In Appreciation of Pitbull

It’s strange that in this age of constant consumption, when gigabytes of content are devoured whole every millisecond, that Pitbull hasn’t earned the dubious respect of the irony crowd. Heaven knows Mr. Worldwide’s given enough grist for the mill over the past decade, so why isn’t he being stanned?

We’re all a little tired of Smash Mouth and Shrek. Ok, we get it, hey now, you’re an All Star. The memes were iconic at first, but now they just won’t stop coming. It’s time to draw from a different well. Especially one as deceptively deep as Pitbull.

The Miami-born club mainstay occupies a strange space in today’s world. He’s a global superstar who could easily sell out an arena show, but hasn’t been relevant for about five years now. It’s hard to imagine someone saying Pitbull is their favourite artist, mostly due to the fact that Pitbull doesn’t really…act like an artist.

His constant hype-man antics make him seem like a feature on his own tracks, an MC who just gets the mic a little more than other guests. He’s also a massive cornball who has no sense of self-awareness. But he’s undeniably still a major act, a little too popular to become the sort of ironic underdog whom Tumblr and Twitter love to champion.

However he is at heart undeniably an underdog. He’s the kind of guy who shouldn’t be famous. The relentless self-promotion at the start of every one of his tracks recalls the dude in every town who hangs out around in front of clubs and hands out a business card with the adjectives “original” and “one and only” on it. He’s an inside joke that spread around the world, every district’s constant hustler who lucked out when the cultural zeitgeist just happened to coincide with his brand of smarmy club pop.

Pitbull was around for about half a decade before he rose to fame around the same time Jersey Shore and inspirational dance music were both in the limelight. Those two influences are key to his image and are divided almost equally in each and every one of his songs in a way that’s hilariously incompatible. How do you reconcile life-affirming anthems about living for the moment and odes to curvy women’s physical assets? It doesn’t work, but Pitbull does it anyway. Which seems to be the methodology for every one of his artistic choices. He’s not poring over a notebook late at night, revising verses and finding the right synonym with the right amount of syllables. He just says whatever he wants. He’s the superstar version of everyone’s uncle.

If there’s one word that sufficiently describes Pitbull, it’s “avuncular”. He comes to the barbecue, tells dirty jokes and flaunts his worldly exploits to his twelve year old nephews while sneaking them a cigar and some liquor. He exudes Divorced Dad Meme energy.


But just like the many divorced dads who share these quotes on social media, Pitbull himself is but a fun-house mirror of profundity. His lyrics, well, to be perfectly honest….

They’re the most phenomenally stupid lyrics ever recorded- and I mean that in the best way possible.

He just says phrases without any sense of wit or wordplay. In between the references to 305, Mr. Worldwide, and “Dale” there’s nothing but a constant flow of nonsense.

“Like a stopwatch / let’s stop time/ and enjoy this moment”

“Now watch me make a movie like Hitchcock / Enjoy Me”

“She’s on fire, she’s so hot /I’m no liar, she burned the spot”

These ersatz witticisms are almost always followed up with a self-congratulatory “ha!”, the sound of a man way too pleased with his apparent cleverness.

There’s no rhyme or reason to his flow. He oscillates between motivational statements and lewd appreciation of the female form. He’s a perpetually horny philosopher king. And it’s a trainwreck.

Take for example “Time of Our Lives”, where he bemoans the fact that he missed paying his rent, so instead he decided to spend all his money on one night at the club. Pretty standard early 2010s millennial fare, right? Ne-Yo, his singing partner on the track, comes in with a strangely melancholy bridge:

Everybody going through something
Everybody going through something
I said, everybody going through something
Everybody going through something
So you might as well roll it up
Pour it up, drink it up, throw it up tonight

Ok, kind of a downer, but maybe this is Pitbull’s way of talking about poverty and living life to the fullest no matter your financial means.

Tonight I’mma lose my mind
Better get yours ’cause I’m gonna get mine
Party every night like my last
Mami know the drill, shake that ass
Go ahead baby let me see what you got
You know you got the biggest booty in this spot

The two moods are diametrically opposed, and Pitbull just mashes them together artlessly, and that’s that. He simply cannot keep himself from constantly being both the jovial lothario and the existential poet.

All of this is nestled into well-produced dance tracks that evoke the sounds of clubs around the globe, predominantly Latin and Euro clubs. Pitbull himself is not a particularly good singer, with a voice somewhere between a drawl and a rasp. At some points you can’t help but wonder if this is all an elaborate parody, some sort of Steel Panther type scenario that tests Poe’s Law to its maximum extent. But it appears that Pitbull is the real deal. He is a vessel of id, driven by instant gratification followed by a solemn picture on a big rock holding his chin. He is the paragon to which car dealers aspire to, a self-starter who made a career out of nothing but confidence.