This year, Despacito was on the verge of making history at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards.
The single’s remix, performed by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee and featuring Justin Bieber, nearly became the first mostly Spanish-language song in Grammy history to win either record of the year or song of the year. The song had also been nominated in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category.
But by the end of music’s biggest night, “Despacito” had no more Grammys than it did at the start. The Recording Academy’s shutout of the single revealed just how hollow the often-uttered platitude “music is a universal language” actually is. Here’s why.
By nearly every measure, “Despacito” was the world’s biggest song of 2017. It not only broke nearly every record under the sun, but it finally made clear to the U.S. mainstream market the true power of Latin music on a global stage.
The single began its climb up the charts worldwide when Fonsi and Yankee released the original version in January 2017. It was already a global phenomenon by the time Bieber remixed the hit in April, catapulting it up the U.S. charts.
By May, “Despacito” had become the first mostly Spanish-language No. 1 single in the country since the “Macarena” in 1996. By July, it had been crowned the most streamed song of all time. And by August, the music video had become the most viewed video in YouTube history.
By the end of the year, “Despacito” had earned a total of 1.322 billion on-demand streams, according to Nielsen Music. Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” which won the Grammy for best pop solo performance on Sunday, came in a distant second place with 999.69 million streams.
And “Despacito” has only continued to dominate in 2018. As of Saturday, the track and remix is one of only 18 songs to be certified diamond by the Recording Industry of America ― and it’s the first Latin song ever to do so.