We Ranked All 9 Versions Of ‘Despacito’ From Worst To Best
Is this the greatest track...of all time?
Far and away the single biggest pop culture moment of 2017 has been the enormous, enormous popularity of ‘Despacito’, the Spanish-language banger from Puerto Rican musicians Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. I don’t say this lightly — after all, 2017 is the year that brought us the Fyre Festival disaster, Beyoncé’s twins and Ed Sheeran’s bizarre cameo in Game of Thrones.
But ‘Despacito’ is a global phenomenon that leaves everything else in its wake. This week the song clocked up 4.6 billion plays across streaming platforms and became the most streamed song of all time, surpassing Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’. It’s an absurd number of plays for a song that was only released in January, but that’s just one of the many records its smashed this year.
‘Despacito’ is the first Spanish-language song to top the US Billboard music charts since ‘Macarena’ pulled it off back in 1996. In June it hit two billion views on YouTube, becoming the fastest video in the site’s history to reach that milestone.
Me everytime I hear Despacito pic.twitter.com/NyFPaKjw5Z
— Girl Codes (@WeAreGirICodes) July 12, 2017
The original version of the song was dizzyingly successful on the Latin music charts, but when Bieber jumped on board and added his own verse, as well as his pretty good attempt at the Spanish hook, it exploded right around the world.
The original ‘Despacito’ and the Bieber remix are far and away the most popular, but there are actually seven different official versions of the song credited to Fonsi, including a salsa rework, a Major Lazer remix and a Portuguese translation, as well as a slightly less official merengue version by Dominican artist Anthony Santos and an orchestral composition by two Croatian cellists.
The other remixes haven’t been streamed anywhere near as much as the Bieber version, but some of them are superb. Others… are less good. To help extend your ‘Despacito’ knowledge, we’ve reviewed all nine versions of the song and provided recommendations on whether they’re worth your time (heads up: most of them are).
Despacito feat. Daddy Yankee [The Original]
Okay, so we have to start with the original. It forms the backbone of every remix, so to understand what makes the different versions work (or not work) we first have to go deep into what makes ‘Despacito’ so ridiculously catchy.
Part of the reason why pop music is so… popular is because our brains are hardwired to respond to certain kinds of sounds and patterns. I actually have no idea if this is even remotely scientifically accurate but it makes sense to me (how else do you explain Pitbull?).
‘Despacito’ has been composed to hit all the different parts of our brains that make us react so joyfully to pop. There’s an alluring guitar riff, a familiar Latin fusion beat that evokes the best of Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin, a thumping chorus that makes you want to sing along (even if non-Spanish speakers tend to only know one word: “despacito”) and a reggaeton verse from Daddy Yankee that brings back memories of Don Omar’s huge hit ‘Danza Kudero’.
“At the end of the day it is the perfect pop song, so who cares”
It sounds like a song we’ve heard our whole lives, but with enough vibrancy and freshness to genuinely excite us. It does’t even matter that most of us don’t know what Fonsi is singing about. The song just sounds so good.
In fact, given the lyrics are all about fucking, the language barrier has probably helped the song reach a larger audience who might otherwise have been deterred by its pretty explicit imagery.
Because ‘Despacito’ was created to be the perfect pop song, it can (very) occasionally feel a bit too manufactured. The transitions are just too… flawless. But at the end of the day it is the perfect pop song, so who cares.
Recommendation: Listen to it another 4.6 billion times.
Despacito (Remix) feat. Justin Bieber [The Bieber Version]
The Justin Bieber remix is the most popular version of the song, surpassing the original around the world but especially in non-Spanish speaking countries. And with very good reason.
It retains everything that made the original so good, adds in a fresh verse by Bieber and throws him on top of the chorus with a breathless “Des… pa…. cito” that is, I’m just gonna say it, incredibly hot.
There’s a reason why the most streamed song of all time before ‘Despacito’ was Bieber’s ‘Sorry’. The guy can sing and he absolutely kills his guest spots. Whether it’s Major Lazer’s ‘Cold Water’, DJ Khaled’s ‘I’m The One’ or even David Guetta’s ‘2U’, Bieber steals the show whenever he’s on the hook.
‘Despacito’ was already the perfect pop song but throw in the greatest guest vocalist of our era and it becomes transcendental.
Recommendation: Don’t fuck people who don’t fuck with this song.
Despacito feat. Victor Manuelle [The Salsa Version]
You know the one thing the original version of ‘Despacito’ was missing? Horns.
This is an up-tempo rework featuring classic salsa percussion instruments like the bongo, with a few hand claps thrown in and, of course, a trumpet solo. It’s impossible to not love salsa, and this is a fun, jazzy version of the song.
It’s not as good as the original, and there’s no Bieber, but it’s entertaining.
Recommendation: Recreate the salsa scene from Step Up 2 with this.
Despacito (Versión Pop) [The Version Without Daddy Yankee]
Eventually we were going to hit a version that isn’t good, and sadly we’re here. It’s just not clear why this version of the song exists, or why it was released.
