Before we go on, I feel the need to mention that from the very beginning, I have both detested and loathed Despacito in equal measure. I have even gone to the extents of writing “no voy a tocar Despacito” (I’m not going to play Despacito) in permanent marker on my laptop. So just to clarify, I’m not going to say anything particularly complimentary about Des-pa-cito.
The song first came to my attention at the beginning of the year, when a particularly drunk group of girls came and asked me to play it. Apparently it was one of the girls’ favourite tracks. I explained to them we didn’t play reggaeton, that we didn’t have wifi, and that, most importantly, I didn’t have the song. This didn’t matter. I needed to play Des-pa-cito. The most important thing that was going to happen that night was that I played Des-pa-cito. I hot-spotted my laptop with my phone, I found Des-pa-cito, I downloaded Des-pa-cito, I played Des-pa-cito. I then promptly deleted Des-pa-cito and prayed that I would never hear Des-pa-cito again. This turned out to be extremely wishful thinking. From then on not a day has gone by where I haven’t heard either the original or some horrific salsa-ified remix played in shopping centres, taxis, supermarkets, electrical shops, hardware shops, the list is endless.
I went back to the UK in June, the principal thing that I was obviously looking forward to (aside from excessive sausage roll consumption and being able to put loo roll down the loo) was not having to hear Des-pa-cito played ad infinitum in every public space I set foot it. Oh how wrong I was. Apparently the fact that the song is both extremely terrible and also in Spanish hadn’t mattered. Des-pa-cito had apparently become universally popular. Justin horrid Beiber had even got his grubby little mitts onto Des-pa-cito and had done a bit of singing on it. Short of doing a Van Gough, it transpired I was going to have to endure Des-pa-cito on home soil as well.
Des-pa-cito was the first foreign language song to reach #1 in the United Kingdon after “Gangnam Style”. Do you remember “Gangnam Style?” Do you remember how bad “Gangnam Style” was? Des-pa-cito is officially as bad as “Gangnam Style”, except with one key difference: “Gangnam Style” was always meant to be a joke, tongue in cheek, a humorous dig a South Korean society that went viral and got way out of hand. Des-pa-cito is a legitimate pop song that is just really, inexplicably bloody popular. Be terrified.
I have no idea who sings Des-pa-cito, I doubt many people do. Des-pa-cito has become a single omnipresent entity - a single omnipresent entity that has been streamed 4.6 billion times. That’s more than any other song ever. This is extremely worrying to people like me that both loathe and detest Des-pa-cito in equal measure because songs that popular don’t die. Songs as popular as Des-pa-cito live on at cheesy student nightclubs, at weddings, on awful Latin American radio stations forever more, eclipsing the artists that created it, eclipsing the entire genre it spawned from, eclipsing the sun and bringing eternal Des-pa-cito sounding darkness on every thing and every one, until we find ourselves driving to the supermarket in 5 years time shouting “suave suave-cito” at the top of our lungs because it’s somehow made it onto our playlist of guilty pleasures, right between “Don’t Stop Believing” and “La Macarena”. Do you remember the last time you heard these songs? Perhaps not, but you know it was recently, because these terrible tunes are what form the musical wallpaper of our existence. Tracks like Des-pa-cito dissolve into the background but remain in your head eternally. Did you hear Des-pa-cito at the garage? Did you hear Des-pa-cito whilst you were on the bus the other day, playing off some awful teenager’s phone? You have no idea, but one thing we do know is that we are going to keep hearing Des-pa-cito forever.
There is one final horrifying point to be made about Des-pa-cito which is this: most songs this popular are in English and generally speaking don’t tend to have much longevity in Latin American countries; they disappear. We will never shake it off. This is real, this is happening. Apparently in this dystopian nightmare that is 2017, a bad reggaeton / pop crossover track is now the most popular song in the world and there’s not a thing we can do about it.