Why the song Despacito became so popular - A psychological analysis

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

The reward anticipation circuits

Our brains have got very powerful circuits that control the reward anticipation process. Once we anticipate some kind of a pleasant reward we become extremely excited and aroused.

This is one reason why a person who gambles gets full of excitement as they gamble. See Why do people get addicted to gambling

When we anticipate a pleasant reward a chemical called Dopamine is released in the brain. This is the same chemical that gets released when a person has sex or uses drugs. The chemical Dopamine pretty much explains many of the addictive behaviours humans engage in.

I said earlier that the ultimate root cause for porn addiction is dopamine addiction where a person who watches porn keeps expecting rewards in the form of novel pictures. This reward anticipation and dopamine release cycles makes some activities such as watching porn extremely addictive. See also Why porn addiction has nothing to do with sexual desire

So Why the song Despacito became so popular?

At core of the popularity of the song Despacito lies the powerful effect of reward anticipation. The song has some very clear and distinct words such as "Despacito" and "pasito a pasito" that could be recognized easily by listeners.

The first time a non-Spanish-Speaker hears those words they memorize them easily since they are easy to hear, say and pronounce. Now as the song continues the person gets conditioned to anticipate the pleasant reward which is hearing the word Despacito and the other words they memorized.

And that's not everything. The word Despacito itself was divided into three parts by the singer which are "Des" , "Pa" and "Cito".

As the singer says the first part of the word slowly which is "Des" The brain of the person quickly anticipates the reward which is the rest of the word and this is why the song becomes very rewarding to the brain as the person keeps listening to it.

Because the words could easily be memorized by Non-Spanish speakers the song became popular in countries that don't even have Spanish speakers.

In addition to that the singer did something that made the word Despacito even more rewarding. Right before the word Despacito is said a sudden change happens in the tone of voice of the singer in such a way that people start to anticipate the ultiamte arrival of the reward which is the word Despacito.

But why those words are so rewarding?

You might be wondering what's so Rewarding about anticipating the coming of the word Despacito?
First of all being able to anticipate the coming of the word is a rewarding activity on its own.

Secondly the person probably feels good as they manage to pronounce a new word properly and correctly even if they don't speak Spanish.

In addition to this the happy atmosphere of the song makes any kind of reward that is related to it more pleasing to the brain. I said earlier that a person can confuse the factors causing emotional changes if those factors happened together. I even said in my book how to make someone fall in love with you that people can confuse the happiness they are feeling when they are going through a pleasant experience with your presence.

In such a case a person might actually believe that they feel good because you are there and not because something else is making them happy.

We live in a world of multiple causality and so every single thing usually happens for more than one reason. When it comes to the popularity of the song Despacito this is probably one of the strong factors that contributed to its success.

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