HomeLifestyleBad Bunny Just Released the Best Album of the Year (So Far): Here's Where to Start
Bad Bunny Just Released the Best Album of the Year (So Far): Here's Where to Start
The Puerto Rican rapper-singer Bad Bunny became a star thanks to a torrent of singles: He earned more than two-dozen hits, including billion-view smashes like “Te Boté” and “Mayores,” before he even bothered to release a full-length. That thoroughly modern path to streaming ubiquity made an album seem like an unnecessary concession to an outdated system. But it turns out Bad Bunny is great at making albums, too. 2018’s X100Pre was impressively rangy, taking in Dominican dembow and guitar pop, thundering trap, and tuneful reggaeton. The just-released Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana is both more varied and more focused, with reckless stylistic shifts — the many-songs-in-one “Safaera,” the hard swerve into rock on “Hablamos Mañana” — next to some of Bad Bunny’s sharpest, most insistent hits. Listeners responded enthusiastically, and on Monday, Bad Bunny was responsible for 14 songs in Spotify’s Global 50, including three of the Top Ten. Here’s a guide to some of YHLQMDLG‘s most vital moments.
Like a river, YHLQMDLG refuses to hold still. It’s an album that constantly plays with expectations, and remains committed to changing from moment to moment. Part of that is because of Bad Bunny’s versatility: He’s able to, on a dime, transition from baritone-led rapping to a touching falsetto, from a staccato flow mimicking the shuffling drum patterns to a melodic drawl. It’s also a result of the production work, which itself often refuses to stay in one place. Nowhere on the album is that more apparent than on “Safaera,” the guest-heavy centerpiece to the album. It’s a busy song, transitioning repeatedly from a brutalist march to something like a history lesson — it pulls from 2005’s reggaeton standard “El Tiburón” and, more daringly, Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On.” It’s a stunningly ambitious exercise, made more impressive by its blunt effectiveness.
When J Balvin released the single “Reggaeton” in November 2018, he packed the track with tributes to the genre’s biggest names — shouting out Tego Calderón and Daddy Yankee, posing in front of a wall covered with old images of Don Omar and Zion y Lennox, and referencing the old Yaviah hit “Wiki Wiki.” Bad Bunny does Balvin one better in “Bichiyal,” coaxing the seldom-heard Yaviah into actually delivering a verse on the track. Nesty and Subelo NEO cue up a simple loop, a menacing motif that evokes a wolf howling at the moon, and when Yaviah arrives, the producers briefly change the tone of the drums to evoke the timbre of early 2000s reggaeton. Yaviah sounds much as he did 15 years ago, and his light, nasal tone contrasts nicely with Bad Bunny’s low drone.
“Pero Ya No”
At one point on “Pero Ya No,” Bad Bunny informs the listener that a past lover can no longer catch him like a Pokémon. For those who are unaware, there are eight generations of the Nintendo game, where the main objective is to catch digital monsters, put them in your pocket, and train them to fight other animals for sport. And in all the ways that count, Bad Bunny is like a legendary Pokémon (rare, wonderful to look at, hard to catch) and artistically operates like the game of Pokémon (hypnotic, repetitious, visually multicolored). “Pero Ya No,” is among the shorter and more simplistic songs on YHLQMDLG. More than half of its run time is devoted to the hook and bridge, with Bunny’s ad-libs folding into falsetto vocal runs that battle over a sweet and sentimental beat. Halfway through “Pero Ya No’s” first and only verse, the beat momentarily adds jagged textures to match Bunny’s growing discontent with the lover, who hasn’t gotten the hint that her ex is through with the shenanigans. Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for listeners, not all pocket monsters are meant to be captured.
Bad Bunny worked closely with the hitmaker Marco “Tainy” Masís on his debut album X 100Pre — Masís produced 12 of the 15 tracks on the album. On YHLQMDLG, Bad Bunny pulled instrumentals from many different producers, leaning on Subelo NEO, Chris Jeday, EZ Made da Beat, Payday, and others. But he returns to Masís when he wants to shape-shift or own the airwaves. “La Santa” falls into the latter category. Much like “Callaíta,” another irresistible Bad Bunny and Tainy collaboration that hit Number One at Latin radio last year, “La Santa” merges a handsome, elegiac melody, Bad Bunny’s shout-at-the-heavens vocals, and a stern, clipped reggaeton beat to great effect. Daddy Yankee was an early supporter of Bad Bunny, joining him for the hit “Vuelve” in 2017, when many in the Latin mainstream still viewed trap with skepticism. The veteran rapper returns to enjoy himself on “La Santa,” bringing the track to a close with a goofy couplet: “Mucho party, mucho money/ Daddy Yankee, Bad Bunny.”
On an album filled with sonic surprises, Bad Bunny saves his greatest trick for last. “Hablamos Mañana,” YHLQMDLG’s penultimate song, spends most of its run time as a slightly whinier, emotionally urgent version of its companion pieces. Like many songs here, it’s built around a synthetic flute atop stuttering drums, but the guitar signals that Bad Bunny is playing at something different this time. The strumming first serves mainly to add texture, but then it begins to build in the mix, demanding more attention as the song progresses. By the back half of “Hablamos Mañana,” the track sounds closer to something emblematic of SoundCloud Rap circa 2017 — the kind of beat Lil Peep would have sounded at home on. But Bad Bunny still isn’t done. The song’s last 30 seconds explode into something straight out of a Linkin Park playbook: the trap drums disappear, replaced by a hammering kit, the guitars take center stage, and Bunny begins to yell. It’s an unexpected catharsis, sudden and riveting.
Bad Bunny isn’t in Daft Punk, but in a just world, the French duo would give the man an honorary helmet for his service on “Soliá.” One of the most captivating moments on YHLQMDLG happens toward the end of the album’s seventh song. Over the wistful Demy and Clipz, Subelo NEO, and Mora-produced beat, which is full of phantomlike vocal chirps and synths that sound pulled from long lost RPGs, Bad Bunny’s voice gradually morphs into a robotic screed. Like a vocoder fairy godmother, Bunny tries to sweetly convince a woman that her mans is slipping, proving that the best pep talk is a digitized-Bad Bunny pep talk.