Here's The Story Behind Those Daily Post-It Note Messages Supporting Taylor Swift At Her Trial

Carly Chapple was at her desk early Tuesday when she looked out the second-story window and saw a group of Taylor Swift fans lining up outside the federal courthouse in Denver.

It was the first day of testimony for the case in which Swift says DJ David Mueller groped her butt at a meet-and-greet in 2013 — an allegation Mueller says is false and ruined his career.

Inspired and excited by the commotion across the street, Chapple, who works for the website Craftsy, got to work doing what she knows best — crafting.

“I was here working really early and thought it might be fun to put a sign or something up on the window,” she said. “And I had some Post-its, so I just kind of went with it.”

“FreeTay” was her first creation.

When her co-workers arrived, they endorsed the idea of supporting Swift and encouraged Chapple to keep it going. The messages have since become a daily fixture of the trial as fans line up each morning for a seat inside the courtroom.

Chapple and her co-workers now meet every day to plan their next Post-it message as Swift fans and non-fans alike rally behind the pop star and her message of taking a stand against assault.

“We are just a group of creative women just supporting another creative woman,” Chapple said. “We do love her music, but we are really doing it to support her as a woman and as a creative person.”

Mueller had been suing for up to $3 million, but he was dealt a major setback Friday when a judge threw out his claim against the singer.

Swift, meanwhile, is asking for $1 for her sexual assault claim in what her attorney said is a symbolic gesture to show other women “you can always say no.”

Outside the courtroom on Tuesday, with the “FreeTay” message on full display, 17-year-old Dani Kuta told BuzzFeed News that Swift’s stand in court was more than just about one alleged groping incident.

“Women get sexually assaulted every single day and this is a big deal, it’s common, and the fact that she can fight it with her fame, then I think anyone can,” she said.

On Wednesday, the Post-it message on Craftsy’s second-story window spelled out “Haters r gonna Hate.” On Thursday, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” And on Friday, the employees posted “Fearless” — all of them drawing inspiration from Swift’s library.

Craftsy is keeping mum on what they plan for Monday, when closing arguments in the case are expected to begin. But the employees said they hope the messages contribute to a sense of support and inspiration for Swift.

“We think they are a really strong and powerful messages to send support to her,” Chapple said.

Yeah, We're Still Doing This: Which Kardashian/Jenner Woman Had The Best Week?

What she’s been up to this week: Not-Minogue basically had the best week ever. Her show Life of Kylie premiered, she turned 20 and had a fabulous, star-studded birthday party, her Lip Kit business is on track to be worth a billion dollars (yes, BILLION) within a few years, and she just shared the iconic story of how she recovered Kim’s $75,000 earring in Bora Bora a few years ago. Name a more iconic week, I’ll wait.

49 Facts From “The Story Of Diana” That Will Send You Down A Rabbit Hole

ABC recently aired a two-part special about Diana, Princess of Wales called The Story of Diana. Here are some of the most fascinating things we learned:

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Princess Diana Archive / Getty Images

Some facts are well-known, but are included to provide context.

1. Diana Spencer was born on the Sandringham Estate, which her family rented from the Royal family.

2. Diana’s sister, Sarah, dated Prince Charles before Diana did.

3. Diana worked at a nursery school before she became a princess.

4. Diana and Charles’ courtship was formal — she apparently called him “sir.”

5. They were only together a dozen times before he proposed.

6. Diana was only 19 when she got engaged and married to Charles.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

7. After their engagement was announced, Charles was asked if they were in love, and he said, “Whatever ‘in love’ means…such a range of interpretations.”

8. Diana’s hairstyle during the engagement was so popular that women started copying it.

9. Instead of hiring a famous designer to make her wedding dress, Diana hired a couple, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, who had just graduated college a year earlier.

10. The designers ordered both ivory and white fabrics to throw the press off the scent of what the dress would look like. They had to take these precautions because the press was known to dig through their trash for anything they could find.

