If you've been watching the Olympic ice dancers, you've probably heard "despacito" a few times over. While you might guess that this is because athletes aren't allowed to choose from many songs, it's probably less about available options than it is just an unfortunate coincidence.
Though you've probably heard "despacito" at least three times by now, there's a good chance that the encores are more stressful for the Olympians than they are for viewers. "There’s that instant comparison of who looks better," coach and former skater Rosanna Tovi told The Ringer in an interview on the topic of repeat songs. She explained:
Let’s say it’s an ice dance team and three couples had the same music. If there’s a very high-quality team against a team that’s of a lower level, it’s really going to enhance the difference there because you’re seeing the same music. You’re seeing it one time skated really great and maybe one time skated really not so great.
So, how exactly do separate teams individually happen to choose the same music as their opponents? The answer probably has a lot to do with a combination of trends and tradition.
As reporter Alyssa Bereznak pointed out in The Ringer, some songs are simply ice dancing mainstays, and are picked year after year, competition after competition. The same is true with dancing off the ice — and also with just about any competition that relies upon or revolves around music, like singing. Some songs just have staying power.
Judges aside, viewers definitely tend to take notice, especially if Twitter is any indication. Among users to pick up on the repetition on Sunday night was comedian Leslie Jones. Commenting for NBC at PyeongChang this year, Jones tweeted several times about being sick of hearing "despacito" as many times as she did.
"Do y'all know that there is more Spanish music out there that you actually can use?" she asked in a video posted to her Twitter feed. "Please just don’t play [Despacito] please I’m begging you!!" she begged in a follow up.
At least one factor that has definitely affected the music choices for skating music at the 2018 PyeongChang Games was a change to the catalogue skaters were allowed to select from. For the first Olympic games ever, athletes are allowed to dance to music that includes lyrics. While the alteration has been in place since the 2014-2015 skating season, for those who don't regularly tune into the sport, this is the first time that much of the international community is witnessing the expansion's impact.
The influx of dances set to "despacito" makes sense in that regard. In July of 2017, the catchy dance song by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee was dubbed the most streamed song of all time. In that way, it's not entirely surprising that so many skaters would choose to dance to such a smash hit.
And unfortunately, skaters don't generally know what songs their opponents have chosen. And as Tovi told The Ringer, by the time you make it to a major competition like the Olympics, you're seriously invested in your routine and can't easily make a last minute change.
"It just takes so much time to get that program ready to be seen at competition, and to be able to land your jumps at the right time during the music, to be comfortable with the music, to be comfortable expressing to the music," she explained. "Once that’s done you really don’t have time to change it."
So, take heed: while hearing the same song over and over again may start to feel a little redundant, it probably wasn't on purpose. It can, however, heighten the drama, keeping viewers a little closer to the edge of their seats.