Ever since the official remix of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” featuring Justin Bieber dropped, the Latinternet has been engaged in a heated dialogue about cultural appropriation and authenticity surrounding the song. Some have celebrated Bieber as a champion of cross-cultural collaboration and exchange, while others perceive Bieber’s involvement (as well as the incident where he mocked the lyrics in a live performance) as a sign of disrespect and exploitation (*coughs* DUH).
That conversation reached new heights this week, when Spotify featured a sponsored Instagram ad crowning Bieber a “Latin king.”
The ad sparked controversy after many Latinxs spoke out criticizing the streaming giant for their characterization of the Canadian pop star, who is obviously not Latino. “So @Spotify thought it was a good idea to ignore every single Latinx artists & are instead call Justin Bieber a ‘Latin king,’” wrote a user on Twitter. “Do better.”
Another user wrote, “Excuse me? He refuses to even learn and perform the song correctly. What is wrong with you, @Spotify?”
Jeronimo Saldaña, an activist who works with the organization Mijente, even launched a petition demanding the removal of the advertisement. “We can not tolerate the commodification of our culture. Recording a song in Spanish does not make you a Latino and referring to Justin Bieber as a Latin King is just plain ignorant.”
In a statement, Spotify announced they would be taking down the advertisement following the backlash. “We made a creative decision to feature Justin Bieber in our ad because we wanted to celebrate ‘Despacito’ as a key cultural moment when music genres crossover. We realized that this could be seen as culturally insensitive, so we have pulled those ads,” a spokesperson told Remezcla.