there. 0/10 recommend. Bottom line, things go viral quickly. In this age of technology, we have the world at our fingertips. It’s exhilarating, but it is especially now that we cannot afford to be detached. This doesn’t just apply to viral trends; it’s pop culture, politics and science. We have a responsibility to take advantage of our lightning-quick technology. Be aware. Get educated before you blindly endorse something. And you might save yourself from one of the least blissful things in this world: ignorance. 

 

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