“Despacito”: Pioneering Latin Pop in America

If you have turned on the radio station anytime this past summer, you have probably heard the very catchy tune of, “Despacito.”  After only a few seconds of hearing the well-known strums of the guitar, most people will undoubtedly start to move their hips and begin to sing along. Written by Luis Fonsi, “Despacito”, featuring a Puerto Rican singer Daddy Yankee, was originally released on January 12, 2017. [1] The genre of this song is said to be reggaeton-pop and the almost smooth and romantic feeling of the rhythm and words insinuates an exotic relationship. The hit song had become very popular internationally, especially in many Spanish-speaking countries, but was initially not as well-known in the United States.

The music video, produced by Universal Music Latin, had reached over 3.7 billion views on YouTube since September 20, 2017. [2][3] The video had gained this large amount of views with the song being the all-Spanish version. This achievement is notable because on August 4, 2017, it became the first music video on YouTube to ever hit over 3 Bil views. [4] There have been many other videos on YouTube, primarily music videos, that have attained this much attention in the past few years: Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth’s, “See You Again”, Pys’s, “Gangam Style”, and Justin Bieber’s, “Sorry.” [5] The music video was filmed in a neighborhood of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, La Perla. [6] The entire video was shot with bright, vibrant colors, gorgeous landscape shots, and many people dancing in the streets or in a bar. Even after the songs release date, Fonsi’s hit would soon take the world by storm and make record numbers throughout the summer.

Justin Bieber, after hearing Fonsi’s, “Despacito”, in a Colombian club, wanted to record a remix version. [7] The remix version, which contained some English-sung verses, was released on April 13, 2017. [8] Soon, the song began to rapidly gain recognition in the United States, being streamed in many facets of social media, such as YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Music, iTunes, etc.  It has been recorded that the song has reached 4.6 billion streams and has stayed on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart as No. 1 for sixteen weeks straight. [9] [10] The only other song that has been No. 1 for this many weeks on Billboard was Mariah Carey’s, “One Sweet Day”, which was released in 1995. [11] “Despacito” has become very monumental as shown in being compared to a hit sung by a world-renowned artist, Mariah Carey. With all of these accomplishments, one could say that “Despacito” was the song of the summer.

The effects of Justin Bieber being featured in, “Despacito” has paved an avenue for other artists to follow. The steady increase in popularity of Latin music, especially in the mainstream, has been rising throughout the years. The “Macarena” by Bayside Boys Mix in 1996 and “La Bamba” released on July 24, 1987 by Ritchie Valens are some of the few songs primarily in Spanish that have gained popularity internationally. [12] [13] Justin Bieber’s feature created much success for the song, which has allowed the interconnection between two cultures. The growing Latino population in the United States and the use of various streaming platforms assisted “Despacito” in becoming a popular hit. Thus, many artists are now trying to follow in Fonsi’s footsteps and record the newest hit song by using these streaming platforms.

Justin Bieber has helped “Despacito” reach new audiences in the United States.

An example of a song garnering popularity similar to “Despacito” can be found in J Balvin (Colombian singer) and Willy William’s (French singer and producer) new single, “Mi Gente,” released on June 30, 2017. [14]  Similar to “Despacito,” “Mi Gente” is a fusion between cultures with “African, electronic and Caribbean sensibilities.” [15] The song’s music video, published on June 29th, gained 900 Mil views on YouTube as of September 30th. [16] The title of the song translates to, “My People”, with its music video accentuating that idea by featuring many people from around the world using vibrant colors and energetic dancing. Without prior announcement, a remix version of the song featuring Beyoncé was recently released on September 28th on various streaming platforms: Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music, Itunes, and Youtube. Following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey from August 31st to September 1st, Beyonce declared that she would donate all her proceeds to disaster reliefs to the affected Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. [17][18] Beyonce sings both a mixture of spanish and english verses and the song features a sweet moment with her daughter, Blue Ivy, singing back to her mother in the last verse. The parallel in “Mi Gente” and “Despacito” is a positive trend that will be sure to continue in the following months.

Ultimately, record companies are beginning to capitalize on this genre of music to secure a foothold in America. Although there is uncertainty with the total amount of revenue Fonsi gained from his single, today, there will be a stable market for the fusion of English and Spanish-speaking songs. As to be expected, many Americans, such as myself, had little to no background in Spanish and thus could not understand the majority of the song. The popularity of the song persuaded audiences to look up the meaning behind “Despacito”, which translates to “slowly” in English. I heard the song for the first time with the remix version featuring Justin Bieber. My friend, who is obsessed with Spanish-speaking songs, greatly enjoyed it, which made me love it even more. She, being a fan of Justin Bieber as well as Fonsi’s “Despacito” before the remix, greatly admired the fusion of the two. Many of my other friends when asked about their view on the rising of Latin pop in America stated:

“The songs have made me appreciate Latin culture more than ever I did before.” Hannah Fernandez

“These songs are exposing a lot of people to a culture that they would never thought they would enjoy and bringing down cultural divides since music is a common interest around the world.” – Gabby Hofileña

I feel as though “Despacito” will always be a song in history that people will enjoy as time progresses. I am looking forward to hearing new music that will come about from this new shift in the fusion of cultures.




















[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Despacito

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Despacito

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJQP7kiw5Fk

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_viewed_YouTube_videos

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_viewed_YouTube_videos

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Despacito

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Despacito

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Despacito    

[9] http://metro.co.uk/2017/07/19/after-4-6-billion-streams-how-much-as-despacito-earned-6790286/

[10] http://variety.com/2017/music/news/despacito-record-mariah-carey-most-weeks-number-one-1202540973/

[11] http://variety.com/2017/music/news/despacito-record-mariah-carey-most-weeks-number-one-1202540973/

[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Despacito  

[13] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Bamba_(song)

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mi_Gente_(J_Balvin_and_Willy_William_song)

[15] http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin/7850080/j-balvin-video-mi-gente

[16] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnJ6LuUFpMo


[18] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mi_Gente_(J_Balvin_and_Willy_William_song)


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