What Many People Forget About “Despacito”
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Ugh, another article about that bendito song?!”. But try your hardest to roll your eyes back into focus from that eye roll because let’s face facts, that song is not going away any time soon. Hate to be the bearer of bad news.
But it should interest you to know that this piece will be a break from the other expositions about the song’s unprecedented success you’ve likely already stumbled upon in publications like The Huffington Post, The Guardian or Slate.
This article will namely illustrate the global smash by Puerto Rican favorite sons Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee as one single thread in a rich tapestry which has been woven by the digital era of music distribution.
But before we delve into that, allow me a quick overview of 3 impressive facts about “Despacito” you probably didn’t know (or probably haven’t bothered looking up because by now even the onset of the descending drop of the chorus’ “Des. Pa. Ci-to…” causes a Pavlovian reaction on your part):
Most streamed song of all time
It accomplished this feat just last week when it received its 4.6 billionth play on Wednesday July 19th according to Universal Music Latin Entertainment. And its accompanying music video is also on track to becoming the most viewed YouTube video of all time, having amassed 2.662 billion views in the span of 7 months.
To put that into perspective, it took Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again”, the current record-holder for most views, two years to reach 2.894 billion views. In less than a year “Despacito” has been hurtled to within roughly 200 million views short of that milestone, and it received 180 million additional views just this past week. Just saying.
Massive interest in Puerto Rico
With the “Despacito” song and music video – which was filmed in the La Perla neighborhood and La Factoría bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico, so for all intents and purposes it’s pretty much a promo reel for the Caribbean island – continuing to soar in worldwide popularity, Puerto Rico has received a remarkable increase in online searches. And this all despite the island’s crippling and much publicized debt crisis.
However, in spite of reports to the contrary in news outlets and magazines like the Miami Herald, The Daily Mail and Newsweek, this boom in interest has not led to a boom in tourism. The director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company himself has stated there are no hard figures to support the (faulty) claims that the island has received a significant rise in touristic visitors since the song’s ascension to the top of the charts.
Daddy Yankee sets a record of his own
Thanks to the song’s world domination, Daddy Yankee became the most listened to artist worldwide on Spotify this month. He is the first Latin artist to have received this honor. He himself has stated that this distinction is not a win for him but for Reggaetón as a genre.
This heartwarming sentiment notwithstanding, I do feel it is prudent to point out that, although it certainly did take it to historic new heights, “Despacito” has ignited what might be a Reggaetón Renaissance, not its Genesis, as many seem to imply. And it can actually be stated this is a Renaissance taking shape specifically among the English-speaking community in the United States, thanks to Justin Bieber’s contributions. But the Latino community in that country, along with the rest of the world, never forgot about Reggaetón.
Foreign language chart-toppers
That last allusion to the rest of the world brings us full circle to the reason this article stands out among most of the “Despacito” critique pieces you’ve likely come across. As everyone is aware, the song is sung completely in Spanish – the Justin Bieber remix features some hokey English but even so the Non-English percentage remains above 70 % – but this did not impede it from reaching all corners of the world. Something usually achieved by tunes of the Anglo persuasion.
The ease with which the song has captivated the world stems in part from the chorus’ descending melody, which has been described as easy to singalong to after just one listen no matter what language you speak. But of course it also stems from the rate at which it has been streamed and shared across the internet, something Luis Fonsi himself has described as the defining factor in the song’s success.
The current digital age in which we live – in which YouTube, Social Media and viral videos have become inescapable cornerstones of daily life across all avenues of societies the world over – has set the stage for an era of unparalleled worldwide chart dominance by foreign language artists.
In case you need more convincing, here are 4 other prime examples of international hits that have broken language barriers and invaded airwaves around the world in the last 10 years:
1. Psy – Gangnam Style
This success story has been told with a “I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves”-frequency. We all remember what happened. Let’s move on.
2. Dhanush – Why This Kolaveri Di
This song became an instant hit worldwide upon release on YouTube in 2011 and by the end of the year it was the most searched video on the platform with 125 million views. This particular foreign language success story features the Indian singer Dhanush and the song is sung predominantly in Tamil with some flakes of English here and there.
3. Era Istrefi – Bonbon
Released in 2015 by the Albanian pop star Era Istrefi, this dance-pop song, sung almost entirely in Albanian peppered with some minor English phrases, reached such a worldwide viral prevalence that an English version was created shortly after it had amassed 450 million views on YouTube.
4. Stromae – Alors On Danse
The Belgian superstar Stromae scored big with this 2009 Dance smash. It was the most played French song of 2010 and topped charts aplenty across the globe.
Hope for the ABC-islands
The good fortune of these largely unknown foreign language singles (and this was a small selection, there are many more examples) paints a silver lining for the Papiamentu/o language-singing musicians from the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. It would appear that simply having a catchy chorus, captivating beat, and a YouTube channel takes you a sizable amount of the way to global superstardom nowadays.
That may be a gross oversimplification of the process but the point remains there’s a formula out there which people all over the world seem to have discovered. And there is enough musical talent on these islands to eventually figure it out as well. But there’s no rush, we can take it Des. Pa…well, you know the rest.