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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Bad Bunny y el triunfo de ‘X 100pre’


Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio, a.k.a. Bad Bunny, is one of the biggest stars in the world. You may not have known that or maybe you did — either way, it’s true. Most people will recognize the Puerto Rican singer-rapper from his feature in Cardi B's “I Like It,” 2018’s song of the summer. The song has close to 1 billion views on YouTube and over 700 million streams on Spotify. This song’s astronomical rise has undoubtedly contributed to Bad Bunny’s emergence, and while his ability to hop on another artist’s track isn’t insignificant, Bad Bunny is way more than just a guy that’s good at features. He has the ability to make a song his own. After hearing the singer say, “Chambea, chambea, pero no jala (jala!)” in “I Like It,” the line is likely to play on loop in the listener’s head for days on end.

Bad Bunny has been bad for a few years now. To prove this, there is no need to look further than his YouTube numbers — yes, YouTube as opposed to Spotify because the website is still the No. 1 way that people around the world listen to music. Before “I Like It” was released in April 2018, Bad Bunny had only uploaded eight videos on his YouTube page, but altogether they had amassed close to 2 billion views (those eight videos now have 2.5 billion views). Since April 2018, he has uploaded 17 videos onto his YouTube page and they have gotten 1.13 billion views. Of those 17 videos, 14 have been uploaded in the last month to coincide with the release of his debut album, “X 100pre” (pronounced “por siempre”).

This massive following has translated into him being one of the most sought-after artists in the last year. He has been featured in songs by Jennifer Lopez, DJ Snake, Nicky Jam, Marc Anthony, Ozuna, Will Smith (yes, that Will Smith), Daddy Yankee, J Balvin and more. The power of his appeal can also be seen in the featured collaborations on “X 100pre,” which include Diplo (“200 MPH”), El Alfa (“La Romana”), an uncredited Ricky Martin interlude (“Caro”) and most famously Drake (“MIA”), who bravely and seamlessly sings in Spanish on the track.

However, the strength of Bad Bunny’s music doesn’t just come from the artists with which he chooses to collaborate. The majority of the songs on his debut album don’t have features and manage to be fascinating both sonically and thematically. One of the main strengths of the album is that it was composed as a cohesive whole, not just a series of singles put together. This vision for “X 100pre” can be seen in its emotional and narrative arc.

The first four songs of “X 100pre” are pretty straightforward Latin trap songs that are centered thematically on throwing shade on other people (especially true for “¿Quien Tu Eres?”), bragging about one’s own worth and dissing a former lover. The fourth song, “Caro,” provides for the first point of inflection in the album. The first half of the song is based in a sense of braggadocio, but then the song goes into an interlude that questions the validity of the pride put on display in the earlier section of the song. The lyrics in this later section repeat the line “Yo solamente quiero ser feliz,” showing that he wants more in life than to simply have things and longs for deeper, internal satisfaction. After the interlude the beat comes back in and he says “ser feliz nunca me ha salido caro. … Yo sé cuánto valgo, yo sé que soy caro.” At this point he realizes that his value doesn’t come from the things he has, rather it comes from the richness of self-worth and acceptance. 

The album then moves toward a tandem of songs that are the most stylistically unique. “Tenemos Que Hablar” starts off with palm-muted guitar power chords, the kind that might be found on a Blink-182 track. After a few seconds, a running drum beat is introduced along with a quick-punching guitar riff. Thematically, the song is about receiving the “we need to talk” text and the sense of impending doom that comes with it. It’s fitting that the most anxiety-filled song is backed by music that is most commonly noted for being angsty. “Otra Noche en Miami” is about a late-night, mind-clearing drive. Bad Bunny’s lyrics are very reflective and somber, which is juxtaposed with the bright, lively ambiance of the Miami night scene. The music in this track is filled with ringing ’80s synth sounds and a mellow drum beat, very similar to something off the “Drive” soundtrack.

Another pair of back-to-back standout tracks on the album is “Si Estuviésemos Juntos” and “Solo de Mi.” In Si Estuviésemos Juntos,” Bad Bunny sings about still longing for a relationship an ex. The most noteworthy section of this song is a 20-second stretch midway through it that begs the probably unsolvable question of “Can Bad Bunny sing?” This part of the song starts with him singing in an off-tune falsetto which then quickly falls into a glorious tenor before shifting back to his usual baritone. This quite impressive ability for vocal manipulation likely comes from the years that he spent in a choir. There is even a video on YouTube of the singer impressively performing part of an opera song.

“Solo de Mi” signals a shift in the singer’s mentality from longing to self-empowerment. He proudly sings, “No me vuelvas a decir ‘Bebé’ (¡No!)/Yo no soy tuyo ni de nadie, yo soy sólo de mí.” He has gone from letting a former partner dictating his life to crafting his own narrative. Interestingly enough, the music video of the song purports that the song is about female empowerment. The video shows a woman singing the along to the song, but every time the drumbeat kicks another bruise appears on her face, presumably from domestic abuse. About two-thirds of the way through the song  the woman is surrounded by friends as the beat changes and she goes out, looking happy for the first time. This video shows that one, domestic violence is an insidious issue in society, and two, that strong support systems are necessary for recovery.

The last two noteworthy songs on the album are the two tracks with notable featured artists. “La Romana,” which features El Alfa, a very popular Dominican dembow artist, is “trap-chata” (a mix of bachata and trap) at its best. The song’s beat is driven by a sample of the guitar part from Leonardo Paniagua’s “Fue de los Dos.” In keeping with the theme of the album, this song is about putting away your problems and taking time to indulge in your vices. The most memorable moments of this song are when Bad Bunny yells “Pásame la hookah” over the bachata instrumental.

Perhaps the most famous of all the tracks on the album is “MIA,” which has the largest crossover appeal because it has Drake singing in Spanish — and he’s good at it. Drake feature aside, the song is one of the most uplifting songs on the album. Instead of focusing in the pain and confusion of love, “MIA” focuses on the joy and honesty that comes with a fully-committed relationship.

The greatness of “X 100pre” is that it chooses to be an album that explores a myriad of emotions through a tightly woven narrative. Bad Bunny could have easily made an album that was a compilation of bangers. Instead, the thoughtfulness and willingness to step out of his comfort zone both emotionally and musically on this album makes Bad Bunny not just one of the best Latin trap artists, but one of the best artists in the game today.


Album: “X 100pre”

Artist: Bad Bunny

Label: Rimas

Favorite tracks: “Solo de Mi,” “Si Estuviésemos Juntos,” “Otra Noche en Miami”

If you like: J Balvin, Travis Scott, Post Malone, The 1975

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5