5 Ways ‘Despacito’ Changed Latin Music – Billboard

5 Ways 'Despacito' Changed Latin Music – Billboard

Movements are not built on single actions. And yet, many of Latin music’s recent achievements are still labeled before and after “Despacito.”

It’s been five years (May 27) since this one-song juggernaut — performed by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and, later, in a bilingual version with Justin Bieber — topped the Billboard Hot 100, and there stayed a record-breaking 16 weeks, tying Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” time at No. 1 in 1995-96.

“Despacito” would end up breaking all sorts of records, including most weeks at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Songs chart and most viewed music video on YouTube (although the video was recently knocked down by “Baby Shark”).


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But half a decade later, the most striking legacy left by ‘Despacito’ is how it changed the global perception of Latin music and how the industry itself viewed and marketed music in Spanish. .

Here are five ways “Despacito” changed Latin music forever.

“He spearheaded a global Latin movement.”

1. He opened the floodgates for a flurry of Spanish and Latin-themed tracks on the Billboard graphics

It’s no exaggeration: there is a clear effect before and after “Despacito” on the Hot 100. Before “Despacito”, in 2016, four predominantly Spanish tracks entered the chart. In 2015, there were two and in 2014, four. In 2017, the year of “Despacito”, 19 titles, mostly Spanish, appeared on the charts, including “Mi Gente” by J Balvin. In 2018, the number grew to 21, in 2019 to 22, and in 2020, with the help of Bad Bunny, to 41. Last year, 26 titles were cut, a number that is expected to increase further this year thanks at Bad Bunny. Rabbit.

2. It made it cool to collaborate with Latin artists

Prior to “Despacito”, collaborations between Latin acts and mainstream acts were few and far between. As a senior executive once told me, “Our phone would never ring. it was always us [who] begged the Anglo labels to do something with our artists. Now it’s the other way around. On the heels of Bieber’s “Despacito” collab, Beyoncé joined Willy William and J Balvin for “Mi Gente.” Then it became an avalanche, with major Hot 100 hits including “I Like It” (Cardi B, Bad Bunny, J Balvin), “Hawái” (Maluma and The Weeknd), “Con Calma” (Katy Perry , Daddy Yankee and Snow) and “Taki Taki” (Ozuna, Cardi B, DJ Snake and Selena Gomez).

3. He awakened the Latin side of pop artists

Twenty years ago, Christina Aguilera was dating Mi Reflejoan album where she explored her Latin roots by singing Spanish language versions of her English tracks. Mi Reflejo was a major hit, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard, but it was also seen as a risky move by labels who feared their top talent would be bombarded amid accusations of cultural appropriation. Now, reveling in your Latin heritage is cool, with artists like Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello and (again) Christina Aguilera dishing out all-Spanish dishes.

“It was an opportunity for us to change the landscape of the Top 40 radio stations”

4. It finally opened mainstream radio’s eyes to the power of Latin music.

With a few exceptions (i.e. “Macarena”), music in Spanish was verboten on most mainstream radio stations, except for cities like Miami and Los Angeles. With “Despacito”, the programmers realized that their listeners weren’t as closed-minded as they were. “It was an opportunity for us to change the landscape of Top 40 radio,” said Mike Chester, who was head of promotions for SB Projects at the time (he’s now EVP of promotions and commerce for Warner Records). ).

When Chester first played the Bieber version of “Despacito” on the radio, the programmers immediately flagged it as “too Spanish for pop radio” and requested a version with more English. “The scooter got intense with me. He said, ‘f’ that; we’re not changing anything. This is an opportunity for us to launch a Spanish record on American pop radio. Today, predominantly records Spanish still don’t dominate pop airplay, but they are certainly an important part of the ecosystem.

5. He made latin music global

Thanks to the globalization of streaming, “Despacito” was the tipping point for Latin music worldwide, highlighting the universal potential of the language and the rhythms. Today, the consumption of music in Spanish is second only to music in English. And while it didn’t start with “Despacito,” the song was the catalyst for major change. “When I look back, what really strikes me is the fact that it opened a huge door for the non-Latin world to vibrate to Latin music,” Fonsi said. Billboard three years ago. “He spearheaded a global Latin movement. I don’t want to take credit and say it was all me or the song; it was the sum of many songs and many artists. But this song definitely opened the door.

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