Saturday, January 13th, 2018

Rak-Su ft. Wyclef Jean & Naughty Boy – Dimelo

We like the current X-Factor winner a bit better, though.


Scott Mildenhall: There were a number of reasons to be pleased about Rak-Su’s X Factor victory, but the best was undoubtedly the consequent release of the songwriting credits for one of their many identical songs. It turns out that this one was co-written by Rak-Su, Syco-affiliated duo AFTERHRS, an X Factor vocal coach and two Dutchmen who previously worked with their local X Factor successes B-Brave. The question of what was really going on with the entirety of their atypically slick act — superior even in their audition — remains for now, and there are many more. After an enterprise so organised, why is this single essentially the same phoned-in one recorded for its initial live performance? Given that, why does Naughty Boy have a production and feature credit for it, when all he seemed to do was turn up at the final and stand in the background? What about the other songs — was one the one they were supposed to make with Ali Tamposi, given as a needless prize? And were the live shows cut down this year in case they ran out of Latin and French-based clichés? A simple answer is that “HAD TO WHATSAPP MY AMIGOS” was one of the big pop pleasures of 2017. It sounds even better under a tin foil hat.

Iain Mew: Rushing this out unchanged was a great move, its cartoonish energy making it the rare X Factor winner single that works as demonstration of what took the artist to victory. Getting in Wyclef to redo his bit from “Hips Don’t Lie” is even connected to the song in a way that the show’s guest stars usually aren’t. The thing keeping me from enjoying it as much as the last breakout finalists Reggie ‘n’ Bollie is wincing at the culture-as-costume lyrics; “got me feeling Latino” is so on-the-nose that I’m surprised, even in the UK, that it hasn’t crossed the comment piece horizon. 

Ryo Miyauchi: A guilty pop pleasure of mine is when a rapper starts talking about how he’ll seduce Latina women, only to then showcase the most crude knowledge of Spanish while explaining how that conversation would go. His understanding of her language and culture usually only goes deep as his access to TV allows, and it’s also true of this X-Factor boy band. After the men exhaust their list of Latina pop stars, all that’s left is shallow Spanish more present as texture than sincere connection. They can import a pop style, fine, but don’t be any more of a tourist than that unless you want to look foolish.

Austin Brown: Sorry guys, but coming off a year when both boy bands and Latin music were redefining themselves and shaping the pop charts to fit their terms, I don’t have much tolerance for middling pretty-boy dancehall. Not to say I would’ve been impressed by this any other year. Just…in the Year Of Our Lord 2018? In this economy? Extra point docked for making what seems like a conscious choice to only reference the Latina pop star icons that my mom would recognize.

Alex Ostroff: If we’re grading on a scale of awkward boyband tracks that attempt to capture a vague ‘Latin’ vibe, at least it’s better than this CanCon ‘classic’. That said, after ‘Mi Gente‘ and ‘Despacito‘ crossed over and Little Mix hopped on a ‘Reggaetón Lento‘ remix, a bunch of British dudes singing about Shakira, J.Lo and Camilla is both superfluous and underwhelming.

Micha Cavaseno: Boy, that Wyclef verse sure is… something. The production is fine, the lyrics are a sea of pop referentia and just really weird fetishism which is nothing new but nothing exactly satiating. Obviously the performance is the key for this record, and the context of investing in Rak-Su and being happy for their victory but coming into it on its own, you just see the age old problem of industry pop acts working too hard to establish the first ‘smash’.

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