Bad Bunny, AL DÍA's Artist of the Year
Benito went global this year with more than just his music.
The reality of 2020 before March is hard to imagine for many now in November, eight months into the coronavirus pandemic. This year, in addition to being the first year of a decade, one of major social uprising following the police murder of George Floyd, a U.S. presidential election, and the previously mentioned pandemic, is also a leap year.
So, as if it couldn’t feel any longer, 2020 does, in fact, have an extra day, February 29 — also known as “Leap Day.”
But Leap Day 2020 brought one of the year’s few reasons for celebration with the release of Bad Bunny’s long-anticipated sophomore album, YHLQMDLG.
Out of the gate, “Yo hago lo que me da la gana” made Billboard history as the highest-charting all-Spanish album ever when it debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200 on March 14, 2020. Eleven tracks from the album also simultaneously appeared on the U.S. Hot 100, setting the record for a Latin artist performing only in Spanish.
On the web, the album was streamed over 200 million times in a week in the U.S., shattering the previous Spanish-language record of just over 50 million set by Ozuna in 2018.
Outside of the U.S. mainstream charts, YHLQMDLG reached genre-defining numbers for urbano, reggaeton and Latin trap.
All 20 of the album’s tracks appeared within the top 25 of the U.S. Hot Latin Songs list for the week of March 14. The feat netted Bad Bunny many records, such as the most songs in the chart’s top 10 at eight, top 20 at 18, and top 25. He also surpassed Daddy Yankee in career entries on the list at 83.
The chart performance and numbers are also amplified given the album’s substance. While pumping out instant party classics like “Yo Perreo Sola” and “Safaera,” YHLQMDLG also provides moments of reflection that both offer a look into Puerto Rico’s reality at the beginning of 2020 and a glimpse at what the year would offer from that point forward.
In her New York Times Magazine cover story on Bad Bunny, Carina del Valle Schorske pinpoints the line: “Maldito año nuevo,” in the album’s opening song, “Si Veo a Tu Mama,” as the point of emphasis in Puerto Rico.
Not long after 2020 was rung in, the island was rocked by a series of massive earthquakes that peaked on Jan. 7 with a 6.4 magnitude tremor that knocked power out and caused widespread damage from coast to coast.
The quakes came after a 2019 full of political upheaval for Puerto Rico and the earlier devastation of Hurricane Maria, which still has yet to garner a proper response from the U.S. government.
Schorske’s story begins with the celebration of a new, new year on the island on Jan. 31, 2020.
“January had been too punishing; we needed a fresh start,” she wrote.
YHLQMDLG was also part of that fresh start, but unlike the “Maldito año nuevo” 2020 turned out to be, it’s been nothing but up for Bad Bunny, or as Schorske comes to know him: “Benito.”
He did, after all, lay it out in an interview with Billboard following the album’s release and his appearance at Super Bowl LV alongside headliners Shakira and Jennifer López.
“It was an amazing year , full of great things, amazing moments,” the artist said, “but I think 2020 is going to be better.”
Like the rest of the world come March 2020, Bad Bunny was coping with the rising COVID-19 pandemic, but also being recognized at some of the year’s music awards ceremonies.
While his first album, X 100pre, lost out at the 2020 Grammys in January to Rosalía for “Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album,” his name was plastered as promotion alongside both the 2020 Latin Billboards and first Spotify Awards.
At the former, Bad Bunny raked in 14 nominations, tied for the most with another reggaeton icon, J Balvin. Half of them turned into awards at the delayed ceremony on Oct. 21, 2020, including “Artist of the Year,” “Top Latin Album of the Year” (for X 100pre), and “Songwriter of the Year” among others.
At the Spotify Awards on March 5, 2020, he reigned king for the performance of YHLQMDLG. He walked away from the ceremony as the inaugural “Artist of the Year” and “Male Artist of the Year.”
For the upcoming 2021 Latin Grammys, Bad Bunny was nominated for six awards, including “Record of the Year” (“Vete”), and “Album of the Year” (YHLQMDLG) among others. He will also look to defend his “Best Urban Music Album” title from 2019 when X 100pre won.
