The Seventh Day of Crossmas: Critically Acclaimed Pitbull
In this seasonal series, the good people of Crossfader detail what they want pop culture to get them for Crossmas this year. This time around, it’s . . .
Pitbull Releasing a Critically Acclaimed Album
Modern pop music is finally cracking the bank vault of territorial music nerdom. Yes, “pop” has at one point encompassed everyone from Frank Sinatra to The Beatles to The Smiths, but you know what I’m talking about: big, shiny, unpretentious music blaring from the speakers of KISS FM. In many ways, it’s a good thing. The historical revilement towards pop has long been coded in sexist dismissal of anything superficially perceived as feminine (and that’s not even mentioning the horrible things that get said about boy band fandom), and it’s nice that in certain circles, Flo Rida’s “Sugar” and The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feelin’” are being discussed with the same gusto as the latest untitled drone cassette from the former Soviet Republic. Of course, it also comes with its downsides, the main one being that there is still no discernible rhyme or reason for which pop albums get the loving adoration of a thousand beard-stroking bags of hot air. But, inspired by the recent critical gushings over acts such as Carly Rae Jepsen, Rihanna, and The 1975, I’m going to invoke the ghosts of Crossmas Future, Present, and Past, and ask that 2017 sees a critically acclaimed album from the one, the only, Mr. Worldwide.
You know the one
You see, in general, Pitbull is unfairly considered entirely without merit. You are a bald-faced liar if you claim anything other than the fact that Pitbull knows exactly what kind of music he’s making for exactly what kind of demographic, and that he rocks the everloving shit out of it. Mr. 305 makes music for the masses, specifically the masses who like quaffing large quantities of neon-colored drinks during the day. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Pitbull is a master of a very particular type of rapping that is specifically tailored to complement booming, maximal production tailored for dance floors. It is a niche talent in and of its own right, demanding a very specific ability to ebb and flow between rigidly structured four-on-the-floor, and, especially considering that it hails stylistically from the popular genre of reggaeton, there is no other artist working in the English language that demonstrates a similar propensity. Pop rappers exist, but you are far more likely to hear a retooled remix at the club, as opposed to an original, uncut offering. Dance rapping never had its heyday apart from some brief flirtations with Flo Rida, and a Pitbull album is the perfect vehicle from which to affect this change. Any Pitbull track is a much more cohesive and effortless blend between dance music and hip hop than anything something Kaytranada or Flume produced this year, and you can take that to the bank.
But as for the specific benefits of a potential new Pitbull effort, I promise you, it can (and hopefully will) bang. Pitbull makes amazing pop singles. You heard that right: amazing. “Fireball,” “Timber,” and “Give Me Everything” are amongst my picks for the best radio singles of the 2010s, and each demonstrates a different kind of mastery at the hands of Mr. 305. “Fireball” sees Pitbull at his most breezy and summer-oriented, bolstered by a foot-stomping percussive guitar riff, an earworm of a brightly blaring horn riff, and a menagerie of bateria-inspired percussion quietly churning along in the background. “Timber” features a star turn from the already underappreciated and underutilized Kesha (c’mon now folks, that’s one Hell of a catchy chorus) and the unexpected creative choice to base the main melody on a harmonica passage, hinting at a rare blending of folk, country, and dance music that would crash and burn in the hands of anyone else. Meanwhile, “Give Me Everything” is an electropop dream, making use of several different emotional palettes and synth styles to turn in a masterclass of Dutch House and unabashed baleful balladry. These disparate examples of success show that Pitbull can hold his own across a variety of templates, and that’s not even mentioning his early success with crunk (“305 Anthem” and “Toma,” both featuring Lil Jon), unfettered reggaeton and Latin rap (“Gasolina”), and smoky, late night EDM (“Can’t Have”).
If just given a roster of established producers and project overseers that regularly deliver pop albums that are more consistently consumable, Pitbull’s less desirable aspects could be tempered (we could probably do with lyrics that are a touch more invested), and we could all bask in the glow of a diverse, genre-bending pop effort. Give the man RedOne (whom he’s already worked with on two of Jennifer Lopez’s best singles)! Danger Mouse! Hell, why not even A.G. Cook or Danny L. Harle?
