Latin

Luis Fonsi 'Immediately Said Yes' to Performing One of Biden's 'Favorite Songs' at Inauguration

DJ Cassidy and Luis Fonsi
Courtesy Photo

DJ Cassidy and Luis Fonsi perform during the Celebrating America Primetime Special on Jan. 20, 2021.

DJ Cassidy & Fonsi tell Billboard how their "Pass the Mic" collab came together for Wednesday's "Celebrating America" special.

When Luis Fonsi performed “Despacito” during President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration special Celebrating America on Wednesday night, it was a full-circle moment. Back in September, the 2017 global smash hit became a political trending topic on Twitter after then-presidential candidate Biden whipped out his phone at a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration with Fonsi and Ricky Martin in Orlando and started playing “Despacito.”

“There you go,” Fonsi told Biden. “Dance a little bit, Joe!”

This time around, Fonsi’s “Despacito” wasn’t blasted from a cell phone: He joined DJ Cassidy’s “Pass the Mic: Inaugural Edition” to perform during the livestream, which also included fellow Puerto Rican hitmaker Ozuna's "Taki Taki."

“The Presidential Inaugural Committee called me over the holiday, out of the blue, to ask if I'd like to produce two 'Pass the Mic' segments for the televised inauguration,” DJ Cassidy tells Billboard. “They explained that because this inauguration would be different from all in the past, they wanted to connect Americans in an unprecedented way and celebrate the everyday heroes around the nation. So it made perfect sense, as I had created 'Pass the Mic' over the pandemic for that very reason -- to celebrate my musical heroes in an effort to pay homage to the heroes on the frontlines of health, freedom and justice.”

Cassidy, who deejayed President Barack Obama's inaugurations, then reached out to Latin superstars Fonsi and Ozuna to ask if they wanted to be part of the special night.

“I immediately said yes,” Fonsi tells Billboard. “It was a true honor to be asked to be part of such a historic day, to sing in Spanish and to represent the Latino community,” adding, “I was told ‘Despacito’ is one of President Biden’s favorite songs and I’m glad I got to perform it along with DJ Cassidy.”

The upbeat celebratory set received praise on Twitter, with Cardi B and Chelsea Clinton agreeing it was a highlight of the night. “Very strong,” tweeted the “WAP” singer. “Oh my gosh! My kids are going to be so thrilled Luis Fonsi and ‘Despacito’ is part of tonight’s incredible celebration with DJ Cassidy,” Clinton shared.

DJ Cassidy kicked off his “Pass the Mic: Inaugural Edition” during the inauguration parade, featuring Earth Wind & Fire, Nile Rodgers and Kathy Sledge.

For his second segment, “I wanted to expand 'Pass the Mic' in both genre and era, and pass the mic to modern-day icons of Latin music. There are simply no present-day songs more iconic than ‘Despacito’ and ‘Taki Taki,’" Cassidy says. “I've played these records all over the globe, and I know first-hand their power in bringing people together to sing in unison, no matter your origin or language. I knew Luis and Ozuna would be the perfect artists to help me turn the inaugural primetime special into a true party.”

On Wednesday, Fonsi and Ozuna joined Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jennifer Lopez, who are both of Puerto Rican descent and were also featured throughout the inaugural events. During Celebrating America, Miranda recited “The Cure at Troy” by Seamus Heaney, while J.Lo performed a medley of “This Land Is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” during Biden and Harris’ swearing-in ceremony.