While at times, his skyrocketing global status has overwhelmed him to leaving social media for long stretches, Bad Bunny has maintained a finger on the pulse of some of the biggest social issues to grip Puerto Rico and the world over the past year.
His year in social justice started with a performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Dressed in a long skirt and pink jacket, which he stripped away during his performance of “Ignorantes,” Bad Bunny revealed a shirt that read: “Mataron a Alexa, no a un hombre con falda.”
“Alexa” referred to Alexa Negrón Luciano, a Puerto Rican transgender woman who was found murdered on Feb. 17, 2020, on the island. Bad Bunny’s performance put her name and the issue of violence against transgender individuals in Puerto Rico on the national stage.
It also came in a year where the five transgender people have been killed on the island due to transphobia — a 10-year high.
A month after his performance on The Tonight Show, Bad Bunny released the video for “Yo Perreo Sola” off YHLQMDLG in an affront to toxic masculinity and the machismo that plagues Latino culture from both inside and outside perspectives.
In the video, Bad Bunny appears dressed in various drag outfits as he traverses the song about a woman that commands men in the way many reggaetoneros claim they can do to the opposite sex.
It ends with the message: “Si no quiere bailar contigo, respeta, ella perrea sola.”
As the year progressed and coronavirus took hold, the reggaeton icon took to Instagram to urge his millions of followers to take the virus seriously as he got work on a quarantine album.
Billed as his first “compilation” album, Las Que No Iban a Salir was released on May 10, 2020, and featured unreleased songs that were cut from his previous albums, and new, original tracks he made while on lockdown. The highlight track came in the form of a quarantine duet with his girlfriend, Gabriela Berlingeri, called “En Casita.”
It debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200 in the same week YHLQMDLG fell out of the top 10 and marked his third album to be there in a calendar year.
On the “Hot Latin Albums” chart, Bad Bunny held the top three spots, the first artist to do so since Juan Gabriel.
Not long after the release of his quarantine compilation, the world was struck by more trauma with the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It set off months of civil unrest that stretched worldwide.
Sub Title (Inter-Title)In response, the usually outspoken Bad Bunny went silent for a number of weeks. It drew criticism, but he came out in a statement written like a song to TIME titled “Forgive Me” on June 12.
The statement apologized first for his silence on the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“Forgive my silence,” it starts.
He goes on to tear down U.S. President Donald Trump for creating the social environment of George Floyd’s death and his pain at the reality of people being killed just for the color of their skin. Bad Bunny ends by not only expressing support for Black Lives Matter but also urging his fans not to wait for icons like him to respond to calls for change.
“YOU ARE THE ONES WHO HAVE THE POWER,” he wrote.
But if the criticism he faced around his silence meant anything, it was a testament to his meteoric rise in not just Puerto Rican or American stature, but on the global stage.
That can also be seen in the number of mainstream publications and brands that started paying attention.
Over the summer, Bad Bunny also made Playboy history as the first male other than Hugh Hefner to appear solo on the cover for its July edition.
The aforementioned New York Times Magazine also put him on the cover of their Culture Issue. In the profile, “The World According to Bad Bunny,” he said the newfound exposure has him feeling like an athlete representing Puerto Rico at the Olympics.
By 2021, he’ll be representing all Latinos on the same front.
In the political sphere, Bad Bunny also lent his song, “Pero ya no” to help Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden reach Latino voters.
He also partnered with Hot Cheetos for a campaign, ‘Deja Tu Huella,’ to encourage young Latinos to leave their mark culturally, politically, and creatively, and will make his acting debut as a member of the Tijuana Cartel in the new season of Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico.
But if quarantine taught the icon anything, it was the importance of his home in Puerto Rico.
To honor the third anniversary of Hurricane Maria hitting the island, Bad Bunny pulled a most ambitious stunt. He organized an impromptu concert atop a bus and toured New York City, specifically the Bronx, home to the largest Puerto Rican population off of the island.
He performed YHLQMDLG and dodged street lights as he went in what was both an impactful and extremely emotional event.
The year is also not over, but it’s safe to say given everything Bad Bunny has done, it certainly has “been better.” Hopefully, 2021 is more of the same for Benito.