Reggaeton has been widely demonized by media, society, and the music industry. Yet, the fascination and craving for this Latin American rhythm makes me wonder whether it represses those who listen to it, or gives us the chance to liberate ourselves from old-fashioned constraints.
I don’t like reggaeton. Well, I think I don’t. I grew up hearing it as a teenager, and I was very reluctant to listen to it, not to mention dance to it. There were specific elements in it that made me dislike it to the point of loathing, but then something changed. After years and years of rejecting it, I’ve found myself surrounded by it, and now, it offers me a chance to experience that freedom only music can give.
First, its highly sexual content was one of the elements that made me dislike it back then. I grew up in a small, conservative town, and sexuality was one of those things no one really talked about (forget being loud and unapologetic about it). I also believe that I, a queer teenager back then, couldn’t relate to the fact that the genre focused mainly on straight relationships and celebrated the sexualization and desire for the female body.
Secondly, and most importantly, there was also a class issue. “Nice people don’t listen to or like this ‘ghetto’ music” was something I heard throughout my upbringing. So, “nice people” at “nice parties” didn’t listen to it. Our “social status” (whatever that means) forbid us to enjoy it. But the tables have turned and now, reggaeton is fiercely mainstream and has taken a different course, leading to greater acceptance by the general public.
Reggaeton’s mainstream boom may have come 15 years ago with Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina", and the prejudice towards it has changed little by little. Now you hear it everywhere, all the time, and it has become THE go-to genre for any party, whether it’s in a small apartment in the outskirts of the city, or at a fancy club in a rich neighborhood. Reggaeton offers liberation to everyone, regardless of class, race, or gender; everyone can get lost in the rhythm, without caring what others may think.
With the explosion of reggaeton, there’s also been a new wave of female reggaeton singers. Women have been objectified in this music genre through the way it depicts and fetishizes them, their bodies, and sexuality. But new artists are changing the game. Not that there hadn’t been female singers in reggaeton before, but now there are more (such as Becky G) owning their sexuality and sometimes striking back at the way men used to hypersexualize them by doing the same to them (not that this makes it better, though).
The sexual innuendos in their lyrics connect better with women and LGBT+ community nowadays. The stigma and prejudice against it seem to have vanished, and maybe it’s for the best. Without realizing it, I’ve found myself singing at the top of my lungs and dancing my butt off, thinking “why on earth am I dancing to this ridiculous song?” Most people no longer care about whether they look “trashy” dancing to reggaeton. No one seems to take themselves that seriously anymore (and if they do, well, let’s call them a bore to put it nicely).
Reggaeton has given everyone the chance to embrace and explore their sexiest self while dancing to the catchy beats and simple lyrics, like those of J Balvin's. Everyone is the hottest person in the club, not giving a single “F” whether someone is looking, or judging them according to ridiculous beauty standards. No one cares anymore about what society thinks about them, what anyone expects them to do or how to behave. And just like that, sweaty bodies embrace and celebrate one another, and we are all now each other’s “Mi Gente.”
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