In what continues to be something of a strange collaboration, the Biebs teams up with Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Luis Fonsi and producer Daddy Yankee to claim the UK chart top spot for the fifth week running, in the same tediously static style as such recent unmemorable number ones as Cold Water, and One Dance, which I just had to remind myself are different songs.
Is this a move by Bieber to confound my attempts to point out the ineptness of modern pop lyricists? If so, it’s only half successful, because it leaves me with only a handful of lines I actually understand without using Google Translate, and my interest in the charts is really not that deep. Here we seem to have yet another pop song about an evening hook up, in what has to be the creepiest songwriting trend in my personal memory. What I might say in this example’s defence is that the persona of this sorry air at least appears to know the damsel in question in advance, which can’t be said of altogether too many of these kinds of songs. Sheeran’s Shape Of You springs to mind, as I’m still hearing that one around town for some reason. There are a few other things I can commend this tune for. First, as a native Englishman with a competence in French, JB’s Spanish accent seems pretty passable to me. Second, as a guitarist, there is something undeniably cool about the Flamenco knockoff noodling which runs throughout, and adds something interesting to the customary four repeated chords (yes, it’s those four), and the oh so pedestrian midi keys and percussion.
The sinister and creepy moments in this song aren’t as obvious as in Shape Of You and others like it, but they’re there if you want to find them. The most striking is Fonsi’s claim that “this is how we do it in down in Puerto Rico / I just wanna hear you screaming ‘¡ay, bendito!’”. Call me old-fashioned, but ‘screaming’ is not something I’d be comfortable with a dance partner doing, but Luis, Daddy, and Justin seem to quite relish it. Whatever floats their boats I guess, though as usual, I’d like to point out there is something like reluctance in these lines. At least in this case, the persona is approached in the start of the song, so they’ve brought this on themselves, really. I’m glad in a way that nobody makes any attempt – again, as far as I can tell with my miniscule comprehension of Español – to describe the love interest here, which modern pop writers are embarrassingly bad and shamelessly heavy-handed at.
In the musical department, I must say that this track is quite the earworm, with melodic hooks aplenty and little to distract from them in terms of structure, harmony, or wordcraft, all of which are lacking in the extreme. It’s annoyingly catchy in fact, which means that by listen 3, you’ve basically got the idea, and any more becomes supererogatory, not that Arena are likely to agree with me. Hopefully this is the last A View From The Top on this one; the whole country could do with something new in the ascendency rather than another One Dance, though again, I’m bracing myself to be wrong.