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The Puerto Rican phenomenon: Bad Bunny

Rafaella de Britto

Whether you love or hate him, you have undoubtedly heard about Bad Bunny. In about six years, the Puerto Rican musician has become a worldwide sensation. He was named the most streamed artist, by Spotify, three years in a row. His last two albums have been the only two fully Spanish albums in history to reach number one on the Billboard 200, His latest album, "Un Verano Sin Ti", within a month of release set the record for the most streamed album. As you can see, his success is out of the ordinary. He has been able to break both cultural and language barriers with the power of his music. He was able to show the world how much Latin influences can dominate the world's pop culture. Outside of music, Bad Bunny is a wrestler, an actor, and a fashion icon. But regardless of all these titles, the one special thing about him is he still feels human. Nothing he does or produces seems either forced or contrived, he does what he does because he feels like it. It has been made clear that Bad Bunny does whatever he wants, and the world is the one who needs to catch up with him.

Born on March 10, 1994, Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio was born in Vega Baga, a small town on the island of Puerto Rico. He grew up in a middle-class Catholic family with two working parents and two younger brothers. From a young age, Benito was heavily influenced and intrigued by music. His music debut was at the age of seven in the children's choir of his church. But, to his mother's dissatisfaction, he left the choir at the age of thirteen to follow his true passion: songwriting. Benito started to create music in his bedroom and publish them on Soundcloud. He never advertised these songs to his friends or others, he simply would upload them because he purely enjoyed making them. At the age of 18, he enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico in the audiovisual communication program. To pay off his growing college debt, he bagged groceries at an Econo supermarket. During the day, he would go to university and go to his job at the supermarket. But, at night, he would spend all of his time producing and creating new music. In 2016, he became an overnight sensation with his song "Diles''. The popularity of the song resulted in numerous calls from different producers and his signing with the record label, Hear this Music.

After getting signed with his first record label, he started releasing singles and music videos, which started quickly getting attention from other Latin countries. It seemed like his career was going to skyrocket, but that quickly made a halt. Hurricane Maria was a level 4 hurricane that ravished the island of Puerto Rico. Maria damaged over 300,o00 homes and caused over 3,000 deaths throughout the island, making it the deadliest US-based natural disaster in the last 100 years. For months, the island was completely isolated from the outside world. The island was also stripped of necessities like water, food, gasoline, and electricity. After about nine months, the island was starting to get back to normal and Bad Bunny made his first public appearance. "Estamos Bien" was considered a national anthem, which was a song he made dedicated to all the victims affected by Maria. The song was a message to Puerto Ricans, who dealt with so much loss and hardship, that they were going to be okay. It was considered a breath of fresh air after the island has been left in the shallow for so long. And for Benito, this was only the start of his global domination.

When Bad Bunny landed his first collaboration with Cardi B, he truly established himself globally. The summer hit, "I Like It", was on the top slot of the Billboard charts and expanded Bad Bunny's connection with a huge English-speaking community. In about two years, Bad Bunny became a huge star by only releasing singles and being featured in several collaborations. This started making everyone question, when would his first album be released and whether it would be as much of a success. His record label, Hear This Music, did not want to let Benito release his debut album. He left the label and signed with Noah Assad, and his record label called Rimes Entertainment.

On Christmas Eve of 2018, he released his debut album "X 100PRE". The album featured various hits like "La Romana", "Otra Noche en Miami" and others. Before the release of the album, many fans were expecting all trap bangers, so when he dropped an album with a variety of sounds and influences, it blew everyone's mind. The 15-track album was able to weave through different styles of music like trap, reggaeton, dembow, and synthpop. Benito was heavily praised for taking a massive risk by pushing the boundaries of the industries and it paid off. Several singles are considered one thing, but you can not judge the quality of an artist without a full album, and Benito showed the world he was a complete genius. His debut album was able to showcase to fans how Benito can transition from different influences in the span of 15 songs, which truly illustrates his musical talent.

After his debut album, Bad Bunny became one of the most famous Latin superstars. Alongside J Balvin, the duo was revolutionizing Latin music. The pair were making the genre more mainstream and also taking over the world with their different ideas, which made many speculate they would have an upcoming album together. This became a reality in June of 2019, with "Oasis". The 8-track album features songs like "La Canción", "Un Peso", etc. The album was released to be the perfect summertime tracklist to listen to on the beach and relax under the sun. The pair wanted to make this collaboration because they knew it would break all boundaries within the genre, and they were completely right. The album was a commercial success for both parties, being number 9 on the US Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Latin Charts. The record was considered fun, light, and fresh and meant to bring joy and temporary relief to their listeners.