Afp / AFP / Getty Images

11. According to Elizabeth Emanuel, Diana went from a 26-inch/27-inch waist to a 23-inch waist for her wedding.

12. Because her dress was made of taffeta, it was quite crumpled when she got out of her carriage.

13. It was a three-and-a-half minute walk down the aisle.

14. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall — Charles’ current wife, who he had a previous relationship with prior to Diana — attended the wedding. And, according to Diana, she was looking for Camilla as she walked up the aisle.

15. Diana broke with tradition by not saying that “she promises to obey” during her wedding ceremony.

16. 750 million people around the world watched the wedding take place.

ABC / Via Hulu

STR / Stringer / Getty Images

17. On the honeymoon yacht, Charles was wearing cufflinks that Camilla gave him.

18. Usually, royals gave birth in the palace, but Diana had William in a hospital.

19. Less than an hour after Diana and Charles arrived at Kensington palace with their newborn baby (Harry), Charles left to go play polo. He was allegedly upset that Harry had ginger hair and looked like a Spencer (aka Diana’s side of the family).

20. One time, while she was on a ski trip with her kids, she confronted a photographer who was taking pictures of her children. She is recorded saying, “Excuse me. As a parent, could I ask you to respect my children’s space? … As a parent, I want to protect the children.”

21. Following rumors of Charles and Camilla reigniting their relationship, Diana confronted Camilla at a dinner hosted by Camilla and her sister, Annabel. Supposedly, she said something to the effect of, “Don’t treat me like an idiot.”

22. By 1986 Diana was very well aware of Charles and Camilla’s serious relationship.

23. Diana had a romance with her bodyguard Barry Mannakee. He died in a motorcycle accident in 1987, and Charles was the one who had to break the news to Diana on a flight to the Cannes Film Festival.

ABC / Via Hulu

24. The press were so desperate to find out what was going on between Charles and Diana that they started paying people like butlers and delivery guys to get information.

25. According to Diana’s book Diana: Her True Story (written by biographer Andrew Morton), she said her bulimia started the week she got engaged. She explained, “My husband put his hand on my waistline and said, ‘Oh, a bit chubby here aren’t we?’”

26. Diana, and her then-lover James Govey, were secretly recorded on the phone, as were Charles and Camilla. Both phone tapes were anonymously leaked to tabloids and subsequently released to the public.

27. Paparazzi would try to provoke reactions out of Diana and shout awful things. They’d say things like, “Diana aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Diana, what do you think of Camilla now? What do you think he does in bed with her that he didn’t do for you? Who are you fucking now?”

Johnny Eggitt / AFP / Getty Images

28. The Royal Palace officially announced Charles and Diana would separate on Dec. 9, 1992.

29. In 1993, press intrusion into the royal family was SO BAD that Parliament actually summoned the leaders of UK’s tabloid newspapers to discuss the subject of “privacy.”

30. On June 29, 1994, Charles participated in a documentary where he publicly admitted to cheating on Diana.

31. According to a friend, Diana actually looked at newspapers every morning to see if she was on the front page.

32. Diana did a famous, tell-all TV interview for The BBC program Panorama with Martin Bashir on Nov. 20, 1995. This is where the famous line, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” came from.

33. After the interview, Diana’s title “Her Royal Highness” was removed, but she was able to remain “Diana, Princess of Wales.”

34. Charles and Diana divorced on Aug. 28, 1996.

John Stillwell / AFP / Getty Images, Antonio Cotrim / AFP / Getty Images

35. Diana did her famous minefield walk in Angola on Jan. 15, 1997. During the humanitarian trip to Angola she said, “I have all this media interest, so let’s take it somewhere where they can be positive and raise a situation which is distressing, like this.”

36. Diana dated British-Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, but it was short-lived because he couldn’t handle being in the public eye.

