'Despacito' singer Luis Fonsi talks his Spanish-language hit
Plus: How Justin Bieber surprised him in the studio
Latin star Luis Fonsi has been dominating radio airwaves across the globe with his reggaeton-influenced — and Justin Bieber-featuring! — smash single, “Despacito.” On a break from working on his ninth studio album, due this year, the 39-year-old Latin Grammy winner chats with EW about his sizzling hit.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations! “Despacito” is the first primarily Spanish-language song to go No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 since 1996’s “Macarena,” and it’s topping charts all over the world.
LUIS FONSI: It’s exciting! It wasn’t planned this way. I was born in Puerto Rico but was raised in Orlando and now [live] in Miami. So I’ve had success in the U.S., but toward a Latin audience. Now it’s a new door that opens. It’s refreshing.
You originally released the track with Daddy Yankee earlier this year, and then Justin Bieber hit you up after he heard the song while touring through Colombia. What was it like to hear from him?
It was a great call that I got when they told me he wanted to be a part of it. I know how it is when you’re out on tour and your head is “What’s the next city? What time do I have to wake up for sound check?” And here he is in Colombia, he hears the song and he loves it — he sees how people react — and says, “I need to be a part of this movement.”
Did you discuss whether he would sing in Spanish or English?
My initial hunch was that he was going to do everything in English. But then, to my surprise, I hear the first chorus and it’s him singing in Spanish! I definitely didn’t tell him to do that, and that’s the beauty behind it: It was his idea.
When we think of Enrique Iglesias’ or Shakira’s big moments on the Hot 100, they were in English. How important is it that this has stayed in Spanish and still gone to No. 1?
It’s amazing, especially given the times that we’re living in. It feels like we’re in a divided world with politics, [but] when you hear “Despacito” and you see someone who doesn’t speak Spanish trying to get the words right…it shows the power of music. We’re coming together.