Luis Fonsi On 'Despacito' Being Recognized by Both the Latin and American GRAMMYs (Exclusive)

luis fonsi
Universal Music Group

Twenty years into his career, the Puerto Rican singer's crossover hit with Justin Bieber has found resonance across borders and earned him a rare distinction among Latin artists.

The world is taking notice of Luis Fonsi.

Twenty years into his career, "Despacito," the Puerto Rican singer's crossover remix hit with Daddy Yankee and Canadian pop star Justin Bieber, is a bonafide phenomenon, topping charts across the world, including 16 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- tying the all-time record for consecutive weeks on top.

With all that, it's no surprise that Fonsi has earned recognition at both the Latin GRAMMYs -- where "Despacito" took home Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Urban Fusion/Performance and Best Short Form Music Video -- and the American GRAMMYs, where the remix has three nominations. Accomplishing the feat has long been a goal of first-time nominee.

"It means so much to me," the 39-year-old singer-songwriter recently told ET. "I think all artists dream about achieving this at some point."

"It just makes me feel like everything I’ve been working so hard for the last two decades and all the sacrifices I have made have been worthwhile," he explained. "I feel extremely honored and grateful to be recognized by the Academy. I’m still digesting everything that is happening, but one thing is for sure, this is historic for Latin music and I’m proud to be a part of the selective group of artists that has crossover and shared our roots and culture with the world." 

The GRAMMY distinction, in particular, is important to Fonsi, as it signifies an acknowledgment by his peers.

"As an artist, the word GRAMMY has a very important meaning because the recognition comes from your peers," he shared. "The Academy is a selective group of professionals that live and breathe music, so it does have a huge impact in our careers, whether you are a nominee or a GRAMMY winner."

Fonsi will be there on Jan. 28 when the GRAMMYs air live on CBS from New York City's Madison Square Garden -- and his wife will be right there with him.

"I wouldn’t miss it! I will probably be there with my wife since our kids are still too young," he revealed, noting, "I’m not sure if Justin [Bieber] will be going but I sure hope so. Nothing would make me happier than to celebrate everything that has happened this year with him and Daddy Yankee."

The collaboration is just one of many for Fonsi, who spoke to what draws him to working with other artists -- including Demi Lovato on his new single, “Échame La Culpa.”

"I love collaborating with other artists, it’s something I’m used to doing," he explained. "This year, in particular, I’ve been able to do several collaborations, not only with Justin (which was an awesome experience and of course I would love to work with him again in the future), but also with DNCE and Nicki Minaj, Afrojack, of course Daddy Yankee and most recently with the amazing Demi Lovato in my new single 'Échame La Culpa,' which is doing great."

As far as trying to reach the same heights as "Despacito," Fonsi recognizes the inherent futility in creating art with that in mind.

"What happened with 'Despacito' is something that is hard to match, even by me, so I do not have any pressure of achieving the same," he said. "I just want to continue creating amazing music and if there is an opportunity to work with other artists from different genres, I’m all for that.

"I’m afraid I still have not figured it out how or why 'Despacito' achieved what it did. My goal was to write an amazing song with a brand-new sound for my Latin audience, a song that would make them feel good, to dance, to escape from any harsh reality and just be free, not even thinking about a crossover record," he continued."I remember actually being nervous about what the reaction would be from my fans, that were so used to my romantic ballads and 'Despacito' being completely different from anything I had released before."

Ultimately, Fonsi is ready to enjoy the response for what it is.

"I am happy that so many people around the world connected to it, regardless whether they understood the lyrics or not, and enjoyed it as much as we did making it," he shared.

"I’m blessed that it has allowed me to not only provide some happiness during these difficult times. To have the chance to perform in many different countries for the first time where Spanish is not the native language and to be able to meet a brand-new audience," he continued. "I’ve been at this for almost 20 years. I’ve said it many times this year, but to me, it’s a humbling and beautiful experience." 

And with a new year nearly upon us, Fonsi's only plan is to keep busy.

"I just finished the second leg of my Love + Dance Word Tour in Europe, and I still have several commitments this year, so after the holidays, I will start promotion of 'Échame La Culpa' in the US and combine it with the third leg of the tour," he shared. "Lots of work ahead, but I wouldn’t want it any other way."

Reporting by Sophie Schillaci