Perform “Despacito” with your class using Modern Band Charts provided by Little Kids Rock.
In August 2017, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s music video “Despacito” was neck-to-neck with Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” in a race to receive a record 3 billion views on Youtube. At the beginning of the year, it seemed almost certain “See You Again” would be the new record holder. Since its release in 2015, the song’s viewership continued to steadily grow, no doubt thanks to it’s two star performers, a Hollywood film tie-in, and the moving story behind its creation. But then in early January 2017, “Despacito” was posted on youtube, and took off like a rocket. In less than six months, it received 2 billion views, a milestone that took “See You Again” two entire years to reach. A remix featuring Justin Bieber helped propel “Despacito” in the #1 position in charts in close to 50 countries, including the United States. By September, the song surpassed “See You Again” to be the most watched video on Youtube, later setting a record of over 4 billion viewers.
It may seem astonishing that a song sung entirely in Spanish and based in a Puerto Rican urban genre so quickly achieved such a level of popularity. Yet, for those familiar with Latin music, it hardly seems surprising. For decades, Música Tropical, or pop music from the Caribbean islands, has had immense popularity in Latin American countries. Reggaeton, the genre “Despacito” most easily fits into, is only the most recent in a long string of Caribbean music styles, from Bachata to Merengue to Salsa, whose infectious melodies and danceable rhythms attract millions. With the globalizing capability of Youtube and other streaming services, it was only a matter of time before this music achieved equal popularity in the English-speaking world.
Perhaps a key to the success of “Despacito” particularly was also due to it’s embrace of a variety of Latin American genres. While the song’s performers, singer Luis Fonsi and rapper Daddy Yankee, most clearly position the song in the category of Latin Pop and Reggaeton, producers of the song, Mauricio Rengífo and Andres Torres, made an effort to incorporate a wide variety of Latin American musical styles, from traditional Puerto Rican rural music to Colombian Cumbia.
In this lesson, students are introduced to four Latin American music styles: Reggaeton, Música Jibara, Cumbia, and Salsa. Through a short video they learn how producers Mauricio Rengífo and Andres Torres drew upon each of these genres in creating “Despacito.” Students then participate in a Musical analysis activity where they are asked to closely listen to the song to pinpoint where these various Latin American genres are first introduced. Finally, students consider where “Despacito” fits with a longer history of American popular music that adopts Latin American elements.