by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)
It’s official: Pitbull has won a GRAMMY. What’s the world coming to?
My disdain for Pitbull–aka Mr. Worldwide, aka Mr. 305–runs deep. The guy has no notable talents. He doesn’t sing, he doesn’t rap, he doesn’t write his own lyrics, he doesn’t produce his own tracks, and he doesn’t dance. Frankly, he isn’t even good-looking or particularly stylish. He is bald, about five-foot seven, the only person in America with something resembling John Travolta’s facial hair in “Swordfish,” and, from time to time, has a slight golden tan.
What he’s good at is leaching off other talent and popular artists. His most popular songs are the ones he’s in the least. Someone will write a catchy hook, then a flavor of the month artist–Akon, T-Pain, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, Kesha, Jennifer Lopez, Jason Derulo to name a few–with some musical tallent and a recognizable brand will belt the chorus, and a producer will put that over an upbeat dance track that more often than not samples a classic from the 70s or 80s.
Where Pitbull comes in are the two, 18-second gaps between choruses, stumbling smugly over three uncreative, forgettable lines about how sexy he is, and how good she looks while she’s dancing, and how they both know they’re in for a fun night. Sometimes, he’s a “bad man.” Sometimes, she’s a “baby girl.” And sometimes, profanity that would make a 12-year-old chuckle is involved.
As far as I can tell, his best asset is that he was born in Miami Gardens as part of a Cuban family. Being Latino is his gimmick, and he throws some short Spanish catchphrases into his music that don’t really mean anything. His most popular are “dale,” which translates to “do it,” and “Calle Ocho,” a shout out to the Eigtht Street Latin Music Festival. He’s also partial to counting to three in Spanish for reasons that are unknown to me.
(Ok, he has some dance songs entirely in Spanish that get a lot of play in south Florida clubs, but those aren’t the ones that ever get played on American radio stations).
For some reason, Pitbull has became the glue that connects all these different, unrelated elements together in a way to make them a marketable radio hit. While there are plenty of artists who make annoying, corny songs that get popular, most have some noticeable draw–looks, voice, youth, sexuality, uniqueness. However, there aren’t many pop stars with as consistent a track record for getting songs onto the radio as Pitbull. In the last 12 years, Pitbull has had 17 top-40 hits, seven in the top-10 and two that topped the charts. (To compare, vocal and lyrical goddess Adele only has eight top-40 hits.)
Pitbull wasn’t always this terrible. He was never good, but from 2004 to 2009 he was something resembling a hip-hop artist, even if it was one living on the mainstream side of the genre. Songs like “Culo,” “Dammit Man,” “Bojangles,” and even “I Know You Want Me,” all had personality and some sort of authenticity. It wasn’t groundbreaking in any sense, but Pitbull’s still seemed to be in some kind of creative mindset.
Since, Pitbull has become a parody of himself, churning out the same song over and over again. At some point after 2009, the question was no longer “How do we make a good song?” or “How do we make a smash hit?” or even “How do we make the most money?,” all of which would have required a slight amount of effort and creativity.
Instead, it has become, “What’s another way we can have Pitbull do Pitbull?” “How can we have this song that was just popular, and tweak it ever so slightly to pass it off as something new?” “How can we make money with the least amount of effort possible?” It’s lazy, inartistic, unoriginal, and it infuriates me that it works so often.
In short, the artist known as Pitbull represents everything I despise about the music industry, commercialized pop music, and the GRAMMYs. Pitbull creates cookie-cutter pop in its least-creative, safest form, and goes home with one of the most prestigious awards in music.
The GRAMMYs lost my trust years ago, so it shouldn’t be too surprising. I just hoped they had a little more dignity than this.