Despacito: Music and its Copycats

Despacito by Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee was a smash hit. The reggaeton song blew up in 2017, smashing numerous records. In the USA, for example, Despacito entered the Billboard Hot Latin Songs Chart in second place and the song was also incredibly popular in other countries. This anthem reached the top 10 charts in more than 30 countries, and was number 1 in 22 countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

What’s it about?

The song’s lyrics are about a sexual encounter that is characterised by romance and harmony, with the singer using allegories and metaphors to make the lyrics simple and tasteful. As we’ve already seen, Spaniards don’t shy away from their small talk.

What does “despacito” mean?

“Despacito” is Spanish and can be translated as “very slowly”. This all makes sense, of course, as the song is a description of a sexual encounter. Fonsi tries to present the sexual overtones of the song in a romantic way.


Many artists and hobby musicians around the world have tried to put their own spin on this song, and there are also some official remixes and cover versions: a solo pop version by Luis Fonsi and a salsa version by Victor Manuelle. Theses two Puerto Rican singers were the first to release official remixes. Furthermore, only a month later, pop superstar Justin Bieber released his own cover. Fans were delighted to hear the Canadian singer’s remix of the song in which he sang in Spanish for the first time, successfully conquering another genre. Despacito has now been covered by various genres: there is a cumbia version, instrumental versions, acoustic versions, pop cover versions, to name but a few.


Many have also tried to translate the hit into their language, which sounds much easier than it is. When translating a song, you have to be very careful that the new words still fit the rhythm and that the whole thing still sounds harmonious. This is before you get on to metaphors, cultural differences, proverbs, idioms and so on, which we only know too well from translating. But how such a translation from Spanish into English could look, let’s take a looks at the following section of Despacito:

Sí, sabes que ya llevo un rato mirándote
Tengo que bailar contigo hoy (DY)
Vi que tu mirada ya estaba llamándome
Muéstrame el camino que yo voy 
Oh Tú, tú eres el imán y yo soy el metal
Me voy acercando y voy armando el plan
Solo con pensarlo se acelera el pulso 
Oh yeah
Ya, ya me está gustando más de lo normal
Todos mis sentidos van pidiendo más
Esto hay que tomarlo sin ningún apuro 
Quiero respirar tu cuello despacito
Deja que te diga cosas al oído
Para que te acuerdes si no estás conmigo
Quiero desnudarte a besos despacito
Firmo en las paredes de tu laberinto
Y hacer de tu cuerpo todo un manuscrito (sube, sube, sube) (Sube, sube)
Quiero ver bailar tu pelo
Quiero ser tu ritmo (eh oh) (uh oh, uh oh)
Que le enseñes a mi boca (eh oh) (uh oh, uh oh)
Tus lugares favoritos (eh oh) (favoritos, favoritos baby)
Déjame sobrepasar tus zonas de peligro (eh oh) (uh oh, uh oh) Hasta provocar tus gritos (uh oh, uh oh) y que olvides tu apellido (diridiri, dirididi Daddy)
Yes, you know that I’ve been looking at you for a while
I have to dance with you today
I saw, that your look was calling me
Show me the way that I’m going oh
You you are the magnet and I’m the metal
I’m getting closer and I’m setting up the plan
Just the thought of it accelerates the pulse
now I’m enjoying it more than usual
All my senses are asking for more
This must be taken without any trouble
I want to breathe your neck slowly
Let me tell you things in your ears
So that you remember when you’re not with me
I want to strip you off with kisses slowly
Sign the walls of your labrynth
And make your whole body a manuscript
Turn it up turn it up….. turn it up, turn it up
I wanna see you dance
I wanna be your rhythm
I want you to show me
Your favourite places places places Places
Let me surpass your danger zones
To make you scream
And forget your name
Lost in translation: Despacito in English

Related to the difficulty of translating songs, is this article about the variety of translations of Radiohead’s song Creep.

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