Despacito

Album: Vida (2016)
Charted: 1 1
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Luis Fonsi and his writing partner Erika Ender penned this Latin pop/reggaetón song with the intention of creating a fun tune that would make people want to dance. He recalled to Billboard magazine:

    "The song grew in a very natural way, it really snowballed into this final version. 'Despacito' started with a melody hook that I had with my guitar only. The beat for this track came after I wrote the lyrics, which I wrote as if I was writing a ballad. I sat with my guitar and started this cumbia pattern with my guitar.

    When I had a writing session with my friend Erika Ender I told her, 'Look, I have this idea and I pretty much have a chorus written but let's write a song around that and make it a sensual, fun, uplifting, dance kind of song and let's not over think it.' Because a lot of times when you're going into these writing sessions you're trying to come up with the most beautiful ballads with metaphors but for this one we just went with our gut.

    After we wrote it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to leave it as a cumbia/pop song or to give it this urban injection. I also don't consider it a reggaetón song but it does have that reggaetón energy and to me that's the new pop. A mix between a pop melody and a subtle urban beat to create the best of both worlds."
  • Luis Fonsi teamed up with his fellow Puerto Rican Daddy Yankee when he recorded the song. He explained: "I played him the demo and told him where I wanted to go with the song and he jumped on it right away. He was involved in putting all the pieces together. His collaboration was crucial and it's what made the song."
  • Asked by Billboard magazine if he always knew the song would be successful, Fonsi replied: "When I first did the demo of this song, I put it to the side and continued working the other songs for the album. But, for some reason, this song always excelled before the others.

    When I met with my producers, they listened to it and that day we decided to leave the others aside and work on 'Despacito.' And when we heard the final song, both Daddy Yankee and I were surprised that it sounded powerful, fresh and different.

    But at the end of the day no one knows, it's simply the fans who decide whether a song is successful or not, and that's what makes this career special."
  • The song is about having a sexual relationship but is sung in a smooth and romantic way rather than using erotic language. The Spanish title translates into English as "Slowly."

    "It's a song that talks about sensuality, of seducing, of sex, but in a very classy way," Erika Ender explained to ABC Radio. "I think that the way we express it is very elegant and very respectful."
  • The music video was directed by Carlos Perez. It was shot in December 2016 in La Perla neighborhood and the La Factoría bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The clip shows Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee performing while participating on different parties on the island and also features Miss Universe 2006 model Zuleyka Rivera. Fonsi explained to Billboard magazine:

    "The video was filmed in Puerto Rico, where I'm from, and it celebrates our Latin culture and who we are; movement, dancing and rhythm are engraved in my bones. The genre I listen to the most is salsa, so people look at me and see this guy who's done mostly romantic ballads, but there's always been this other side. It captures the best of both worlds, and I think that's helped the success of the song."
  • Two remixes were released on March 17, 2017: a solo pop version and a salsa version featuring Puerto Rican musician Victor Manuelle. A month later, another remix was released this time featuring Justin Bieber. The Canadian pop star sings in both English and Spanish on the track, with the latter marking a first for him.
  • The Colombian duo Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres produced this track, including the remix. Getting Bieber's vocal to work was a challenge. "He approached the song in a completely different way," Rengifo told Billboard. "His first verse was completely different to what any Latin artist would do. It was very impressive and very cool for all of us to witness his voice doing what he does and the fact that his approach to American melodies and American songs worked so well for a track that wasn't conceived for the Latin market."
  • The song soared to the top of the singles charts in many countries round the world, including those of Argentina, Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Venezuela.
  • The remixed version featuring Justin Bieber climbed to #1 in the UK, becoming Luis and Daddy's first UK chart toppers, while giving Justin the sixth of his career.
  • "Despacito" was the first foreign language single to reach #1 in the UK since Psy's "Gangnam Style" notched one week at the summit in September 2012. The last song featuring Spanish to hit the summit was Sak Noel's "Loca People" in 2011.
  • The Justin Bieber-featuring remix replaced DJ Khalid's "I'm the One" at #1 on the Hot 100, a song that the Canadian pop star also contributed towards. This meant that Bieber became the first ever artist to have new singles go #1 on the listing in back-to-back weeks.
  • This was the first time in 21 years that a primarily Spanish-language song had topped the Hot 100. The previous one to do so was Los Del Rio's "Macarena," which spent 14 weeks on the summit in 1996.
  • Fonsi told Billboard magazine regarding the song's chart-topping success. "It feels amazing to know that a mostly Spanish song is #1. Language isn't a factor. Music unites us!"
  • Fonsi told Genius how he was contacted in the small hours about Bieber jumping onto the remix.

