Review: Bad Bunny Album 'El Último Tour Del Mundo' : Pop Culture Happy Hour Singer and rapper Bad Bunny started releasing songs on SoundCloud in 2016. He has released three albums in 2020 and his latest, El Último Tour Del Mundo, is the first entirely Spanish-language record ever to hit No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart. On Spotify, Bad Bunny is the most-streamed artist of 2020.

Bad Bunny Breaks New Ground On 'El Último Tour Del Mundo'

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STEPHEN THOMPSON, HOST:

When Bad Bunny was starting out back in 2016, the singer and rapper was releasing songs on SoundCloud and working as a bagger at a supermarket in his hometown of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. Now Bad Bunny has released four solo albums, including three in 2020 alone. The latest, "El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo," is the first entirely Spanish-language record ever to hit No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart. And on Spotify, Bad Bunny is the most streamed artist of 2020.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAKITI")

JHAY CORTEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

THOMPSON: I'm Stephen Thompson, and today we're talking about Bad Bunny on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. So don't go away.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAKITI")

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

THOMPSON: Welcome back. Here with me from her home in Washington, D.C., is NPR Music and Alt.Latino contributor Stefanie Fernandez. Hi, Stefanie.

STEFANIE FERNANDEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Stephen.

THOMPSON: Great to have you. So as we mentioned in the intro, Bad Bunny has released three albums in 2020. The first, "YHLQMDLG" - that's "Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana" or "I Do Whatever I Want" - came out in February, not long after Bad Bunny performed with Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and J Balvin at the Super Bowl halftime show. You'll find "Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana" at No. 7 on NPR Music's list of the 50 best albums of 2020. Then in May, Bad Bunny put out an odds and ends compilation called "Las Que No Iban A Salir" or "The Ones That Were Not Going To Come Out." And now he's released "El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo," which translates as "The Last Tour Of The World."

The new album was written and recorded in quarantine, and Bad Bunny had said it would be his last album. Not surprisingly, he has already walked that back. Stefanie, near the beginning of this year, you interviewed Bad Bunny for a Pitchfork profile called "A Day In The Life Of Bad Bunny, Introverted Superstar." Let's start with your thoughts on the new record, which feels more restrained and reflective than the album he put out earlier this year.

FERNANDEZ: Absolutely. Well, let me start by saying that it's been a crazy year for Bad Bunny. His output has been insane and prolific, and he's proven more than once that he can put out a great record. I really like this album, but I'll confess that, at first, I felt some fatigue...

(LAUGHTER)

FERNANDEZ: ...At the fact that this was the third Bad Bunny album coming out. And I'm a big fan of Bad Bunny's. I've been following him for a long time now. But I also believe that, you know, there's time for an artist to slow down and to - you know, you don't need to put out so much music. That being said, I really like this album. It's really grown on me since I first heard it. And it definitely appeals to the emo in me. Clearly, Bad Bunny has also been listening to a lot of new metal and pop punk in quarantine.

THOMPSON: Well, let's talk about the differences between this record and the one that he put out at the beginning of this year. That was kind of a more hard-charging album, and this one, as you said, is a little bit more emo.

FERNANDEZ: Absolutely. I think, you know, there has been this temptation to compare the two albums because they've been his two biggest releases this year. I think at the end of the day, they're such different projects. He was really trying such different things with them. That album "Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana" was really focused on going back to the heart of Puerto Rican reggaeton from the early 2000s and in the late '90s, the kind of music that Bad Bunny listened to growing up. The Latin pop landscape now sounds a lot different than the music that Bad Bunny loved growing up. And, you know, reggaeton is a genre that has historically not been widely accepted in Latin pop and in Latin mainstream until, you know, the last decade.

And so, you know, one thing that he acknowledged to me when I interviewed him, as well as, you know, something that was really the main focus of this record, was, you know, undeniably making this a sound of the music that influenced him growing up, of the artists that really deserve the shine when it comes to the strides made in this genre. And this album is really more about honoring a different kind of music that he loved growing up, which is rock and alt rock and rock en espanol and pop punk.

