Will 'Despacito' Break the 16-Week Record for a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1?
It's now just one week away from tying Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" as the longest-reigning No. 1 of 2017, and three weeks away from matching Mark Ronson's Bruno Mars-featuring "Uptown Funk!" for the longest stay on top this decade -- as well as Los Del Rio's "Macarena," currently the longest-reigning foreign language No. 1 in Hot 100 history (14 weeks at the summit in 1996).
But none of those commands match the most tantalizing record when it comes to the reign of "Despacito" on the Hot 100. With the song still solidly leading in all three metrics of the chart's measurement -- streaming, airplay and sales -- and with a Portugese remix of the song coming recently to give the song some extra juice, it's already worth asking the question: Could "Despacito" be the song that finally matches the all-time record 16 weeks on top of the Hot 100, set in 1995-96 by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's "One Sweet Day"?
Of course, five weeks away is still a long time in Hot 100 terms. It's often around this time that even the most seemingly world-conquering singles begin to lose just enough steam to be overtaken by a sometimes unforeseen challenger -- as happened with "Shape of You" (which succumbed to Kendrick Lamar's "Humble.") and The Chainsmokers' Halsey-featuring "Closer" (which gave way to Rae Sremmurd's "Black Beatles," featuring Gucci Mane), both of which tapped out after 12 weeks atop the Hot 100.
Indeed, not only has no song ever matched the 16 weeks at No. 1 of "One Sweet Day," none has ever even come within a week of that record: 14 weeks marks the silver-medal finish shared by "Uptown Funk!" and six other singles, dating back to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" in 1992-'93.
The thing that seems to set "Despacito" apart in this discussion, however -- aside from the song's unique global appeal, due to its bilingual construction and heavy cultural crossover, particularly on the Bieber remix -- is the apparent lack of a challenger lurking in the near-distance to overtake it. The most obvious challenger would appear to be "Wild Thoughts," the current No. 2 single from DJ Khaled, featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller. But, despite climbing to the runner-up spot from its No. 4 debut, the song is trending in the wrong direction: It dips this week by less than 1 percent in overall points; "Despacito" is down by 3 percent, so it maintains a healthy lead at No. 1.
Indeed, "Despacito" is much farther ahead of the pack -- with a 73 percent lead in chart points over second-place "Wild Thoughts" -- when compared to other recent long-running Hot 100 No. 1s in their 11th weeks on top; see the chart below for reference.
Beyond those two songs, the current top 10 is mostly populated either by hits that have already enjoyed a No. 1 peak (DJ Khaled's star-studded "I'm the One," Bruno Mars' "That's What I Like") or whose cross-platform climb is gradual enough not to pose a major threat to "Despacito" (French Montana's Swae Lee-featuring "Unforgettable," Shawn Mendes' "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back"), at least in the immediate future.
Of course, the song that could ultimately steal the crown from "Despacito" may not even have been released yet. In the case of "Humble.," it wasn't until the 11th week of "Shape of You" at No. 1 that the former song even debuted on the chart, rocketing in at No. 2 and then surging to No. 1 two weeks later. As late as Sheeran's 10th week at No. 1, it looked like smooth sailing for the song on top for the then-foreseeable future, with even the prospect of a new single from Lamar -- who had never previously hit the Hot 100's top 10 as a lead artist -- not seeming a particular threat.
Similarly, the potential successor of "Despacito" might already exist, but may not yet be fully weaponized -- as in the case of "Black Beatles," which overtook "Closer" largely on the viral strength of the song's association with the briefly omnipresent Mannequin Challenge, unexpectedly turning the song from a cult hit to a runaway smash.
Interestingly, another potential challenger to the "Despacito" throne may come from similar Latin crossover territory. "Mi Gente," a Spanish-language collaboration between Colombian superstar J Balvin and French DJ Willy William (based on the latter's "Voodoo Song" from earlier 2017), is currently scaling the Hot 100, up 53-42 in its third week. The song is particularly surging on streaming -- debuting at No. 33 on the Streaming Songs chart with 11.5 million U.S. streams (up 27 percent) in the tracking week ending July 20, according to Nielsen Music, and currently sitting at No. 2 on Spotify's Global Top 50 chart, behind "Despacito." It's uncertain that the song's trajectory will lead it to the Hot 100's top spot, but it may only be a high-profile remix away from making a jump to the chart's top tier -- consider that the song is already ahead of where "Despacito" was on the Hot 100 (no higher than No. 44) before Justin Bieber jumped on the song's remix.
Ultimately, of course, there's no way to say for sure whether or not "Despacito" will be able to hang on atop the Hot 100 for at least another five weeks. The fact that it hasn't fallen yet and seems to have an energy boost still coming via its recent remix certainly at least gives it a chance. But, even "Uptown Funk!" -- about as unavoidable and agreeable a pop hit as we've had this decade -- was ultimately vanquished two weeks shy of the record by a Wiz Khalifa ballad, featuring Charlie Puth ("See You Again"), motored by public affection for Paul Walker following the action star's untimely death. That was unpredictable, of course, but that's sort of the point: The main reason why no single has matched the endurance of "One Sweet Day" at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in the last two decades is that 16 weeks is a long time for nothing unpredictable to impact the top of the charts.
In other words, Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber should hope that pop music simply stays the course for the next month-plus. If it does, they have a pretty good chance of rewriting the Billboard record books en español.