Despite several minutes of pro-Immigrant, pro-DREAMer posturing during the televised ceremony, the Grammy Awards snubbed the best-selling Spanish-language song of all time. Not once, not twice, but three times, 2017’s ubiquitous hit “Despacito” (by Puerto Ricans Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee) was overlooked for trophies by members of the Recording Academy.
First, a review of some numbers. “Despacito” was — by almost every measure — the biggest song of 2017. It sold nearly 7 million track-equivalent copies last year, outpacing runner-up Ed Sheeran (whose “Shape Of You” took home the trophy for Best Pop Solo Performance) by a million units. It tied the record for the longest-running No. 1 on the Hot 100 in history, topping charts for an astounding 16 straight weeks. It’s the only video in history to hit 4 billion views on YouTube, where it not only topped American charts but was also the most-watched video in more than 50 other countries across the globe. It’s the most-streamed song of all time. Just yesterday, “Despacito” became the first Latin song ever to reach RIAA Diamond Certification for U.S. sales of 10 million units or more, an honor fewer than 20 songs in history have achieved.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s chart-obliterating hit was up for three Grammy Awards. In the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category, the hit lost to Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still.” Bruno Mars reigned supreme in the Record of the Year and Song of the Year categories with “24K Magic” and “That’s What I Like,” respectively. Although all winning three songs were objectively great, it’s disappointing that the voting members of the Recording Academy chose not to recognize a song that, by all commercial measures, dwarfed those entries.
In November, fans and music critics alike were celebrating the Recording Academy’s recognition of “Despacito.” As Billboard put it, the last “remotely Latin” nominees to see props in the two major categories were Carlos Santana’s English-language “Smooth” and Ricky Martin’s English “Livin’ La Vida Loca” in 2000. The first (and only) time a non-English song on Song of the Year was at the second Grammy Awards, in 1959, when an Italian song called “Volare” took the top honor.
The “Despacito” snubs speak more to the members of the Recording Academy than to the merit of the song or its performers. Although the Grammy voters may not yet be ready for a Spanish-language Song or Record of the Year, the American public — and fans in the 50 countries around the world where “Despacito” topped sales and airplay charts — know which Record and Song truly reigned supreme in 2017.
If the success of “Despacito” wasn’t enough to make a dent in the major Grammy categories (or even the Best Pop Duo/Group category!), it’s hard to imagine what it will take for a Spanish-language song to win. Here’s hoping it won’t take decades to find out.