"They're hard, and he doesn't speak the language," the Latin music star says of Bieber's infamous performance in which he replaced the words with "Dorito" and "burrito"

By Jeff Nelson
August 24, 2017 05:15 PM
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Justin Bieber may have forgotten the lyrics to “Despacito” — but the man behind the smash song of the summer doesn’t hold it against him!

In May, the young pop star was performing the hit single (by Luis Fonsi, featuring Daddy Yankee and Bieber) and struggled to recall the Spanish words, replacing the original lyrics with phrases including “Dorito,” “burrito” and “blah, blah, blah.” The online Latino community swiftly lashed out, accusing Bieber, 23, of “poking fun at the whole Spanish culture.”

But Fonsi wasn’t offended.

“I don’t expect him to memorize the words: They’re hard, and he doesn’t speak the language,” Fonsi, 39, says in the new issue of PEOPLE. “Go easy on him.”

“Despacito” is the first Spanish-language song to top the Hot 100 in 20 years (the last was the “Macarena”). The Puerto-Rican born Fonsi insists singing in an unfamiliar dialect is a challenge.

“I recorded a Portuguese version of the song — it was for a Brazilian version of the song — and Portuguese is very similar to Spanish,” Fonsi says. “If you asked me right now to sing the Portuguese version, I wouldn’t even know the first word. So, imagine someone, a Canadian, speaking Spanish, in a chorus that goes ‘da-di-da-di-da-dito’: It’s just a bunch of information. So I don’t blame him. It doesn’t hurt my feelings.”

Joseph Llanes

Fonsi and Daddy Yankee released the original version of “Despacito” in January, and it began to climb the charts; then in April, they released the popular remix featuring Bieber, after the “Sorry” singer reached out about collaborating.

“I think he did a great job. It was his choice to record it in Spanish, not mine,” Fonsi adds. “I tip my hat off to him.”

For more on Luis Fonsi, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

The most-streamed song of all time, “Despacito” is just one week away from becoming the longest-running Billboard No. 1 of all time, having already topped the Hot 100 chart for 15 consecutive weeks.