Just days after premiering his highly anticipated collab with Daddy Yankee on Jan. 13, Fonsi’s upbeat track is already breaking records on Vevo becoming the Spanish language video with the most views in 24 hours (it collected 5.4 million hits). It’s now at 30 million views and counting.
Billboard caught up with the Puerto Rican singer/songwriter to talk about the anatomy of “Despacito,” which at first started as a cumbia/pop song, how the collab with Yankee came about and his forthcoming album.
What a way to kick off the new year with such a fun, catchy song like “Despacito.” Did you expect it to become an instant hit?
I’ve been doing music for many years now, and sometimes you feel like you have a very powerful song but then you get a slow reaction from the fans. And then there are times when songs surprise you thinking it’s not going to pick up that quick and then it just becomes a hit. You just never know. “Despacito” was a song that from the time I started writing it I felt that its hook was really catchy and powerful, but at the same time very simple. The lyrics are sensual and the beat of the song will make you want to move. That’s what I wanted to create with this song: a fun track that had that Latin feel with a melody that I feel very comfortable singing and that will make people just dance.
So what were those studio sessions like with Daddy Yankee?
Working with DY was definitely a plus for the song because it needed that explosion that only he can bring to the table. When we were in the studio, we felt right away that we had a really special song. But we had no idea that we were going to be breaking records with “Despacito.” I can’t even get a grasp on what’s going on. I’m overwhelmed, happy, honored and I’m going to take it as despacito as I can. I’m just happy people are accepting this new musical approach.
On that note, “Despacito” is very different from anything we’ve heard from you before but it’s also not a full-on reggaetón track. How did you find that balance between your pop style and that urban beat.
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 muy 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.
How did the collab with Daddy Yankee come about and were you at all nervous about how your fans would react to this new fusion of pop and reggaetón in your music?
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 its what made the song. This is a new sound for me, definitely, but it was all just very organic. More than anything I was anxious to see how people would react to “Despacito.” I really believed in the song and it’s not like I’m portraying myself as a different artist. I’m still the same guy who gets in front of the mic and just sings. This song is also one that I can just sing to you with my guitar but it happens to have this catchy beat to it. I’ve been raised with this music too, I love to dance and it’s also who I am — I mean I’m from Puerto Rico!
What can you tell us about your new album?
You’ll definitely hear an evolution from my last album. Each album always has its own sound. When it comes to production, we just try to give it a different character. My early albums were very R&B oriented because that’s what I listened to at the time, so it had that R&B influence. This album has a more modern beat to it. It’s the type of pop I think pop music is headed to or at least from my very humble point of view. You can also expect songs that are a bit more dance with an EDM beat to it. It’s all about evolution and growing. The album is almost finished and should be out mid-year. Then we’ll start touring in the summer.