‘Naatu Naatu’s Golden Globe Win Reminds Us There’s More To The World Than The West

A smash-hit Tollywood anthem beating out Taylor Swift for a Golden Globe? More of this, please.

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“Not salsa, not flamenco, my brother. Do you know, Naatu?”

So go the words of freedom fighter Alluri Sitaram (Ram Charan) in the South Indian film RRR before the cast launches into ‘Naatu Naatu’ — the smash-hit anthem that this week bagged the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, beating out Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga in the process. With many people expecting of the the three heavy hitters hoping to take out the award, the Telugu-language film’s win left many a stunned Swiftie in its wake — and we’re all the better for it.

It’s 2023, and the same few pop stars seem to dominate our cultural landscape as they did 10-15 years ago. While not wishing to have a go at how deserving these artists are of their success, it’s hard not to notice the enduring stronghold artists like Lady Gaga have had on popular culture, year after year after year. It a phenomenon that researcher Adam Mastroianni recently referred to as a ‘pop culture oligarchy‘, where the same artists conquer the movie, TV, and film industry for years.

Many fans were left puzzled when their girl of choice didn’t receive a gong, and footage captured from the ceremony shows what seems like an isolated flurry of excitement when ‘Naatu Naatu’ took out the top prize amid a wider vacuum of silence; to which many critics on Twitter voiced their disgust.

The air that seemingly had been sucked out of the room was a reminder that the earth doesn’t revolve around the US– which for many audience members at the Golden Globes apparently came as a surprise. RRR was globally one of the most in-demand movies of the year — a box office hit in India (itself a big deal for a Telugu-language film) that went on to amassing a huge international audience on Netflix.

All of this is happening amid the backdrop of a wider global shift, where we’re seeing content in languages other than English gain popularity on streamers. In a recent article for Puck, Julia Alexander writes that two of Amazon Prime Video’s ten most in-demand series globally in 2022 came from India, with Paramount+ launching in India later this year. Disney is also reportedly working on adding more Hindi-language content to its streaming services. Meanwhile, Korean TV and movies; along with Spanish-language telenovelas, remain big business.

The success of ‘Naatu Naatu’ at the Golden Globes, then, isn’t really a reflection of the rise of popular culture from countries that exist beyond the Anglosphere, but a welcome reminder that there’s a world of art and culture thriving outside the confines of the West; one that has always been here, and will continue to rise — regardless of whether Golden Globe audiences clap for them or not.

Watch the music video for ‘Naatu Naatu’ below.