    "I was out in Italy doing promo and it was 3 o'clock in the morning, trying to get some sleep. I get a call from somebody on my label like, 'Hey, we need to talk to you. We just got a call from Bieber's camp, and he heard the song while he was on tour in Colombia. He saw how people reacted, he loved the song, he wants to do the remix.' I was like, 'What? It's 3 o'clock in the morning, man. I'm trying to get some sleep. Stop messing around.'"

    Fonsi did send Bieber the session and he got a first cut of the remix the following day. "I was like, 'This is crazy,' the fact that he took the time to do this hook in Spanish," he recalled. "First of all, it's tough for me to sing, and I'm Puerto Rican. I'm fluent. It's so fast and it's kind of tongue-twisty, the lyrics of the chorus. He nailed it."
  • Justin Bieber received a huge backlash from fans after a bungled performance of the song during an appearance at 1 OAK nightclub in New York City on May 17, 2017. Instead of singing the song's Spanish lyrics, he yelled:

    I don't know the words so I say, 'Dorito'
    Don't know the words so I say, 'Dorito'
    I don't know the words so I say 'Dorito'
    Despacito
    I ate a burrito
    I just want a burrito


    Luis Fonsi defended the Canadian star's botched performance. "That chorus is not easy to sing, even for fluent Spanish singers like myself," he told Rolling Stone. "It's got a lot of lyrics, it's kind of tongue-twisty."
  • This was the first ever Spanish-language song to spend 10 consecutive weeks in the Top 10 of the Global Spotify Chart.
  • In July 2017, Universal Music declared "Despacito" the most-streamed song in history worldwide, surpassing Justin Bieber's "Sorry." Universal claimed 4.6 billion views, beating the 4.38 billion for "Sorry," but that includes both the original and the remix of "Despacito." Of those streams, 2.6 billion were from the original video on YouTube, 426 million from audio of the Bieber remix on YouTube, 1.1 billion on Spotify, and the rest from other services.
  • Luis Fonsi condemned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after he used the track in a July 2017 appearance urging voters to participate in the upcoming election and create a Constituent Assembly. Maduro's version featured altered lyrics that support his political move which, according to CNN, opponents claim will destroy the last semblance of democracy in the country. Fonsi wrote on social media:

    "My music is for all those who want to listen to it and enjoy it, (but it's) not to be used as propaganda that intends to manipulate the will of a people that's crying out for liberty and a better future."
  • The song was knocked off the top spot of the UK singles chart twice, only to return to the summit again on each occasion. It was only the fifth track to reign at #1 on the tally on three different occasions. The other four songs to achieve this feat were Frankie Laine's "I Believe" (1953), Guy Mitchell's "Singing The Blues" (1957), Pharrell Williams' "Happy" (2014) and Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean?" (2015). The song's achievement meant that Justin Bieber became the only artist to have managed it twice.
  • The song's video broke the record for the most-watched of all time on YouTube, despite not featuring Justin Bieber. (It is the original track not the remix). On August 4, 2017, the clip hit 2,994,056,666 views, surpassing the previous record-holder, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's "See You Again" (2,993,712,651 views).

    The clip spent over three years as the most viewed music video on YouTube before being dethroned by Pinkfong's catchy "Baby Shark" tune. The children's rhyme had garnered 7.04 billion views by November 2, 2020 overtaking Fonsi's single.
  • The melody for the song's hook first came to Luis Fonsi in a dream back in 2015. "I woke up one morning with 'Des-pa-cito... Puerto Rico...' (in my head)," he told the US breakfast show Good Morning America. "That's all I had, and that's all I needed!"

    After getting the idea for the chorus the singer immediately set to work filling out the rest of the tune. However, it took months for it to be crafted into a chart hit as Fonsi mulled over the overall sound of the track. "It took a while because I didn't know how I wanted to produce it, so it took a little bit to get that perfect hybrid between pop and urban," he explained. "Then I called my buddy Daddy Yankee, who's a big part of this record, and it all came together."
  • Panama-born Erika Ender is known as one of the top hit songwriters in the Latin Pop music world. She has penned hit tunes for the likes of Los Tigres Del Norte ("Ataud"), Gloria Trevi ("Cinco Minutos") and Gilberto Santo Rosa ("Ensename A Vivir Sin Ti"). Speaking to Songwriter Universe, Ender recalled how the song came to be written.

