Back in 2008, Justin Bieber hit the musical scene hard. His hits “One Time” and “One Less Lonely Girl” captured the hearts of young girls around the world. The love for the Canadian singer continued into 2010 with arguably the biggest hit of his career, “Baby.” Bieber’s success continued for years without any problems. He sold out Madison Square Garden in seconds, appeared on TV shows, won MTV and Teen Choice Awards and stayed in the hearts of “Bielibers” everywhere. However, his fresh face did not stay unscathed for very long.
In 2012, Bieber encountered several legal issues including vandalism, reckless driving, and eventually the DUI that made his smiling mugshot famous. He has been caught using a mop bucket as a restroom in a public area, was rude and combative during his deposition after his DUI arrest in 2014, and has been recorded several times being verbally abusive to paparazzi. The pop star began to tarnish his reputation within Hollywood, alienating a lot of friends and fans. But what did not receive much light amongst the reports of his legal indiscretions, were his cultural ones.
Bieber had been caught using the n-word on multiple occasions, he has been seen appropriating hip-hop/African American culture with his clothing and now Bieber is in the spotlight again for his feature on the Luis Fonsi song, “Despacito”.
The song first came out in January of 2017 featuring Latino rapper, Daddy Yankee, and although it did pretty well in the Latino music scene the song did not make any waves in the general public until Justin Bieber was featured in a remixed version. I’ll have to admit, when I first heard the remix and recognized his voice singing Spanish lyrics, I was impressed. But after hearing the song a few more times, and thinking about what it means to have Bieber in this song, I started to see why it would become a problem.
The singer is not fluent in Spanish, which means he had to learn the portions he sang in the song, making it plausible to think that he does not have those lines memorized. This was proven and even became issue when Bieber drunkenly took a stage and admitted to not knowing the correct words so he replaced them with “blah blah blah”, “Dorito”, and “burrito”, mocking the culture he was invited to represent. People of color already have to face the issue of their culture being stolen and made fun of so by being put on this record, Bieber has the responsibility of being respectful and paying homage to the true nature of the language.
Reggaeton comes from a strong background of Latino people using music to speak out about the injustices their people are facing, much like Rap is for black folks. So a question to Fonsi can be, why Justin Bieber? Apparently the artist asked to be on the remix after hearing the original version but why allow him on and why allow him to sing in Spanish? Given Bieber’s history regarding the appropriation of different cultures, was it really the best decision to allow him on the record? An argument can be made that the move was made to gain popularity, which it has. “Despacito” is being played on numerous radio stations daily and is being compared to “Macarena” in terms of popularity.
At the end of the day, the song is out there. It is making millions of dollars and has hips swaying to the upbeat music all around the world. However, Bieber still needs to be held accountable for his actions and needs to take the time to understand why people are offended by his ignorance.