Despacito singer Luis Fonsi says he was impressed by Justin Bieber's Spanish

Despacito singer Luis Fonsi says he's grateful for Justin Bieber's take on his song, opening Latin music up to new audiences in Canada.

Luis Fonsi in Toronto on Wednesday says he didn't know the song would be such a hit

Luis Fonsi told CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond he was impressed with Justin Bieber's Spanish on Despacito. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

The man behind the song of 2017, Despacito, says he didn't know the song was going to be a record-breaking hit when he was writing it. 

"I woke up one morning with Despacito in my head and I thought, 'Hmm, that could be interesting,'" said Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Luis Fonsi, in an interview with CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond.

The song flowed pretty quickly after that, thanks to a simple rhyming scheme and a solid rhythm.

"It was so simple ... the way everything came together with the melody, with the track, it just felt special and I said let's just wait and see how people react."

Despacito singer Luis Fonsi on the big hit and Justin Bieber

CBC News Toronto

3 years ago
The man behind Despacito, Luis Fonsi, on how the big hit was born, and what he thinks of Justin Bieber's Spanish. 1:50

The Bieber effect

The reaction came quickly. First the song, performed by Fonsi and Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee, wooed Latin audiences, then it found new fame when Canadian Justin Bieber decided to remix it. 

"I got a very early call from my label saying that Justin Bieber is trying to get in touch with me and I thought it was a joke," Fonsi said while in Toronto on Wednesday. 

The music video for Despacito is the single most-viewed video on YouTube with over 4.5 billion views. (LuisFonsiVEVO/YouTube)

It wasn't a joke. Bieber had heard the song in a club and wanted to sing a version himself. So Fonsi sent him the lyrics and the instrumentation, unsure of what he'd get back. 

"We had an English version for the song so that's what I thought he was going to do," Fonsi said. But 24 hours later, Fonsi was shocked to hear the Biebs voice crooning in Spanish. 

"I thought it was really cool," Fonsi said. "He took the time to get it, the pronunciation, he did an amazing job." 

"It definitely opened up a lot of doors for myself and Daddy Yankee."

Latin music going mainstream

Now the song has been nominated for three Grammy Awards including song and record of the year. The music video also holds the record for the single most-viewed video on YouTube with over 4.5 billion views, not including the countless covers and spoofs of the song that went viral in their own way.

Fonsi said he tries to watch all the versions, and even has a few favourites.

"The Muppets was pretty cool; my daughter loved that one," he said. A parody by three Italian friends is another standout. 

Ultimately, Fonsi says he's most proud of how the song has opened people up to Latin music. 

"Despacito was able to kind of kick that door open," Fonsi said. "For a Spanish song to be nominated Song of Year and Record of the Year ... this is already huge for Latin music."