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‘Despacito’ leaves impact on summer charts and Latin music

By Rebecca Goldfarb

Section: Arts

September 15, 2017

Ask someone what the “song of the summer” is and you’re bound to hear a variety of answers. You might get “I’m The One” or “Wild Thoughts,” both by DJ Khaled. They could say it was “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar, “Body Like A Back Road” by Sam Hunt or “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran. They might tell you something you’ve never heard of.

This summer, however, the answer seemed to always be, “Despacito,” the hit song by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber.

Luis Fonsi is a Puerto Rican singer who has been making music since 1998. He is well established in the world of Latin music, but “Despacito” is his first hit song for the United States and the rest of the world. Daddy Yankee, like Luis Fonsi, is a Puerto Rican singer and rapper who has been making music since the 1990’s. Daddy Yankee is also very prominent in the Latin music scene, but has had a few hit songs in the United States back in the 2000s such as “Gasolina,” “Rompe,” and “Oye Mi Canto.” Nonetheless, “Despacito” is still Daddy Yankee’s biggest hit song to date.

The impact that “Despacito” has made on the music charts and on the Latin genre in mainstream music is inexplicable. “Despacito” was the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 consecutive weeks, tying the record for spending the most weeks at the number one spot with Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” in 1995. It was the first majority Spanish language song that topped the charts since Los Del Rio’s “La Macarena” in 1996. It took the number one spot the week before Memorial Day and remained in that spot until Labor Day, making it the only song in history to remain at the top of the charts during the entire summer season tracking period.

The music video for “Despacito” was the very first YouTube video in history to hit 3 billion views and is now the most viewed YouTube video of all time. The original version of the song was released in January and became an instant hit on the Latin charts. At that time, it was only charting modestly on the mainstream music charts in the United States. It was not until April, when Justin Bieber remixed the song and added in English verses, that the song started to become a worldwide hit.

People may now think of “Despacito” as just another Justin Bieber song, but the path that this song has paved for popular music is more than anything else Bieber has released. The popularity of Despacito created a trend for more Latin songs to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 than ever before.

Before Despacito, if a Latin song were to chart, which was rare, it would chart moderately, and make it into the top 70 at most. Since “Despacito’s” popularity, rising hit Latin songs such as “Mi Gente” by J Balvin and Willy William, “Felices Los 4” by Maluma and “Escapate Conmigo” by Wisin ft. Ozuna are beginning to break into the top 50 and even the top 30 of the Billboard chart. “Despacito” has single-handedly created a boom of Latin music into the mainstream and has exposed more people to Latin music and culture.

It is frustrating to think it took a well-known pop singer’s remix to the song to the level of success that it achieved. The addition of Justin Bieber’s English verses takes away the Latin authenticity of the song and turns it more into an Americanized, generic pop song. The fact that Bieber could not even remember the Spanish lyrics of the chorus when he was singing it live shows how much little passion he has for the song, and furthers the idea that he only sang on the remix for publicity.

Fonsi and Yankee are even singing and rapping some parts in English on the remixed version as well. When comparing the remix to the original version, there is so much more dedication and enthusiasm in the vocals in the original, mainly due to be it being less manufactured for the mainstream.

Nonetheless, Bieber’s addition on the song has generated many people to go back and check out the original version of the song. This song is still different than most songs that are on the radio today. The worldwide success of “Despacito” can inspire any international artist that one does not have to make a song in only English for it to have global accomplishments. Maybe one day, another song that is entirely in another language can have worldwide success without the help of an English remix featuring a well-known pop singer.

Mainstream music in the summer of 2017 brought a wide range of music, compared to the monotony of popular music that came into the spotlight during the school year. There was so much more substance and genre variety in each of the songs this summer, compared to the dominance of songs with tropical house beats and mumble rap features during the past year. With the array of genres that were played on the radio within the past few months, there was one song that defined the summer of 2017 that was completely different than any song that has ever been in the mainstream—“Despacito.”

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