It is essentially the original version of the song but without Daddy Yankee and with a slower and more beat. Who asked for that? The Daddy Yankee verses in the original song are a great contrast to the slower, more melodic Fonsi elements. The different components blend together well, with Yankee doing a bit of a call-and-response during the chorus as well.
When you take that away it just becomes a lot more boring. It sounds like U2 cover band had a crack at recording something in Spanish, but stopped caring half way through.
Recommendation: There is no reason to ever listen to this song.
Despacito (Major Lazer & MOSKA Remix) [The Major Lazer Version]
Never heard of MOSKA? Neither, but apparently he’s a Colombian producer who has somehow ended up remixing ‘Despacito’ with Major Lazer.
On the surface a Major Lazer remix of this song sounds like a brilliant concept. In fact, it feels like Major Lazer, along with Bieber, should’ve been involved right from the start. Diplo attracts a lot of hate but he’s undeniably one of best producers around and his with Skrillex and Bieber, along with a couple of very good Major Lazer albums have demonstrated his broad palette.
So getting him to re-do ‘Despacito’ by throwing in some dancehall vibes sounds great, right? Well, if that’s what he had done it might have been great. But he didn’t. Unfortunately this is an incredibly flimsy remix.
The drums get turned up a notch, but other than that the song is basically the same — except for the high-pitched bass drop. The drop feels very out of the place in the song, and unless you are extremely, extremely, munted in a club when it plays there’s no way you’re going to enjoy it.
Given how lacklustre the remix is it’s even more surprising it apparently took four people to pull it off (three Major Lazer dudes + one MOKSA).
It just feels like an incredibly feeble way to try and ride the ‘Despacito’ wave. We deserve better.
Recommendation: Skip, but if you’re having a dubstep nostalgia night and have taken an enormous amount of MDMA, you might get a kick out of it.
Despacito (Versión Portugués) feat. Israel Novaes [The Portuguese Version]
This song is exactly what it says on the label. It’s ‘Despacito’ but sung in Portuguese by Brazilian singer Israel Novaes.
There’s not really much more to say. If you speak Portuguese I guess you’ll like it? The rest of the world managed fine with the Spanish version, but good on Portuguese speakers for getting their own version.
Recommendation: Listen to it if you speak Portuguese. Or don’t. The original is fine, even if you have no idea what Fonsi’s saying.
Despacito feat. Anthony Santos and Mark B [The Merengue Version]
Originating in the Dominican Republic in the 19th century, merengue is now one of the most popular forms of music and dance across Latin America. So if there was going to be a salsa version of the song, it makes sense to do a merengue one too.
Merengue is known for its faster musical arrangements, and this is definitely the fastest version of ‘Despacito’ around. If you’re into merengue you’re going to love it. It’s got all the classic merengue elements… but it’s ‘Despacito’. If you’re not into merengue… you should get into merengue. Latin music is dope, and this is one of the best Latin songs getting a classic, 19th century Domonican treatment.
Recommendation: Definitely check it out, it’s going to be your gateway to the wonderful world of merengue.
Despacito feat. 2CELLOS [The Orchestral Version]
2CELLOS, as the name would imply, are a Croation cello duo who specialise in orchestral arrangements of well known songs, because apparently there’s a market for that.
They’ve previously covered Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ and Muse’s ‘Supermassive Black Hole’. After ruining those songs, they’ve decided to turn their attention to ‘Despacito’.
It’s just two blokes going at their cellos and doing the instrumental bit to ‘Despacito’. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s clocked up more than five million views on YouTube in just a couple of weeks so it looks like at least some people are, inexplicably, into it.
The YouTube comments are full of people saying things like “This makes me so proud to be Croatian” but it’s not clear why it’s good for the country’s national pride to have these two men ruining the world’s most popular song.
Recommendation: Croats: This is a must listen, apparently. Everyone else: ignore it.
Despacito (Versión Urbana) feat. Sky [The “Urban” Version]
It’s not clear what makes this version “urban”. In fact, it’s extremely hard to tell what makes this version different to the original.
There’s a few faint synths in the background, but that literally seems to be it. Props to whoever Sky is for managing to produce an official remix without actually doing anything.
Recommendation: It’s basically the original song, so you as well go ahead and listen to it.
So how do they all stack up? Here it is, the definitive ranking of all nine versions of ‘Despacito’:
#9 – Despacito feat. 2CELLOS [The Orchestral Version]
#8 – Despacito (Versión Pop) [The Version Without Daddy Yankee]
#7 – Despacito (Major Lazer & MOSKA Remix) [The Major Lazer Version]
#6 – Despacito (Versión Urbana) feat. Sky [The “Urban” Version]
#5 – Despacito (Versión Portugués) feat. Israel Novaes [The Portuguese Version]
#4 – Despacito feat. Anthony Santos and Mark B [The Merengue Version]
#3 – Despacito feat. Victor Manuelle [The Salsa Version]
#2 – Despacito feat. Daddy Yankee [The Original]
#1 – Despacito (Remix) feat. Justin Bieber [The Bieber Version]