Why a New 'Despacito' Remix Could Make the Song Even Bigger
"Despacito" has already topped the charts for months, but one of the song's co-writers, Erika Ender, is betting that it still has plenty of room left to soar in at least one giant market: her native Brazil.
While Brazilians have already embraced the original version of "Despacito," written by Ender, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Luis Fonsi and Puerto Rican superstar Daddy Yankee -- and the remix featuring Justin Bieber is now being streamed more by Spotify's Brazilian users than the original -- the official Portuguese version released Friday could give the song even more juice to reverberate throughout the lusophone world.
The Portuguese "Despacito" features both Brazilian star Israel Novaes and Fonsi singing in Portuguese, and the Panamanian-Brazilian Ender tells Billboard she personally translated it from the Spanish and coached Fonsi carefully to make sure his Portuguese pronunciation was spot on.
Fonsi's dedication to perfecting his Portuguese accent was that of a "true professional who is thoughtful, passionate and focused," Ender says, adding that Bieber's foray into Spanish for his remix also "showed his dedication to the craft."
Even as streaming accelerates the speed at which a song can take over the world, chart data highlights the opportunity that remains in catering local tastes and languages. While the Bieber version of "Despacito" has overtaken the original on the Spotify charts in the U.S., Brazil, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Bolivia and the United Kingdom, the Spanish-language original still reigns in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru and Spain.
Countries that primarily speak neither English nor Spanish -- such as Brazil -- represent fertile ground for Despacito remixers. (Portuguese-speaking Portugual wasn't sold on Bieber's remix, for example: the Spanish-language original charts higher there.) Ender says she and Fonsi are fielding dozens of calls weekly seeking permission to record new versions and remixes, while new unsanctioned versions surface every week. There are versions in pop, salsa, merengue, metal, urban and even an orchestral rendition by the Croatian cellists Luka and Stjepan Hauser known as 2CELLOS, whose interpretation on YouTube -- released a little more than a week ago -- has clocked more than 5.5 million views.
"It's out of control," Ender tells Billboard. "This one just struck a chord with so many people."
While the new Portuguese edition isn't yet among the top-streamed songs in Brazil, it could gain traction thanks to Israel Novaes' one million monthly visitors on Spotify and his nearly three million followers on Instagram. The day before the release of the track last week, Novaes posted the cover art for the song, which was liked by 50,000 followers.
Pablo Flores, who has remixed songs with a Latin flavor for everyone from Madonna to Ricky Martin, tells Billboard that giving songs "that feel that can be attractive in certain countries more than others."
Carlos de Yarza, who remixed the Los Del Rio song the 'Macarena' -- the last Spanish-language song to hold the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 100 starting in 1996 before "Despacito," tells Billboard that remixes didn't always travel so easily. In the 80s, de Yarza recalls running to record stores with his buddies in hopes that remixes from overseas had arrived.
"The Internet has made it so that remixes are available to the world," says de Yarza.
As for Ender, who spoke to Billboard from Madrid recently, she is celebrating 25 years in the music business, recently releasing her album Tatuajes (Tattoos) and being inducted into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame.
"The song is opening doors for all of us and that's a great responsibility that I do not take lightly," Ender says. "It's like winning the lottery."