In the summer of 2019, the island was hit with another tragedy that would affect not only the people but their political stands. 889 telegram messages were leaked from Ricardo Roselló, Puerto Rico's governor, to the public. The conversations were highly vulgar, sexist, homophobic, and racist. The messages were exchanged between the governor and 11 of his closest advisers. The leak created an uproar within the island, because, for the first time in history, the people were seeing how the ruling class viewed them. The governor apologised to the people, but that was not enough. Locals gathered in the streets and demanded his resignation. At the time of the scandal, Bad Bunny was in Europe on tour, but put that on hold to be with the people protesting. This showed to many how much compassion he still held for his country, not letting the fame affect him. Bad Bunny's global ascent coincided with a rocky Puerto Rico, but his willingness to meet the moment made him a legend back home.

At this time, all eyes were on Benito and his second solo album, which he started teasing with several Tweets. "YHLQMDLG" (Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana) was a record no one saw coming. Many believed that with his newly acquired fame, he would have big global pop stars in his newest album, but he did quite the opposite. Instead, he asked the world to crossover to him, creating an album with heavy Puerto Rican influencewith old reggaeton influences. This album was considered very personal for the singer because it reflects how he grew up with music. He stated in interviews that this album would be the album he would want to create when he was a teenager: when he started dreaming about being an artist. He also stated that this album was truly based on what he wanted to create and that at the beginning of his career, many believed that he had to follow a specific formula to become successful, not solely do what he wanted to do. The album features hits like "25/8", "Si Veo a Tu Mamá'', and many more. With this project, Bad Bunny won his first American Grammy, or as he calls it "the Gringo Grammy".

Just as his fame started to skyrocket, the world was put to a halt. COVID-19 was growing and growing, causing Benito to seek refuge in his homeland. During the months of lockdown, Bad Bunny started to get bored. One night, he started an Instagram live and started showing snippets of the songs that were cut out of his most recent album. With the overload of support, Benito decided to release another album. This one is called "Las Que No Iban A Salir", which translates to the ones that were not coming out. The album could not compare to his previous album, because they were masterly crafted. But, this 10-track album showed the world how talented Bad Bunny is and how he does whatever he likes regarding his music.

On November 27, 2020, Bad Bunny gave the world his third album during the global pandemic: "El Último Tour Del Mundo''. When asked how he was able to make two successful albums throughout a global pandemic, he quickly answered "Because it is what I love and it's my work, and it's my hobby… In the pandemic, it's the only thing that I had to do to escape the reality of the world". This record gave Bad Bunny his biggest hit, "DÁKITI '', but regarding this hit, this album is considered more chill. This is because many of his fans were complaining that Benito was releasing a lot of party hits and the time people could not even go outside. The album still features the Latin trap beats that made him famous but with an exploration of new genre influences. This was also his first album that was top 1 on the Billboard charts.

His latest album, "Un Verano Sin Ti", is described to be a personal love letter to Puerto Rico. The album is a reflection of his longing for his past lover, friendship, or whatever the listener is missing. He stated that the muse for this album was all his summers on his home island together, mashed up together in one. , bringing summertime flow within the 23 tracks. In an interview with Apple music, he states, "I am still making music from here (Puerto Rico) to the world. I usually want to make people feel like they are here, on the island, in the Caribbean". He also stated that the album was divided into two parts: one more hyped, with different exchanges of beats, and the other a more emotional, vulnerable side of Benito. He also stated that his inspiration for the order of the album was a day at the beach. You start off relaxing under the sun, then start dancing on the beach, and once the sunset comes, you start relaxing once again. In all, I think this album is considered one of his best compositions, and I am not the only one who thinks this. He was nominated for the album of the year, being the first in general to be nominated.

True to his album name: Bad Bunny does whatever he wants. This is exactly why people idolize him and want to consume everything he produces. Fans can see authenticity, which can not be normally found in the music industry. Many artists, in mainstream music, do not produce music because they simply love it and want to showcase their talent. Bad Bunny makes nothing forced, he is just doing what he wants and when he wants it. He also doesn't base any of his artistic choices on money or fame, they are just consequences of his choices. And all the simple things he has done, like his fashion choices or his music videos, have opened the hearts and minds of many. It shows the world that it is safe and that you can live freely. Benito was blessed with the perfect mixture of talent and emotional intelligence, which has made him one of the most important entertainers alive.


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