So You Want to Write a Spanish Pop Song? Post-'Despacito,' Here's What Not to Do

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee perform their hit song "Despacito" during the 60th Annual Grammy Awards show on Jan. 28, 2018, in New York.  

So you want to write a Latin pop song? Get in line.

After the success of “Despacito,” it’s you and pretty much everyone else, nowadays. And I’m not talking Latin songwriters, but a slew of mainstream acts -- from rappers to EDM artists to straight-ahead pop singers -- who want to ride the Latin train.

We love it! But, writing bilingual songs is not easy. As “Despacito” producer Mauricio Rengifo said, “We treat Spanglish with a lot of respect.”

“It’s the post-'Despacito' dilemma,” his co-producer Andres Torres told Billboard. “How do you write songs in Spanish and English that don't sound like a marketing ploy? Writing a song in Spanish and adding the words amor or corazon is tough.”

While we understand not every song will have the “Despacito” finesse, in English and Spanish, we’ve heard some attempts that make us cringe. Which is why, after listening to song after song crafted in the most basic and often crass Spanish possible, we felt compelled to provide a few tips on what not to write if you want to stand out.

Here are some words and phrases to skip:

1. Señorita bonita
We’ll take the señorita. We’ll even take the bonita. But señorita bonita, or señorita immediately followed by (almost) anything that ends in “ita,” is so cliché it makes us want to scream. Find a Thesaurus and end the rhyme. Or take inspiration from lines like “my Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa.”

2. Baila, baila
No, no. For that matter, beware bailando and bailamos. Enrique Iglesias can get away with a lot, but most people can’t.

3. Caliente
Don’t. Just don’t.

4. Te amo
Use with caution.

5. Corazón

6. Ven a mi cama
Eh. Not terrible, but certainly there’s better ways to broach this.

7. Dale
On its own, never. That belongs to Pitbull.

8. Oye Mami
When Pitbull titled one of his songs “Mami Mami,” we kinda dealt with it because it’s Pitbull and he does that sort of thing. Then there’s another Pitbull track “Oye Baby” (eh). But the cat-cally "oye mami" does not rise in any way to the occasion. 


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