I’m sorry to those that have to read my babbling, but I am straying into the political sphere (and another article with Justin Bieber mentioned too!). I bet you have seen that meme ‘I won’t get all political’ and then three drinks in…
I was going to stand proudly by and not write a blog about politics (as I am not as passionate as some others) but alas, I have found a topic worth discussing. Top 40 music is a big part of my life, and I have noticed more and more Latino sounding music popping up in my normal listening, like Demi Lovato’s ‘Instruction’, with elements of Dancehall beats.
But let me put it out there – are those artists and fans embracing and making Latin Pop popular in the Western World making a subtle stance towards Donald Trump and his Border Wall policy and ideals?
Music and Politics
Music has often been a powerful medium for artists to express their opinions and resonate with the feelings of the public. Since the invention of the phonograph, to broadcast radio and television, and music ownership in the forms of records, cassette tapes, CD’s, mp3 files and music streaming services; music produced for mass audiences has usually either aimed to appeal to many individuals, or to offer music to those who enjoy a certain genre/s. Some musicians have used this art form to present a message that they feel passionately about at that period of time.
There are many Australian artists that have created wonderful examples of this politicised music, including acts such as Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, Yothu Yindi, Paul Kelly, Tim Minchin and even Guy Sebastian. Cold Chisel released “Khe Sanh’ in 1978, as a reflection of those coming home from conflict in the Vietnam War, a war that was often not supported by the government or the public.
In the United States, a whole sub-genre was influenced by the hip hop group N.W.A., who used their music to express the injustices from the authorities towards African Americans in their country during Reagan’s time in office.
Their music was unapologetic and explicit, and ‘Fuck da Police’ was a track that stood against police harassment, but also garnered them a lot of attention from the authorities and the FBI.
Fuck the police! Comin’ straight from the underground
A young nigga got it bad ‘cause I’m brown
And not the other color, so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority
Fuck that shit, ‘cause I ain’t the one
For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun
To be beating on, and thrown in jail
We can go toe-to-toe in the middle of a cell
And for the sake of currency, I have to mention Macklemore’s performance of ‘Same Love’ at the NRL Grand Final, which was heavily opposed by parties who were not in support of ‘politicising’ their sporting events with Same Sex Marriage messages. And Macklemore pledged to ‘go harder’ when he spoke about the backlash.
— GEMINI (@macklemore) October 1, 2017
Lets Bring it Back to Latin Music and the Current Situation
Compared to the examples above, it may seem that the current Latino Pop wave is just a trend, but I believe it is something more. Latin Pop experienced a ‘boom’ in the 1990’s, and some of those emerging artists are still creating charting hits. There are a small number of Latino music stars that feature in the Western Billboard charts, including the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Shakira. And then there are more of the one hit wonders of the 1990’s including Los del Mar’s ‘Macarena’ and Las Ketchups’ ‘The Ketchup Song’.
If we look at the opposite of a Latin music ‘boom’, we see a very small representation of Latinx performers and music in Western charts. Spanish is widely taught in educational institutions in the United States, as a significant portion (58 million) of the population is Hispanic. This language knowledge is also geographically important, with the United States being so close to South American countries.
But we know from President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and his continual statements as POTUS that he holds a strong stance on immigration policies, and is still aiming to build a US-Mexico border wall (with construction in the beginning stages) and deport illegal immigrants.
The residents of Puerto Rico have recently been affected by Hurricane Maria, and Trump’s response to the natural disaster has been underwhelming and creating mistrust of the administration. Trump has disseminated nasty Tweets, and told Puerto Rican’s that their disaster ‘wasn’t as bad as Katrina’.
…Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
But there are now interesting external forces potentially affecting the public’s sentiment towards the Latin community. ‘Despacito’ is currently sitting at the #1 most viewed video on YouTube, getting close to 4 billion views. The song is being described as an Ode to Puerto Rico, a Carribean island and territory of the United States.
The positive reception that ‘Despacito’ and other Latin music has received is being described as a ‘revolution against the political climate minorities are facing’. But other critics are still quick to highlight that two Latin songs made popular with American pop singers will not change the face of Latin Pop in Western music any time soon.
And the creators of the smash-hit ‘Despacito’ have recognised the songs power and its significance in the political climate under Trump’s administration. Marty James states:
“It was almost funny to see Trump talking about building a wall and deporting people, and yet the No. 1 song in the country all summer was a Latin based song that’s basically 80 percent Spanish, It just goes to show you that Trump’s line of thinking is actually very small minded.”
So what does this mean for the future of Latin music? I don’t know. It is difficult to have an opinion living in Australia and having our own political issues. But it seems the more that Latin performers are shown in the mainstream music industry, the more it will stand and fight against the detractors in their political landscape.