And I think what you really can see across his body of work is, you know, just the deep respect that he has for different kinds of music that he loves, as well as this nostalgia. I think both records really have a lot to do with nostalgia in this way that's really interesting to me, especially in a year that's been so difficult for so many people. So many of us are finding comfort in music that's not new and music that reminds us of more comfortable, more simple times, as it were. Even though these two albums are really different, they both have really special offerings.

THOMPSON: Well, one thing I wanted to talk about with this new record and one thing that immediately jumped out to me as somebody who did a certain amount of coming of age in the '90s...

FERNANDEZ: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: ...There are a couple of songs on this record like "Te Deseo Lo Mejor" and "Yo Visto Asi" that are very tinged with alt rock sounds, like really kind of '90s alt rock sounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YO VISTO ASI")

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

FERNANDEZ: Yeah. You know, this album has a lot of guitars, sad guitars, rad guitars (laughter). He's kind of teasing out this kind of, like, pop punk and nu metal side that he has actually alluded to in previous work. You know, on his debut album, "X 100pre," he had a song called "Tenemos Que Hablar," which was really a pop punk song. And people were so surprised to hear that from Bad Bunny. And on "Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana," he had "Hablamos Manana," which is, like, one of my favorite songs this year and a song that just absolutely bursts into this, like, nu-metal rage moment that is just so, so righteous and so good. And I think - you know, at first, I didn't think anything could match what those two songs made me feel, but I couldn't stop listening to "Te Deseo Lo Mejor." I really think it's, like - that riff is just so heartsick and tortured and cathartic.

THOMPSON: Let's hear a little bit of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TO DESEO LO MEJOR")

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

THOMPSON: I mean, I think you can kind of get a sense of the exact angst that's at work here. But can you walk us through what that song's about?

FERNANDEZ: Yeah. You know, that song is kind of a classic reflecting-on-a-breakup ballad. And it's kind of a self-torturing one, you know?

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

FERNANDEZ: It's one that acknowledges, you know, I wasn't great to you, and I hope that one day you can forget about me. But it's also just really indulging in that feeling, and I think that's something that so many people can relate to, maybe a lot of people who've spent a lot of time alone in quarantine this year have been thinking about. So it's got a lot of sad bops, you know, for reflecting on these sad moments. But it's also got a lot of really happy moments.

THOMPSON: Well, I wanted to just kind of give people a sense of place about where he kind of fits into the Latin music world. Like, he is a boundary-pushing artist. He's pushed a lot of boundaries of gender presentation. He sings about gender relations in ways that feel really fresh.

FERNANDEZ: Absolutely. I think, you know, for several years now, Bad Bunny's kind of established this reputation for himself as a political or outspoken artist, and it's a label that he wrestles with, you know. I think he is breaking a lot of barriers in terms of challenging masculine norms in Latin pop and reggaeton. He's really kind of an outlier in terms of how vocal he is about these issues. You know, in 2019, he was really involved in the protests in Puerto Rico demanding the resignation of Ricardo Rossello. In the past, he's also really challenged these ideas of gender presentation, as you mentioned. You know, he'd paint his nails, and he'd wear skirts. And Bad Bunny received a lot of praise for that. And it was a big statement to a lot of his fans.

As much as he's gaining so much praise, especially this year, he's also had a lot of moments of public learning, you know. He's resisted this idea of becoming, like, a spokesperson for any group of people or for Puerto Rico. And earlier this year, you know, a lot of fans were disappointed that he took several weeks to respond in support to the Black Lives Matter movement. And eventually, he released a letter kind of expressing his feelings and kind of saying, himself, the thing that so many of us had already come to the conclusion to, which is that, you know, you can't rely on celebrities at the end of the day to lead us forward in social movements, to be the voice of progress.

I think that Bad Bunny has made a lot of big statements that challenge how Latin pop's most visible stars approach politics. But then again, reggaeton and trap have always been political. And Bad Bunny is not the first, and I know he won't be the last.