37. During her six-week long relationship with Dodi Fayed, on a whim, they decided to go to Paris to spend the night.

38. Late at night on August 30th, Fayed came up with a plan to evade the paparazzi — but the paparazzi were waiting behind their hotel (the Ritz) anyway.

39. Colin Tebbutt (Diana’s personal driver from 1996-1997) received a call about the crash at 1 a.m., but at that point people thought there were only minor injuries like bruises.

40. By around 3 a.m. on Aug. 31, 1997 Michael Gibbons (Diana’s private secretary) told Colin Tebbutt and others on the staff that Diana was dead.

41. Diana was only 36 when she died.

ABC / Via Hulu, Dave Gaywood / AFP / Getty Images

42. The first flight out of London to Paris was so full of press that the Prince of Wales’ police officer had to sit in the jump seat in the front of the plane.

43. Tebbutt went to the hospital where Diana was and said she was in a bed, with ordinary bedding, and covered up to her neck.

44. The hospital staff covered the large windows in her room with blankets so the press couldn’t seen in.

45. This is what it looked like when Diana’s body was carried out of the hospital.

ABC / Via Hulu

46. The streets of London were flooded with miles of people (and no cars) when Diana’s body returned.

47. The Queen/royal family made their official response about Diana’s death on Sep. 4, 1997.

48. On the day of Diana’s funeral, Sep. 6, 1997, the streets of London were completely empty, except for people going to her funeral.

49. After Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, made a moving speech at her funeral, crowds of people outside Westminster Abbey began to applaud. In fact, you could hear the applause inside the Abbey, and the people inside were so moved they joined in as well.

John Stillwell / AFP / Getty Images, Wolfgang Rattay / AFP / Getty Images

For more facts about Princess Diana and her life, you can watch The Story of Diana (Part 1 and Part 2) on Hulu or ABC Go.

“Detroit” Is Preaching To The Choir

Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures

A scene from Detroit.

Detroit begins with the animation of painter Jacob Lawrence’s famous migration series One-Way Ticket, a work that depicts the movement of black Americans en masse from the South to the North in the early 20th century, in what would later become known as the Great Migration. In a few minutes, the film attempts to contextualize the atmosphere of its setting — a turbulent, racially divided 1967 Detroit — with a decades-long, if not centuries-long, prologue. The introduction ends with the message “Change had to come,” before transitioning to a scene of police loudly and forcefully storming into an unlicensed black club. As the police pull the clubgoers out onto the street, the community responds by jeering and throwing bottles at the men in blue, representations of their nemesis — America’s institutional racism — in the flesh.

That visceral reaction spurred the events of that infamous Detroit summer, but what the film never shows are the root causes, which had been long ingrained in the city’s culture. While a wave of change was sweeping over the US during the mid- to late ’60s — which led to unrest across many cities and towns — the change happening in Detroit was particularly tumultuous. The combination of high unemployment, poverty, and police brutality in the immensely segregated city led to a simmering fury, which was experienced most acutely by its black citizens. By 1967, the city was ripe for riot and rebellion.

For many black Americans, Detroit is not just history — it’s a reminder of the current realities of being black in the US.

The film focuses on a familiar American event — police brutality — which led to the cruel deaths of three young black men, and the gruesome torture of seven other black men and two white women at the hands of Detroit police officers in late July 1967 at the Algiers Motel. This narrative however, cannot be relegated solely to history: Detroit could have easily been Ferguson, centering on the 2014 death of Michael Brown; or Baltimore, about Freddie Gray‘s 2015 killing; or St. Paul, the story of Philando Castille, who was shot last year.

Given how the past that Detroit explores so easily parallels the present, it is curious then that director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal chose to open the film with “change had to come,” as if to insinuate that after these events, it did. But for many black Americans, Detroit is not just history — it’s a reminder of the current realities of being black in the US, and it highlights the lack of transformational change from one generation to the next. Because of this lack progress, the question of who the film is for is important: Who is its intended audience, and who is it being marketed to? Many black people are already hyperaware of police brutality, but they may feel obligated to watch a film like Detroit where they are seen, only because it happens so rarely. And for those who are far removed from events like Detroit, how are the filmmakers trying to reach them to teach them this history?

Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures

John Boyega as Melvin Dismukes.

Detroit’s contemporary relevance is not lost on Bigelow, who told the New York Times she received the story from Boal around the same time a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who killed Michael Brown. The director said she had “an extremely emotional reaction to the constant recurrence of these events.” In an op-ed for Vulture, Boal wrote: “I don’t have anything prescriptive to say about racism in America, only the sorrowful and perhaps obvious observation that the lessons learned 50 years ago seemed to have been forgotten in the wake of continuing injustices in Ferguson, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and so many other cities. And while it is indeed an interesting and vital question to ask how much has changed since the 1960s between African-American communities and the police forces that putatively serve them, I leave that discussion to professionals in race and police reform.” (Bigelow and Boal were not made available to be interviewed by BuzzFeed News.)

John Boyega — who portrays Melvin Dismukes in Detroit, a security guard who gets caught in the chaos at the motel — also agrees with Boal that change has come slowly. Boyega told BuzzFeed News that the movie is “art, but it’s also a take on a conversation that we’re unfortunately still having 50 years down the line.”

Complying with authority is not a guarantee of protection by it — at least not when you’re black.

Boyega’s character is difficult to evaluate — he represents the dilemma of what it means to “do the right thing” under difficult circumstances. He wanders into the Algiers Motel when he hears shots fired and attempts to position himself between the police officers (as a security guard himself) and the young black men being interrogated and beaten by them (as a young black man himself). When he’s alone with one of the black men, he urges him to obey the officer’s orders. “I need you to survive the night,” Dismukes tells him, believing that working with the officers might save them. Because like all the young black men in the motel, Dismukes too just wants to survive the night. But later, like the white officers, Dismukes is also accused of murder and torture, proving that complying with authority is not a guarantee of protection by it — at least not when you’re black.

Michael Eric Dyson, an academic and author who consulted on the film, acknowledges that the past uniquely transcends the present when it comes to black American history. And that’s particularly true with police brutality, which has always existed along the color line of the US, where lives are defined by the shades of one’s skin and those who are the victims tend to share the same one. “The ever present prospect of black vulnerability in our interactions with the streets remind us that what you’re going to dispel [in the film] is really not only relevant as a historical document but as an ongoing exercise of social conscience and commentary on our contemporary beliefs,” he told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview.

Dyson’s comments seem to take for granted that a viewer of any color would be open to the idea that black Americans have a deep fear of the police and other forms of institutionalized racism. That fear is captured in how Bigelow shot Detroit — intimately, demanding that the audience partake in the cries and prayers, the bullets and the bloodshed — and in the way the black actors portrayed Boal’s script. But the conversation of police brutality often accompanies an “I feared for my life” rhetoric that’s used to justify slain black victims, overestimating the empathy of the nonblack viewer.

Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures

Algee Smith as Larry Reed.

Still, a question that lingers against the backdrop of America’s racial history is whether the fundamental choice to tell a historical story of police brutality rather than a recent one relieves its potential white audience (unlike its black audience) from personal implication in the film. That point is further emphasized by the character of Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), the leading police officer in Detroit, who is so irredeemable that he can only be described as the personification of white supremacy in uniform. But Krauss — a composite character of the real police officers involved in the Algiers incident — represents racism in such extreme form that it may nullify less intense, more subtle, patrons of police brutality and other racists, in and out of uniform.

The depiction of Krauss and his colleagues’ extreme violence in the motel is also so harrowing that some have questioned its justification. Danielle Young of The Root wrote about her reasons for stepping out of the film, and Very Smart Brothas contributor Dustin Seibert called the film’s violence a “borderline torture-porn degree of brutality.” The violence in Detroit is overwhelming, yes, but it is not gratuitous — it’s representative, which makes it difficult for black people in particular to watch.

