Bad Bunny Hops Over Shakira's All-Spanish-Language Album Billboard Record : Alt.Latino Bad Bunny's new album has had unprecedented U.S. chart success for an all Spanish-language record. NPR Music contributor Stefanie Fernández explains what makes the artist and the album so special.
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Reviving Classic Reggaeton, Bad Bunny's New Album 'YHLQMDLG' Breaks Records

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Reviving Classic Reggaeton, Bad Bunny's New Album 'YHLQMDLG' Breaks Records

Reviving Classic Reggaeton, Bad Bunny's New Album 'YHLQMDLG' Breaks Records

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny is having a moment. His new album debuted this week at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart, making it the highest-charting all-Spanish-language album of all time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DIFICIL")

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: The album title is kind of a mouthful, OK? Bear with me. It is called "YHLQMDLG." To hear more about it, we are joined in the studio by Stefanie Fernandez. She's a contributor to NPR Music's Alt.Latino and a producer with The Atlantic. Stefanie, thanks for coming in.

STEFANIE FERNANDEZ, BYLINE: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK, so first off, what's up with the title? Do those letters - are you supposed to say them all together like a word? What do they stand for?

FERNANDEZ: They stand for "Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana," or I do whatever I want.

MARTIN: Cool. All right. So for those who don't know Bad Bunny, can you give us a little bio sketch? Who is he?

FERNANDEZ: He's a 26-year-old singer and rapper from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. And when he came out a few years ago, he was known mostly for Latin trap, or trap music in Spanish, but has since incorporated all kinds of different Latin rhythms and styles from across history into his music. And one of the things that makes him special is that he broke into the mainstream without having to translate his songs into English or participate in any of the corny crossover antics...

MARTIN: Yeah.

FERNANDEZ: ...That Latin artists or Latin-ish artists have had to do in the past to cross over.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAFAERA")

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: So what is exceptional about this new album?

FERNANDEZ: I think "Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana" has an authenticity and an innovation that fans of reggaeton are really craving these days. It's really a celebration of the early reggaeton that Bad Bunny was listening to when he was growing up as a kid in Puerto Rico in the early 2000s.

And we're not talking about the gentler, sanitized version of reggaeton that you might hear on songs like "Despacito" or even some of the newer stuff that some of the legends of reggaeton are making now. It's harder and old-school. And in a lot of ways, it's looking towards the past, but it's also looking towards the future.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAFAERA")

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: OK, so what do you hear on that?

FERNANDEZ: This is kind of a lot of different songs in one song. It's kind of made in the style of DJ megamixes from the early 2000s heard at garage parties, marquesinas across Puerto Rico. And he mixes it up the way real DJs do at parties back then. And anyone who likes Latin pop can enjoy the song, but if you're from the Caribbean, this will really take you back in a lot of different ways.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: So he's riding high in this moment. He's got this album out. Everyone's talking about it. And yet isn't there a song on the album where he sort of suggests he might be retiring soon? What's that about?

FERNANDEZ: Yeah. You know, Bad Bunny is a complicated guy. On one hand, he can be very political. He's participated in the protests in Puerto Rico last year. And recently, during a performance on "The Tonight Show," he wore a sweatshirt that said they killed Alexa to draw attention to the murder of a trans woman in Puerto Rico.

And yet when I spent a day with him recently for an interview, he told me that he's worried about being misunderstood or made into a spokesperson for his island. And so I think he's sincere when he sings in Spanish on the closing track, the fame has made me sick. Thanks to Dad and Mom for all the scolding. Thanks to you, I'm the same for all these years.

So, to me, this album is also, in some ways, about Bad Bunny trying to hold on to the kid he was before all the fame and before everybody hung on to his every word.

MARTIN: Stefanie Fernandez is a contributor to NPR Music's Alt.Latino and a producer with The Atlantic. Stefanie, thanks so much.

FERNANDEZ: Thank you, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

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