THOMPSON: Yeah, you mentioned his relationship with Puerto Rico. I think that's one thing that really jumps out about him. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

FERNANDEZ: Absolutely. I think what definitely sets Bad Bunny apart from all of his peers in the industry is just how committed he is to doing right by his community and Puerto Rico specifically. I think in all of his music, you can tell that he's striving to remain authentic. And there's so many little love letters to his community on this album. You know, he samples the legendary astrologer Walter Mercado on the penultimate track, his famous send-off of mucho, mucho amor. He shouts out Puerto Rican and Latino legends in general, like Hector Lavoe, the Ruben Blades song "Pedro Navaja" and then Latinos like Juan Gabriel, Mana.

You can tell that he's aware that he's operating within a lineage. He never leaves any doubt about who he's trying to uplift and who he's trying to represent here. And he closes the album on a classic Puerto Rican Christmas song, "Cantares De Navidad," performed by Trio Vegabajeno, which is a group from his hometown of Vega Baja.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CANTARES DE NAVIDAD")

TRIO VEGABAJENO: (Singing in Spanish).

FERNANDEZ: It's kind of odd because it's, like, he's not on the song, obviously. It's a recording from the '50s. But it's a song about how some people have jubilant, joyful Christmases, and others spend it in sadness or in poverty. It is a farewell to a year that I think all of us are happy to see go. And I think, you know, though he sits at this place of enormous wealth and privilege and fame, I think he's really at the end of the day, driven by this desire to remain authentic to his community.

THOMPSON: Now, you talked about kind of - where does he go from here? And that is kind of - that is an interesting question. You know, he's had, like, this fairly rapid ascent, you know, where he's in four years gone from bagging groceries. And, you know, only the best among us have bagged groceries. I bagged groceries for three years.

FERNANDEZ: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: You know, he made this album-length collaboration with J Balvin in 2019 that was really, really huge. He's worked with a lot of his heroes and other kind of contemporary stars. He played the Super Bowl halftime show. Where does Bad Bunny go from here?

FERNANDEZ: You know, I think, firstly, I hope he takes a minute to rest (laughter).

THOMPSON: Gives us a break a little bit (laughter).

FERNANDEZ: Right. I think there's - you know, there's no rush for an artist who has had such a meteoric rise in so little time. I think he's poised for nothing but success, even with the roadblocks that have come in front of him and the criticisms he's received. You know, he referenced an Adidas collab on the album, his second shoe collab after the legendary Crocs that so few of us were able to get online.

(LAUGHTER)

FERNANDEZ: He's making his foray into acting. You know, he's going to be in a role in "Narcos: Mexico." He's going to be in a movie that was announced recently. He's kind of trying to broaden his horizons. And, I mean, I hope that this album is the first in a lot of experiments with genre and trying something new. And honestly, when I heard that we were getting a Bad Bunny emo album I, like - I almost wanted more.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

FERNANDEZ: Like, there's a lot of it on this album. But I'm like, I want him to, like, go there even more. So hopefully we can expect that.

THOMPSON: Nice. Well, you said you want more emo. Why don't you take us out with some emo? Give us a song that you recommend from this record.

FERNANDEZ: I think we should go out on "Trellas." This is a song that is, I think, one of the most different I've heard from him on this album. And in an album that's really interested in paying homage to icons in rock en Espanol like Mana, who he shouts out on the record, Soda Stereo, Cafe Tacvba and all the others. I think this song is a really special new direction for him.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRELLAS")

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

THOMPSON: Well, we want to know what you think about Bad Bunny. Find us at facebook.com/pchh and on Twitter at @pchh. That brings us to the end of our show. Thank you so much, Stefanie, for being here.

FERNANDEZ: Thank you so much, Stephen. Happy to be here.

THOMPSON: And, of course, thank you for listening. If you're interested in more discussions like this one, I hugely recommend you check out Alt.Latino from NPR Music. Stefanie is a regular contributor to that wonderfully fun and informative show. We will be back here tomorrow to talk about Ryan Murphy's new Netflix adaptation of the Broadway musical "The Prom."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRELLAS")

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

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