The portrayal of black pain by nonblack people comes with initial distrust by black Americans.

Boyega admitted to BuzzFeed News that the movie “requires a huge emotional payment from its audience,” adding, “I just feel like that’s perspective, that’s real life.” Perhaps the “real life” nature of it all makes Detroit effective, but also potentially traumatizing. A Detroit mother of three boys, Gail Perry-Mason, told the Detroit Free Press she left in the middle of the film’s world premiere last month. “I just came out here and bawled,” she said in the lobby, tissue in hand. “What happened in 1967, and what happens today, it’s real. … Those could be my sons.”

That a white filmmaker and a white screenwriter collaborated to portray such a horrifying, spectacular event has inevitably led some to question about their right to do so. Bigelow told the New York Times she interrogated herself too. “I’m white, am I the right person to do it?” she recalled thinking. But she ultimately decided that “to do nothing was not an answer.” Boal told Vulture that he was so moved by the story of Larry Reed (Algee Smith), a promising singer in The Dramatics who survived the night at the Algiers, that he felt a responsibility to tell it. But the portrayal of black pain by nonblack people comes with initial distrust by black Americans, and a well-made film like Detroit can still leave black viewers dissatisfied, like critic Angelica Jade Bastién, who, in a review of the film, wrote that Detroit‘s white creatives did not understand “the weight of the images they hone in on with an unflinching gaze.”

Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures

Will Poulter as Officer Krauss.

But no critique, conversation, or question prompted by the film is as significant as “Who is Detroit for?”

Bigelow alluded to that question when she told the New York Times that she hopes the film “either generates a conversation, begins to generate a conversation and/or encourages more stories like this to come forward.” It’s a statement as diplomatic as Boyega’s own to BuzzFeed News: “I think the film is for all of us.”

Yet, by screening Detroit in the Motor City, it’s clear the filmmakers want those who have experienced the history, perhaps even those who are products of the history, and who relive this history in the present, to also witness its retelling.

The people who would most benefit from seeing Detroit, I suspect, will not see this film. 

By virtue of their skin, black people in the US are no strangers to police brutality or the conversations about race that surround it. Detroit might be about black people, but it can hardly be said to be teaching black people anything wholly new. It doesn’t provide any catharsis or relief, which makes the narrative genuine for all of its viewers, but especially sobering for its black viewers. Certainly, the retelling of history for its own sake has value, but black history recounted as it is in Detroit appears to do just that: depict a familiar tale to black people, packaged as a moment in history for everyone else, so that it’s still possible to distance oneself from the Detroits we witness today.

Yet the people who would most benefit from seeing Detroit are those who deem police brutality a one-off event rather than an institutional predicament, who do not see the egregious error in countering “black lives matter” with “all lives matter,” who are wont to deny one of the country’s most lasting and continual original sins in racism. And those people, I suspect, will not see this film. BuzzFeed News asked Detroit distributor Annapurna Pictures to provide box office data about its audience demographics since the film opened in limited release on July 28, but did not receive it.

Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures

The raid scene from Detroit.

On that same limited release day, President Trump joked about roughing up suspects in a room full of law enforcement officials, leading Detroit producer Megan Ellison to tweet a video of the president’s words over footage from the film. “I invite you to see our movie DETROIT,” she tweeted at him. “It’s time to change the conversation.” Trump did not respond to the tweet, and a representative for Annapurna told BuzzFeed News that they made a formal attempt to invite the president and his administration to screen Detroit. They have not heard back from the White House.

Detroit doesn’t indicate how exactly, as Ellison suggests, to change the conversation, though. Its last scenes center on Reed, who became disillusioned with the prospect of returning to The Dramatics; he was unable to justify singing and performing for the enjoyment of white people after the trauma he experienced. Instead, he sought comfort in a black church choir. It’s unintentionally telling of the outcome of the film: Detroit too will likely end up being seen by people who are already aware of police brutality, and the complexities and history that come with it. In that way, the film is also likely to be received by its own metaphorical church choir, achieving little more than preaching to its members.

