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Colombia Travel Blog

By Marcela (And the See Colombia Travel Team)

Mar 15

Colombia and Reggaeton: Good, Dumb Fun, or Artistically Deficient Trash?

J-Balvin

“….like….music, which is the nearest Hell, or the Devil, in music. It polutes the art of Music.”

“If we value civilization, we cannot afford to ignore any longer the high correlation between the multibillion dollar… racket and the explosion of drug use and illicit sex among their teenage victims.”

“…immoral, as well as artistically deficient, a threat to the social order, apolitical.”

“On the one hand there are aggressive, sexually obscene lyrics that deform the innate sensuality of …woman, projecting them as grotesque sexual objects. And all that is backed by the poorest quality music.”

The above four quotes are some pretty strong reactions against different types of music. The first is a reaction against “jaz (sic),” and the second against “hard rock.”

What’s all the furore about? It’s just music, right? We’ve left that kind of moralistic backwardness behind, haven’t we?

Well, what if I told you the other two quotes were reactions against reggaeton, a music that has swept the dancehalls of Latin America with its immediately recognisable “dem bow riddim?” Have I lost a couple of supporters, now? Is the moralism of the first two quotes that different from the next two? Is reggaeton just trash of the highest order, so morally and musically repugnant that it’s only right that it was once banned in the country of its origin, and is now illegal in another? Many people would agree, but these people will be hard to find on a Colombian dancefloor once Don Omar or J Alvarez start thumping their way through a track.

What you will find, instead, is a whole dance floor going beserk to this music, so infectious and easy to dance to that you’ll even find this humble blogger – whose greatest dance inspirations are Ian Curtis of Joy Division and Peter Garret back in his epileptic fit days – sweeping the floor with his posterior in glee.

Now, I’m not going to try to sing the praises of Reggaeton’s artistic sensibilities, or the profundity, sensitivity, and beauty of the work of its wordsmiths; but then again, dance music has hardly ever been known for that sort of thing. You tell me what great significance lies behind such turns of phrase as “Hee de hee de hee de hee,” (“Minnie the Moocher), “Rock, rock, rock ’til broad daylight” (“Rock Around the Clock) or “Right about now: funk, soul, brother” (Rockefeller Skank). And, frankly, if I ever stopped to try to work out what that auto-tuned dude is actually saying over that cookie-cutter beat, I’d probably get a little grossed out. Glorifying consumerism, misogynism, and violence is pretty dumb, to say the least. But why single out reggaeton for its lack of subtlety? Why does nobody now bat an eyelid after Louis Armstrong’s just sung the praises of a gangster; Johnny Cash has just told us how he kills men just to watch them die; or John Lennon’s crooned about how he’d rather see his little girl dead than with another man; but then get all up in arms when Wisin and Yandel talk about their creepy sexual fantasies?

I'm sure you've heard about this horrible "reggae-thong" music...

I’m sure you’ve heard about this horrible “reggae-thong” music…

 

What I will say, though, is that nobody seems to care about how poor the quality of music is when they’re shaking their things to it. And I don’t think anyone’s listening to the lyrics in any particular depth while said things are shaking. Another thing I’ll say, too: when I’m out on my Friday adventures tonight, I’ll probably be relieved when that salsa song finally stops, and the reggaeton kicks in. The poor people I’ve just continually tripped over during my salsa efforts will probably be thankful, too.

What do you reckon? Am I being too charitable to the trash the kids are listening to these days, or do you like to get down and dirty to a bit of the old ‘ton too?

 

Featured photo of Colombian Reggaeton star, J Balvin, courtesy of http://www.rrrmusic.com/

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6 Comments on “Colombia and Reggaeton: Good, Dumb Fun, or Artistically Deficient Trash?

Dodecafonismo says:

I think Calle 13 is pretty much a rap band with some external influences here and there (as you said), being reggaeton one of these influences. But yeah, whatever. I don’t listen to them, but I have to admit that they’re better than the average rap/reggaeton bands/artists.

Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read my comments. Also, I’d like to apologize for any mistakes in my extremely inconsistent English (I’m working on it). Best wishes from Spain.

P.s. There’s only a word to describe both the hat and the moustache: Epic!

Posted on - Reply

    Paul Giles says:

    Heya Dodecafonismo!
    Hahahahaha thank you very much! One does try what one can! >_< And, as far as your English is concerned, I haven´t noticed anything wrong with it – your points are well-made and succinct! Don´t go trying to steal my job, now, OK? ;) Hope spains treating you well: best of wishes from us here in Colombia, too.

    Posted on - Reply

Paul Giles says:

Dodecafonismo,
Thank you for your comments, and, in good part, I´m inclined to agree with you. Reggaeton is generally pretty dumb. However, and it makes me feel a bit funny to admit, I do genuinely admire one group that makes music that is unquestionably reggaeton: Calle 13. I find their interpretations of this often-maligned genre inventive, interesting, and original: they bring so much from outside the usual bounds of reggaeton – both lyrically and musically – and make, imho, great music: e.g. their song (featuring Colombian great, Toto Momposina)Latinoamerica. This ability to innovate, while remaining firmly in a particular genre, is a quality I admire in what I consider the best artists. Still, there´s a lot of rubbish reggaeton going around…

Posted on - Reply

Dodecafonismo says:

Sorry, I actually wanted to quote this bit: “Glorifying consumerism, misogynism, and violence is pretty dumb, to say the least. But why single out reggaeton for its lack of subtlety? Why does nobody now bat an eyelid after Louis Armstrong’s just sung the praises of a gangster; Johnny Cash has just told us how he kills men just to watch them die; or John Lennon’s crooned about how he’d rather see his little girl dead than with another man; but then get all up in arms when Wisin and Yandel talk about their creepy sexual fantasies?”.

Posted on - Reply

Dodecafonismo says:

“Now, I’m not going to try to sing the praises of Reggaeton’s artistic sensibilities, or the profundity, sensitivity, and beauty of the work of its wordsmiths; but then again, dance music has hardly ever been known for that sort of thing. You tell me what great significance lies behind such turns of phrase as “Hee de hee de hee de hee,” (“Minnie the Moocher), “Rock, rock, rock ’til broad daylight” (“Rock Around the Clock) or “Right about now: funk, soul, brother” (Rockefeller Skank)”.

I get your point, but I don’t agree at all. The main difference is that other genres are POTENTIALLY complex and/or meaningful, while reggaeton isn’t. For example, there’s a lot of simplistic/stupid rock music, of course, but you can find more introspective stuff if you dig a little bit deeper (King Crimson – Epitaph; Arcade Fire – Sprawl I (Flatland); Pink Floyd – Time; Swans – Failure). Not to mention rock/metal-influenced bands, such as the avant-garde/experimental/compositional band Kayo Dot. Reggaeton is MOSTLY about sexism (trust me, I’m Spanish; I heard tons of songs dealing with the same exact subject), but sometimes you might be able to find songs about cliche love stories or about “social problems” portrayed in the less eloquent way possible; reggaeton is intrinsically vulgar and simple. Rock, metal, jazz, etc are extremely heterogeneous genres, reggaeton is a monochromatic joke in the form of sound. In other words: It’s just dumb fun; background sound for mindless parties. I’m ok with that, as far as people actually realize how dumb reggaeton is, instead of taking it as a genuine music genre.

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