    "Luis and I have been friends for a long time, for at least 10 years, and he's recorded songs that we had written before. Luis wanted to start writing songs for his new album, so I went to his house one afternoon, around 2:00 p.m. We started chatting a bit and catching up, because we hadn't seen each other for a long time. Then he tells me, 'Erika, I have this idea from this morning, [with the title] Despacito.'And then he sings to me the first line of the chorus, 'Despacito…' And he says, "I want to say something like, 'Vamos a hacerlo en una playa en Puerto Rico' (which is the next line in the chorus)." That was the idea he had, and I loved it. I immediately answered with the line, 'Hasta que las olas griten 'ay bandito.'' I started laughing, because I loved what he did.

    "Then we started from the top (of the song), working on the melody and the concept, which was very important for me, and to try to fit that idea in what's happening nowadays with the urban-fusion-pop world. We tried to make something that would be part of his versatility, and at the same time that could get him out of his comfort zone. So we decided that we were going to do a very sensual song, but classy at the same time. [We wanted to be] very careful with the lyrics, especially with what it had to do with women, because this genre tends to be a little, you know, aggressive with women. And [women are] not an object. I think women…we are a piece of art (laughs). So I was really taking care of that part, and trying to explain how a woman [takes it slowly]… it's Despacito."
  • The song topped the Hot 100 for 16 consecutive weeks, equaling Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's "One Sweet Day," as the longest running #1 single in the history of the chart.

    Look what Taylor Swift did. It was the pop princess who knocked "Despacito" from the peak position with her Reputation lead single. However the track's co-writer Erika Ender told ABC Radio she's OK with that. "We made history anyway!" she said. "I mean, the song is [now] tied [with] an American song, so I think that's a great victory for Latin culture, for Latin music."

    Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" set a new record when the rapper's song spent its 17th week at #1 on the Hot 100 for the chart week dated August 3, 2019.
  • Luis Fonsi recorded a Spanish/Mandarin makeover with Singaporean artist JJ Lin. This new version was done for the lucrative Chinese market, where the original has not been released. Lin told Billboard magazine: "I had immense fun... Music breaks all boundaries in a most pleasant way. I see this collaboration as a cultural bridge, as well as a tribute to a generation of free people."
  • Fonsi and Yankee did a spicy performance of this song at the Grammy Awards in 2018. Host James Corden followed by quipping, "Wow, that is a catchy song. I have never heard that song before. If they can just get that song on the radio, they've got a hit on their hands."
  • The familiar boom-ch-boom-chik rhythm that drives the tune can be heard in pop hits from Justin Bieber ("Sorry"), Ed Sheeran ("Shape Of You"), and Sia ("Cheap Thrills"), among others, but has its roots in reggaeton. Evolving from the three-note tresillo pattern of African and Latin American music, the dembow rhythm combines a syncopated backbeat with a steady kick drum. It's fitting that Daddy Yankee is featured on the song, as his own hit "Gasolina" helped bring the rhythm to the mainstream.

Comments: 1

  • Mormors Hosta from SwedenCould this be a rip off the song Siempre by Eric Darius released in 2018
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Stan Ridgway

Stan RidgwaySongwriter Interviews

Go beyond the Wall of Voodoo with this cinematic songwriter.

Deconstructing Doors Songs With The Author Of The Doors Examined

Deconstructing Doors Songs With The Author Of The Doors ExaminedSong Writing

Doors expert Jim Cherry, author of The Doors Examined, talks about some of their defining songs and exposes some Jim Morrison myths.

Chris Isaak

Chris IsaakSongwriter Interviews

Chris tells the story of "Wicked Game," talks milkshakes and moonpies at Sun Records, and explains why women always get their way.

Devo

DevoSongwriter Interviews

Devo founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale take us into their world of subversive performance art. They may be right about the De-Evoloution thing.

U2 Lyrics

U2 LyricsMusic Quiz

How well do you know the lyrics of U2?

Tanita Tikaram

Tanita TikaramSongwriter Interviews

When she released her first album in 1988, Tanita became a UK singing sensation at age 19. She talks about her darkly sensual voice and quirky songwriting style.