Bim Adewunmi contributed reporting to this story.

Kovie Biakolo is a deputy entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Kovie Biakolo at

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Here's How Kylie Jenner Found Kim Kardashian's $75K Earring At The Bottom Of The Ocean

Kylie Jenner: It was pretty deep, but there [weren’t] a lot of waves and Kim kind of, like, threw a tantrum immediately when she found out that she lost it and I was like, “No. This is fine!” I went under there and it was saltwater so it kind of hurt to open my eyes, but I just opened my eyes and looked around and I saw something shining. Swam all the way down there — it was like 10 feet — picked it up, and it was the shining diamond! I literally found it in two minutes.

Jordyn Woods: I think you have a future career.

KJ: Then [Kim] was like, “You know, I don’t have my backing but it’s fine. I can always get that.” And I was like, I’m just gonna look! So I went back down and I found the backing. I found the earring backing! She was like, “You are just…”

JW: Future career, I’m telling you.

KJ: Diamond finder!

JW: Dive team!

Aaron Carter Asked Chloë Grace Moretz Out On Twitter TWICE And I Feel Weird, No Offense

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So, I’ve gathered you all here today to ask: What do we think about this?

  1. vote

    I hope they date. They’re mad cute!

  2. vote

    No thanks. I’m all set!

  3. vote

    Creep alert!

  4. vote

    She liked him when she was 4. This is weird.

  5. vote

    “Aaron’s Party” is a legit good song.

23 Times Zendaya Was The Best Damn Role Model There Is

“While you’re so concerned about what my parents look like, please know that these are two of the most selfless people in the world,” she wrote. “They have chosen to spend their entire lives not worrying about trivial things such as looks and insulting people’s parents on Twitter, but instead became educators who have dedicated their lives to teaching, cultivating, and filling young, shallow minds (one of the most important yet underpaid jobs we have).”

One Of The Contestants On “The Bachelor” Has Absolutely Slammed The Show

The Bachelor Australia is an unscripted show and all participants are fully aware of the cameras and know they can be recorded at any time.

We, as producers, in addition to our duty of care, provide a strong support network to all participants. Often in these highly intense situations, we want the bachelors and bachelorettes to be aware of all the options available to them, so they feel comfortable with the decision they ultimately make.”

J Balvin's Fast-Rising “Mi Gente” Takes Aim At US Pop's Language Bias

Rodrigo Varela / Getty Images

A little more than a year ago, J Balvin, the 32-year-old Colombian reggaeton superstar, set out to prove that a new generation of Latin music could be as big and accessible as anything produced by its neighbors to the north. He followed the example of American hitmakers, some of whom had commissioned him to infuse their songs with secret sauce, and turned the tables — hiring US pop impresario Pharrell Williams to coproduce, write, and sing for him in Spanish. Their collaboration, the slick and swaggering “Safari,” didn’t realize Balvin’s ambition of breaking through the English-language barrier that can be a glass ceiling for foreign pop stars. But now he’s back with a new song, and a new strategy, that just might crack it.

Mi Gente,” Balvin’s recent hit with French DJ and electronic producer Willy William, has quickly become one of the most popular songs in the world. It’s the first fully Spanish song to top Spotify’s Global Top 50 chart, dethroning another Latin export — Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito (Remix)” — which features an English verse from Justin Bieber. “Mi Gente” was released just over a month ago, but it’s already the biggest crossover hit of Balvin’s career, currently perched at No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and climbing. It has over 340 million views on YouTube, and on Shazam’s global songs chart — an up-to-the-moment barometer of consumer interest — it’s spent over a week at No. 1.

