Before Justin Bieber remixed “Despacito,” a song by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, it was already a hit in the Latin-speaking communities around the world. And after Justin remixed the song and was featured on the track; it became an international sensation.
Luis Fonsi said in an interview that Justin wanted to be a part of the song when he heard it at a club while he was touring Latin America. Apparently, Justin saw the crowd’s reaction to the song and immediately wanted to be a part of it. This shows that Justin recognized how good the song was and being featured on it would mean a gain for him; both monetary and in popularity among the Latin-speaking community.
Justin recorded his verses for “Despacito” for no other reason than personal gain.
Justin Bieber is a young white man who is notorious for his antics, not really caring about the consequences. And as a privileged white man, he has always gotten away with them, with little to no consequences. Thus it is no surprise that Justin confidently called Luis up and informed him of his wish to record his own verses for the song.
Justin used his position as an international superstar to his advantage. He knew his name being added to the song would bring “Despacito” into the mainstream limelight and what Latin artist could say no to that? Considering the last Spanish single to reach that kind of popularity was back in 1996 when Macarena by Los Del Rio was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Justin evidently insisted on singing the chorus in Spanish as well as his verse in English. This was a genius move; winning him hearts of Latin speakers everywhere and possibly making his fan base even wider.
This is a clear case of cultural and language appropriation. Justin used the Spanish language where it served to benefit him. He knew that being featured on a hit song such as “Despacito” would mean that he would gain both monetarily and in terms of fame in the Latin community but that was as far as his interest in Spanish went. He could not be bothered with the language beyond where it benefited him.
Justin used the Spanish language where it served to benefit him. He knew that being featured on a hit song such as “Despacito” would mean that he would gain both monetarily and in terms of fame in the Latin community but that was as far as his interest in Spanish went. He could not be bothered with the language beyond where it benefited him.
The issue came later when Justin sang the song at a club. He apparently did not remember a single Spanish lyric to the song but sung it nonetheless. He substituted the Spanish chorus with words which he apparently thought sounded Spanish which included “Dorito,” “Burrito” and “Poquito.”
Luis himself defended Justin, saying the Spanish lyrics were incredibly tough and even native speakers of the language would face difficulties singing them. But that does not change the fact that what Justin did was not only disrespectful but incredibly hurtful to native Spanish speakers.
Justin trivialized the Spanish language; he sang nonsensical lyrics to a song he originally sang in Spanish. It is understandable that he would not remember the lyrics since he does not speak Spanish. However, this does not mean he can make up whatever nonsense lyrics he wants to the song, using words which he thinks sound Spanish. Instead, he just used lyrics that are stereotypical ones people use in conjunction with the Latin culture. Justin might have thought he was being funny but he just came across as plain disrespectful.
Justin might have thought he was being funny, but he just came across as plain disrespectful.
Justin Bieber sang the Spanish chorus on “Despacito” of his own volition. Later, he made fun of the song by singing the Spanish lyrics wrong on purpose, which was not only insensitive but also disrespectful. How hard is it to just say you don’t know the lyrics?
It is no secret that white men are incredibly privileged, but white male celebrities are even more so. Letting them get away with casually appropriating cultures and languages need to stop. We need to call out artists when their actions are disrespectful or hurtful to a certain community.
There have been people defending Justin’s actions saying he was only having fun and meant no harm. However, his performance clearly ridiculed the Spanish language and hurt thousands of people. If it was indeed a joke, then Justin needs to publicly accept that his humor was tasteless and apologize.
While Justin has now refused to perform “Despacito” live, he has still not apologized for his actions at the club. Thousands of native Latin speakers have been hurt by Justin’s actions yet he still refuses to own up to it and apologize for his behavior.