Despacito opens doors for Spanish songs on English radio
NEW YORK — Despacito is easily the song of the summer with the success of the hit stretching beyond Spanishspeaking audiences to make it the year’s most recognized song in the United States and elsewhere.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s song, which has topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 13 weeks and counting, set a record as the most streamed song on Spotify and is the first YouTube video to reach 3 billion views. The song also has opened the door for other Spanish tracks to get airplay on American radio.
“The beauty behind ( Despacito) is that it was never meant to be a crossover song. When I sat down with my guitar to write this song, I just wanted to write a great song that people would automatically connect to, and dance to, and really enjoy, so it was so nice to see how — in a very organic way — the whole world just connected to it,” Fonsi says in an interview from Spain, where he was set to perform the worldwide hit.
“It wasn’t really forced, it wasn’t gimmicky ... it’s sort of an accident if you will,” he says. “There’s something magical in that melody and in the beat and in the production ... and people in Russia and Australia and UK and France and US and South America — everyone’s just dancing.”
Despacito is the first mostly Spanish song to top the Hot 100 since Los del Rio’s Macarena in 1996. The smooth jam about slowly falling in love has become a pop culture phenomenon since its release in January, selling more than 7.7 million tracks — based on digital sales, audio streaming and video streaming — according to Nielsen Music. It has spent 27 weeks at No 1 on Billboard’s Latin songs charts, and while some believe Justin Bieber helped make the song a hit when he jumped on its remix, it’s quite the opposite.
“Technically, the reason why Justin Bieber discovered the song was because it was so popular already,” says Rocio Guerra, Spotify’s head of Latin culture.
Despacito had reached the Top 40 on the Hot 100, and following the Bieber remix — which includes the pop star singing in Spanish — the song reached No 1. The remix spent 14 weeks on top of Spotify’s global chart until last week when it was supplanted by J. Balvin’s Mi Gente — another Spanish song finding success on US radio and the pop charts.
Mi Gente, a collaboration with Willy Williams, is No 30 on the Hot 100 after just a month on the chart.
“I don’t think this is just something that happened overnight ... it’s something the Latin music industry and creative community, we’ve been working so long toward this direction, and I don’t think specifically only in the US, it’s a global momentum,” Guerra says.
“There has been a domino effect,” adds Guerra, who said there are currently eight Latin songs on Spotify’s global chart, which includes 50 songs. “The more songs that we put on the global chart, people are get- ting more used to listening to songs in a different language.”
She says that Spotify has spent the last two years pushing Latin music in regions outside Latin America: “We’re proactively trying to push its consumption in countries like Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK (and) obviously the US.”
And there’s proof it is working. Daddy Yankee became the first Latin artist to reach No 1 on Spotify in June, taking the spot from Ed Sheeran, and the Latin genre is third overall globally on Spotify, just behind pop and hip-hop.
Fonsi says he doesn’t want to take credit for the success of Latin music on pop radio, but knows Despacito has helped set the mood.
“I hope that it’s a door that will stay open for a long time. I think it’s bigger than just this summer. I think it was (over)due for Latin music to get this attention and I love the fact that we’re all collaborating in different languages,” he says. “It’s not about where you’re from or what language you’re singing in, it’s about bringing cultures together and different styles, and it’s good for music in general.”
Singers Luis Fonsi (left) and Daddy Yankee perform during a show in Florida. Their song Despacito has topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 13 weeks and counting.