“It’s crazy, and the fact that it’s in Spanish from beginning to end is even better,” Balvin told BuzzFeed News. “Numbers don’t lie.”

“Mi Gente,” which translates to “My People,” is as much a diplomatic mission as it is a pop song. Its lyrics pose a dauntless overture to the broadest possible cohort — a paean to open bars and open borders, a nativist’s nightmare. Balvin spends the song’s entirety narrating the world’s least pretentious party. “Mi música no discrimina a nadie,” he sings in the first verse, Spanish for “My music discriminates against nobody.”

Following his experience with “Safari,” Balvin recalibrated. Rather than cast himself as the equal of his contemporaries in US pop and hip-hop, he would leapfrog them, leveraging the borderless nature of streaming services to take his vision for Latin music to new horizons. Watching the recent surge in popularity of dancehall-derived rhythmic pop, and the persistence of EDM — a genre in which lyrics are often secondary — he saw an opening for reggaeton to reassert itself.

“As Latinos, I still see a lot of people in this industry that think, Ah yeah, it’s Latino, so it’s not a big deal,” Balvin told BuzzFeed News. “But we are a big deal. Check it out: We are making the global music right now.”

“I still see a lot of people in this industry that think, ‘Ah yeah, it’s Latino, so it’s not a big deal.”

In William, the French DJ and producer, Balvin found the perfect confederate. “Mi Gente” is essentially a remake of William’s “Voodoo Song,” released in March, which consists mainly of a boom-cha-boom-cha dancehall beat and a prominent vocal loop that’s been digitally transmogrified to sound like a snake charmer’s flute. When a mutual friend sent Balvin the track in January, he was immediately drawn to it and saw collaborating with William as a win-win: The two could expose each other to new audiences and new markets, but neither had a built-in advantage in the English-speaking world. If the song became a hit in the US, or other countries where Latin music isn’t dominant, people would be forced to recognize the category’s inherent power.

This spring, Balvin and William met in Miami to write and record, a process that William described to BuzzFeed News — in broken English — as answering the question “How do we make it more bigger — more international?”

“He brought his vibe, I brought mine; he helped me write some Spanish lyrics, and I helped him with some melodies,” William continued. “It’s really difficult for a French guy [alone] to break into the US market, but [“Mi Gente”] is a French guy singing in Spanish, and a Colombian guy on a big dance track, and together we’re on the US charts.”

The Media Nanny

Willy William.

It’s too early to say how high the song will climb. “Mi Gente” has recently been added to dozens of Top 40 radio stations — a critical step toward mainstream ubiquity — where its lack of an English vocal could translate to long odds. “Despacito,” this summer’s other crossover Spanish smash, didn’t reach the stratosphere until pop radio threw its weight behind the English-friendly Bieber remix. The only fully Spanish song to ever top Billboard’s singles chart was Los Lobos’ cover of “La Bamba” almost exactly three decades ago.

Rob Thomas, programming director at the Top 40 station i101 KSKR in Roseburg, Oregon, is one DJ who is pulling for “Mi Gente,” even though he says he doesn’t “understand what the heck they’re saying.” In Roseburg, an hour outside of Eugene, Thomas says Top 40 listeners are typically slow to embrace unfamiliar sounds. But “Mi Gente” is off to a strong start. “I think ‘Despacito’ really reopened that door for a lot of people,” he said. “It was kind of like, ‘Hey, we’re here; we’ve got good songs too.’”

That’s music to Balvin’s ears.

“Daddy Yankee and Fonsi created new roads,” he said. “And now we created another new road. And then there will be another one. And, god willing, the Spanish [music scene] is going to become global — really global.”

He was buoyed by the thought, which put him in mind of his own formative experiences with foreign-sounding music. “When I was a kid, I used to listen to Tupac, and Biggie, and all these rappers,” he said. “I didn’t know what they were saying, but I was feeling it.”

Reggie Ugwu is a features writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Reggie Ugwu at

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