Critically acclaimed Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny receives mixed reviews from fans after debuting an LP inspired by his SoundCloud years.
In recent years, Latinx artists have been at the very height of recognition, with appearances on TV shows, live broadcasts and selling out on worldwide tours. But it’s especially noticeable in the way Puerto Ricans have now entered the conversation. Underappreciated in previous years, several artists have paved their own paths in music hall of fame. But whenever Puerto Rico enters that conversation, it’s almost expected to hear “Bad Bunny” mentioned at least once.
What makes Bad Bunny, also known as Benito, so different from other artists that he’s now the face of modern Puerto Rican music? For starters, his rise to fame was slow and steady. Beginning as another SoundCloud rapper and reggaetonero, he quickly accrued traction and support from local fans and producers. His music was on par with what you’d expect from a SoundCloud “trapper”: deep kick drums, gritty sub-bases and monotone lyrics usually not focusing on vocal prowess. But his unique Puerto Rican influence and flow distinguished him from the rest.
It was later in his career that Bad Bunny began experimenting with beats and partnered up alongside another talented Puerto Rican musician, Tainy. After a few hit singles, such as “Yo perreo sola” and “Safaera,” Benito broke records with “Un Verano Sin Ti,” a 23-song album with some of the best collaborations done for an album. It was almost unheard of to have a reggaetonero openly advocating for women’s rights and queer rights, much less one singing about it constantly throughout an entire album. Since the genre has always been known for its tendency to oversexualize and objectify the feminine body, glorify the use of drugs, gang violence and materialism.
This album left a lasting impact on all Puerto Ricans, including those that weren’t fans of the genre like myself. It changed their perception and showed everyone that there was potential for change in the misogynistic culture behind the reggaetón genre. There was room for exploration, innovation, and meaningfulness in reclaiming the male-dominated genre. Alongside other queer Puerto Rican artists such as Villano Antillano and Young Miko (both femme reggaetoneras), Bad Bunny created perhaps one of the most successful albums the world has ever seen.
Now, Bad Bunny decided to drop a full-length LP on Friday the 13th titled “Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana.” Fans were excited to see what was next in his bountiful discography, especially after the critical acclaim that came from “Un Verano Sin Ti.” Bad Bunny himself hosted listening parties the day of to share this excitement with his fans. But many found themselves quite unimpressed. There were fans that walked out not even a third into the album, and others who applauded him after it was over. That day, “Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana” received over 300k listens on Spotify, breaking the record for the most listened to LP in the site and making it the top 200 on Billboard. Three days later, listens went down to about 40k. Opinions were quite mixed.
So, what happened that warranted this reaction from fans? It took a bit of digging to get detailed public opinion. But after listening to the LP, I understood why. The opener “Nadie Sabe” was a whopping seven minutes including a full range orchestra and choir. Bad Bunny touches on some important topics here, such as parasocial relationships, cancel culture and his Puerto Rican heritage. But most of it gets muddled by his kind of obnoxious gloating that wasn’t as prevalent in his past works. Regardless, it was a song with a message. The rest on his album though? Not quite.
Before diving into this next part, I’ll address what one half of his fanbase has been pointing out to defend this album. “Reggaetón isn’t meant to be poetic, it’s meant to be danceable. It’s about the sex, money and giving into worldly pleasures. It’s party music. Don’t expect anything more.” Sure, this is a valid opinion. But isn’t the uniqueness and straying away from the norm what brought Bad Bunny to his current success? He and other Puerto Rican artists reinvented what reggaeton could be with “Un Verano Sin Ti.” It was no longer a tough guy competition about who gets the most girls and has the most money.
According to Bad Bunny himself, this LP was supposed to reflect the early days of his music where he mostly focused on trap beats. He said it was for his “real fans that were there since the beginning”. Listening to it, it sounds exactly like his SoundCloud trap songs. There’s not much musical variety. There are some string instruments early in the second LP’s song “Monaco,” but the beats later play out like you’d expect a stereotypical trap song to go.
This applies to many of the others. “Fina” (featuring Young Miko) was probably the most awaited song and ended up being one of the least popular by the end of the LP’s release week. Young Miko’s section is solid coming from a woman, encouraging other women to embrace sexual liberation. But Bad Bunny quickly devolves the song into another sex song, going into extreme detail to describe his own genitalia. Too much information? Bad Bunny’s never heard of it.
Similarly, we have other songs such as “Baticano” and “Seda” that have catchier beats but become almost unlistenable just by their lyrics. Having sexually explicit lyrics isn’t something new for Bad Bunny at all but saying that he went overboard is an understatement. After about five songs about how he has commitment issues and only cares about women for sex, he writes another one about how his heart has gotten broken so many times. It’s that classic normalization of treating women like trash because men have issues, which very much negates his “female empowerment” stance. Preaching acceptance and then reducing women to a pair of boobs and butt cheeks is not it.
According to public opinion, “Monaco,” “Un Preview,” “Where She Goes,” and “Perro Negro” became the most popular songs of the LP. “Un Preview” brings back the classic reggaetón beat which was a breath of fresh air compared to everything else. Going off the title of this song and the first thing Bad Bunny says during it: “Here’s a preview of what’s coming next,” we can assume that his next album will be mostly reggaeton. Here’s to hoping.
If you’re curious and want to form your own opinions about this LP, “Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana” is out on all streaming platforms now. If you want to listen to an absolute certified bop though, check out “Un Verano Sin Ti,” also out on all streaming platforms. I encourage you to compare the two and make your own assumptions.