MØ Learned From 'Lean On' Video's Cultural Appropriation

MØ Learned From 'Lean On' Video's Cultural Appropriation

by Kenna McCafferty

You may recall, not long ago, , Major Lazer and DJ Snake released the earworm of summer 2015. The club-hit, "Lean On," dominated the dancefloor and charts, and not long after, internet discourse around the music video.

Steeped in Indian aesthetics and surrounded by Indian dancers, Major Lazer (comprised of Diplo, Jillionaire and DJ Walshy Fire), and MØ dance in golden palaces, rose-petal baths and atop a painted bus. Though they incorporated vaguely Indian garb and dance moves, the video reads largely as a spring-break excursion against the backdrop of Indian culture and was aptly called out for its cultural appropriation.

With 20/20 hindsight, MØ reflected, in 2022 (nearly seven years later), on the damaging effects of the video.

"The video is so beautiful and amazing, but I definitely think it's cultural appropriation, for sure," she toldInsider. "And I'm so happy that people were making me aware of it, because, at the time, I didn't really understand."

Despite the skepticism surrounding the video, it achieved monumental success, becoming one of the first to surpass one billion views on YouTube in less than a year, now clocking in at over three billion. The song itself earned Spotify’s most-streamed song of all time in a matter of months and is now a certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

In the wake of its success and skepticism, Diplo has had a less self-reflexive response, telling The Guardian in 2018, "I don’t... really... fucking care. What kind of music am I supposed to make? Being a white American, you have zero cultural capital, unless you’re doing Appalachian fiddle music or something. I’m just a product of my environment.”

Last Friday, MØ released Motordome, her first full-length project since 2018. A 10-track album, featuring previously released singles "Kindness" and "Live to Survive," Motordome demonstrates growth for the Danish pop artist who’s learned a lesson or two since 2015.

As for Diplo, we’re still waiting on the club-equivalent of Appalachian fiddle music.

Photo via YouTube