This man SCREAMS “Pitbull fan”
Somewhat on that note, a critically acclaimed Pitbull album is possible because of the wide swath of collaborators he’s worked with in the past. Sean Paul! Juicy J! Mayer Hawthorne! Redfoo! Trina! Twista! Snow Tha Product! Ricky friggin’ Martin! If Pitbull just refocuses a bit after his literal concert cruise, he could pull in a beguiling mish-mash of contributors from all walks of music. While this could raise some concerns of a disjointed effort that could overpower Mr. Worldwide’s presence, another point in Pitbull’s favor is just how charismatic he is. He’s crafted a persona so large and specific that he’s the part you remember out of any track he appears on. Say what you will about him, but he has pioneered and established his own sound, sounding like no one else at the same time that his music is always vaguely familiar.
His personal influence and artistic control over his projects are so large that he can be considered an author of the same. Does that sound like the definition of an auteur? Well, yes, that’s the literal definition of one. “So,” you may ask, “why hasn’t anything he’s done been critically acclaimed before?” Because, quite simply, the world was not ready to take him seriously! Pop is coming back in a big way, and has been deemed “safe” to like again. Tastemakers are willing to engage with it again — Pitchfork even has its own specific list focusing on the most outstanding examples of the genre from this year. It’s prime time for a late career critical renaissance, and Pitbull has the sound and scope for one.
Indeed, the most important spoke in the wheel of Big Pop is accessibility and the fostering of a widespread communal in-group, and there is simply no person on this Earth who could possibly find themselves unable to enjoy a Pitbull song for a reason other than an obnoxious and unwavering commitment to outdated conceptions of traditionalism. Pitbull calls himself Mr. Worldwide for a reason: this is a man whose music transcends race, class, and the geopolitical, culminating in an open-armed globalist dance party of styles from around the world. This is perhaps exemplified most readily by his involvement with “We Are One (Ole Ola),” the official song of the 2014 World Cup, which itself blends the horn-favoring house hook of Eastern Europe, Latin-tinged guitar strumming, dem bow riddims, and bilingual lyrics. Especially with the way the world’s been shaping up lately, we could all use a critically acclaimed Pitbull album to bring us together in a positive, uplifting slice of escapism. Yes, indulging in escapism all the time is bad, but you don’t have to listen to the album every single day, ya big dummy!
Put ‘er there, ya big dingus
But perhaps most importantly, Pitbull is almost shockingly scandal free. One needs only to consider our continued collective fascination with Justin Bieber (especially in the wake of his acclaimed 2015 effort, PURPOSE), never you mind what has amounted to a giant shrug at the legally proven behavior of Michael Jackson, to see that we are more than comfortable turning a blind eye to the proclivities of our pop paragons. But after spending more time than anyone really should looking into Pitbull’s past, I was encouraged by the fact that the man is virtually clean as a whistle. I can’t exactly go to bat for some of his lyrical choices, especially in his early days of attempting to be a bona fide rapper under the tutelage of Lil Jon, but aside from a DUI charge that he beat in 2007, roughing up a fan who invaded the stage in 2009, and a lawsuit involving the fact that he may have been paid too much to promote tourism in Florida (…?), we really have no reason to dislike Pitbull on a personal level. And you know what? That’s goddamned refreshing, especially in a year where an accused sex offender is set to be our Commander-in-Chief (and Pitbull makes it very clear that he did not support his rise to the White House).
You know what’s even better? Back in 2012 when the internet got its grubby little paws on a contest where Pitbull would make an appearance in the city containing the Wal-Mart with the most likes on Facebook, Pitbull met the challenge to go to Kodiak, Alaska with grace and good will, even inviting along the organizer of the prank. By all accounts, Pitbull is a generally upstanding man who deserves an album that will make a large number of year-end lists.
C’mon, this is adorable
Having really gone deep into his discography for this article, I must say that at best it’s anthemic and at worst it’s agreeable. However, I will admit that there is a certain lackadaisical element to the way he carries himself in terms of artistry, as I’m sure he knows that he’s making music for speakers on sweaty Miami beaches. If Pitbull just slightly took it upon himself to rebrand, all of the ingredients are here for the surprise pop hit to end all surprise pop hits. We no longer turn our nose up at festival-ready sounds. We no longer need a heady or “conscious” core of substance to consider something valuable. We no longer are afraid to dance. It’s time we gave Pitbull the chance to impress us.