A little over two months after it became the most-viewed video on YouTube, “Despacito” has broken another record, being the first on the platform to surpass 4 billion views. The video’s growth is astronomical, surpassing Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s 2015 hit “See You Again,” the second-most-viewed video on the site, by hundreds of millions of views in less than a year.
Latinx Pop Crossovers, Cultural Globalization And YouTube’s Primacy
Now, whether the explosion of interest in this Spanish-language pop hit (and others that would love to ride its coattails) will endure is impossible to predict. In an excellent feature for BuzzFeed that examines the uphill battle Latinx pop has for enduring success, Pier Dominguez wrote, “the trajectories of previous ‘boom’ winners, like Ricky Martin and Shakira, help explain the constraints these performers have to navigate.” But there’s been some movement: Beyonce recently surprise-jumped on (the arguably more aesthetically compelling) “Mi Gente” from J. Balvin and Willy William, with more almost certainly to follow.
Anecdotally, the popularity of “Despacito” may be a case of popularity begetting more of the same. But video views are increasing as the platform’s usage grows, also resulting in records being broken with increasing regularity.
Let’s rewind, back to 2010 — when the Great Recession was still raging and the BP oil spill tarnished the Gulf of Mexico (oyster farming in the region has still not fully recovered). That year, Justin Bieber’s “Baby” received 400 million views from January to December in 2010, making it the most-watched video of the year. By comparison, Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” which (yep) broke the record in September for most views in a day with 43.2 million views in 24 hours, currently stands at 559.16 million views since its August 27 release — and that doesn’t even place it in the top 100 most-viewed videos on the site.
Also driving this increase is the near-certainty of YouTube accounting for an outsized portion of overall music listening on the Internet. According to a recent survey from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 46 percent of “all time spent listening to on-demand music” is done so on YouTube, with the remainder split across free and paid audio subscription services like Spotify (which is both).
One more thing to consider is the growing availability of the Internet itself across the world. YouTube Go, a “lite” version of the video app aimed at developing countries with poor mobile Internet connectivity, was launched in India this past April after being announced a little over one year ago. In that country, Internet penetration stands at just 34.8 percent of its total population, with 462.1 million users connected. The U.S., by comparison, is at 88.5 percent penetration with 286.9 million users connected. The potential is clear — and the globalization of pop will only continue as a digitally flattened world commingles cultures.
Puerto Rico And Relief Efforts
The colorful barrio of La Perla, where the video for “Despacito” was filmed, was one of the many communities devastated by Hurricane Maria. La Perla resident Carmen Lourdes Lopez, who was giving “Despacito” tours of the neighborhood before the storm, told NPR last week: “We feel forgotten.”
The country as a whole is still struggling, weeks later, 90 percent of the island still without power. The song’s cultural dominance may be contributing to awareness around relief efforts, however. Both Fonsi and Yankee have been consistently beseeching fans to donate towards relief efforts, with Luis Fonsi having set up a YouCaring page specifically for La Perla. Daddy Yankee made a $1 million donation towards relief in Puerto Rico; Luis Fonsi contributed to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s benefit single, “Almost Like Praying” and will participate in an Oct. 22 telethon, Unidos Por Puerto Rico.