Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Filth and romance; wackness and sappiness

(Haga click aquí para la versión en español.)

I wish there was a word like "porquería" in English. It's the term I used when I first wrote this column/blog post in Spanish. If there was such a word, I would have a handy term that could mean at once filth, trash, crude, low-quality and wack. But there isn't.

In honor of David's heartfelt description of Calle 13 as profoundly "wack," I'm tempted to settle for wack as a synonym for "porquería." It was actually David's visceral dislike of Calle 13 (in general) and the song "Mala suerte con el 13" (in particular) that inspired me to explore the whys of my equally visceral appreciation of the same song. (For my initial post and David comments, click here.)

But tempted as I am to use the word "wack," I'll stick to the original term in Spanish.

"Porquería" is usually a word we use to describe something we don't like. It's, of course, a totally subjective word. What is filthy, low-quality or wack for some, is not so for others.

For example, listening to "Mala suerte con el 13" triggered in me an intense music-inspired joy. For me, that collaboration between Calle 13 and La Mala provides a much-needed relief from the usual romantic/erotic formulas in urban music, particularly in Latino urban music. But for others, the song produces absolutely no joy and is, in a nutshell, a "porquería."

"Calle 13 is wack as hell," says David, a hip-hop and reggaeton connoisseur whose value judgments I treasure. "I never wanna hear another rap song about scat again in my life. That was too much."

The same song was described in the blog La Onda Tropical as a lost opportunity: its "misplaced profanity gives a rancid taste to what could have been an intimate hiphop song with a great guest rapera."

The song is stuffed with profanity. No doubt. But the profanity, in my opinion, takes nothing away from the intimacy and sensibility of the song. I'm sincerely surprised that the writer of La Onda Tropical thinks it does.

La Mala said in an interview with Ernesto Lechner published in the Chicago Tribune: "I loved turning this grotesque song into a parody of the typical flirty duet between a man and a woman."

In a commercial musical scene overrun by romantic clichés, maybe the grotesque inspires La Mala more than sappiness. It certainly does for me. In a music scene where painful gender power dynamics are usually presented in romantic wrapping paper with a pretty bow, it's refreshing to hear that song where the male is not waxing eloquent on why he's irresistible and the female caressing his ego with her perpetual "sí, papi."

"Porquería" are the usual power games between men and women, be it in music or outside of it. "Porquería" is that cheap, hypocritical romantic-ness... the one from the songs and the one we live day-to-day. Calle 13's crudeness is nothing compared to that huge and tragic "porquería." At least for me. La Mala might agree.


wayne&wax said...

Estoy de acuerdo tambien!

Chapín said...

I must say your views have changed the way I see this song. (And I'm the stubborn type, you know, one of those people who would hang on to their opinion even if they know they're utterly wrong :)).

I was intially disgusted by the "sexo con caca" bit, which kinda ruined the initimate atmosphere for me. But I think you're right that this part is crucial to what Calle 13 and La Mala want to achieve here.