Malaysia bans Despacito – Will it slow down the hit song?

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Despacito Banned

I can’t quite recall when “Despacito” actually “hit” me but it did, at least a couple of months ago.

Since then I have downloaded all of the other remixes by among others, Justin Bieber, Major Lazer and MOSKA.

My teenage son can sing along – word for word – as if Latin is his native language.

Yes, Despacito has officially become the most streamed song in music history, just six months after its release.

Nothing “slow” about the record, obviously – despite its title which means “Slowly” in English.

Despacito by Puerto Ricans Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee is definitely not a one-hit phenomenon.

There’s a movement.

Young fans are not only streaming audio, but video, which is also increasing the traction of these Latin tracks.

Four of the five top artists on YouTube from June 30 – July 6 were Latin, with Luis Fonsi ranking number one.

Bigger Than Gangnam

Industry veteran John Reilly said that “Despacito” became a big hit worldwide before the feature with Justin Bieber.

Bieber did 50 to 60 million views on YouTube.

Malaysia has banned their hit song “Despacito” on state radio and television, though it might be hard to slow the song’s record-breaking popularity. The ban applies only to government-run radio and TV outlets, not to music streaming services or global entertainment providers like YouTube. (Lynne Sladky, AP)
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee perform onstage at the Billboard Latin Music Awards at Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida, on April 27. Malaysia has banned their hit song “Despacito” on state radio and television, though it might be hard to slow the song’s record-breaking popularity. The ban applies only to government-run radio and TV outlets, not to music streaming services or global entertainment providers like YouTube. (Lynne Sladky, AP)

“Despacito,” along with the remix that features Bieber, has reached 4.6 billion streams, making it the biggest song of 2017.

In addition to the 4.6 billion streams since its January release the song has reached #1 on the charts in 35 different countries around the world.

It spent 10 consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and 9 weeks at #1 on the UK official charts.

The song also spent 17 weeks at #1 in Spain, becoming the first Spanish song to reach #1 on Spotify’s “Global 50” chart.

The music video has been the fastest clip to ever reach 2 billion views.

Bigger than Gangnam Style by South Korean musician Psy.

Luis Fonsi had this to say about the song’s success: “Streaming has made it possible for audiences around the world to connect with the music.

“It has helped my music reach every corner of the earth.”

Sexually-Charged Lyrics

So does it make sense for a hit song to be taken off the airwaves of Malaysia?

Especially when it’s biggest reach by far is via streaming – both audio and video.

The decision by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry to ban “Despacito” from government-owned RTM and radio channels was done following complaints of sexually-charged lyrics.

Wanita Amanah (Awan) and Parti Amanah Negara (PAN) say the sexual and violent lyrics was not suited to Eastern culture and Islam.

Perhaps the Ministry should conduct a public poll on this to gauge the opinion of the majority of music-loving Malaysians, something they’ve never done before.

They are after all, the government by the people and for the people.

Part of the lyrics read: “Let me breathe your neck slowly, Let me undress you with kisses slowly, sign the walls of your labyrinth, and make your whole body a manuscript.”

Song writers would agree that if we were to scrutinize the lyrics of most hit songs especially those of heavy metal, rock and pop genre, they would be “banned” in Malaysia.

So why Despacito and not the rest which also contain sexually explicit lyrics.

Awan’s Arts and Culture chairperson Atriza Umar says many young children were singing the song without actually understanding its lyrics.

She said that local Malay radio stations were also playing the song resulting in it becoming a phenomenon that was hard to stop.

There’s a string of parodies, including by Malaysians.

A Malay song based on “Despacito” called “Incognito” has so far gained close to eight million views on YouTube.

To Ban Or Not To Ban

In the past, suggestive songs aired over public airwaves were subjected to censors, with swear words being silenced without disrupting the flow of the song.

So does a total ban actually put a stop to people tuning in to the banned material, in this case “Despacito”?

The answer would be an emphatic NO.

In fact most are of the notion that the result is reverse – ban something and people are more curious to find out what it is all about.

So perhaps the authorities and “concerned” parties can think of other ways to rectify the situation otherwise, best to just leave music and art out of the policing circle.

It is after all, an expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.

We don’t want to stifle those skills, do we?

Then again, to be fair, I do agree that we should be sensitive to the sensitivities of certain communities in this country and elsewhere in the world.

To Luis Fonsi, all I can say is:

Thank you for the music, thank you for the unbelievable EXPLOSION of a beautiful, beautiful song!

Info obtained from:

  1. BBC
  2. The Star Online

By Anne Edwards

(Writer was the Head of Production, News, Current Affairs & Programs at Bernama TV from 2009 – 2012. Prior to that in 2008, she joined Bernama TV as Executive Producer, Host & Anchor)

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