Back in 2015, noted sad boy Justin Bieber released “Sorry,” the dembow-lite megahit that sparked a lengthy dialogue about dancehall’s return to U.S. Top 40 radio. Bieber was no doubt at the center of this conversation, as many viewed the dancehall influences in “Sorry” as a missed opportunity to link with the genre’s innovators.
For some, Bieber remedied that misstep by teaming with J Balvin for the Latino remix of “Sorry” – though others characterized the remix as a business savvy industry maneuver, more than a genuine attempt to unite superstars who admire each other’s work.
The criticism didn’t stop Balvin from supporting Bieber, and the Colombian reggaetonero swore he’d have Bieber singing en español soon. In a bizarre turn of events, it looks like none other than Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi beat him to the punch.
On the official remix of Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito,” Bieber lusts after a paramour in Spanish. “Quiero desnudarte a besos/Despacito/Firmo en las paredes de tu laberinto/Y hacer de tu cuerpo todo un manuscrito,” he coos over a Spanish guitar riff (side note: since when does Bieber have bars???). While “Despacito” might be chasing the success of cookie-cutter Latin pop hits like “Bailando,” Bieber’s choice to fully go for it in Spanish – rather than throwing around a lazy “mamacita” – is commendable.
There’s a long history of mainstream artists recording versions of their own work in Spanish, but “Despacito” is part of a small but growing wave of Anglo pop stars teaming with Latinx artists for bilingual remixes or guest verses, instead of Latinx artists hopping on tracks en inglés. As the gringo music industry comes to recognize the financial and cultural value of such collaborations, one wonders whether the elusive mainstream crossover will continue to hold a vicelike grip on the success of Latinx artists’ careers. One thing’s for sure: these collabs force mainstream audiences to contend with Latinidad on our terms.
Stream the remix of “Despacito” above.