Culture, Music, Reviews

Bad Bunny reinvents reggaeton, breaks all the rules on “YHLQMDLG”

Bad Bunny has officially changed the game. Born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, the Puerto Rican artist has built– for lack of better words– a helluva career in only two short years. From collaborations with music icons including such as Drake, Cardi B and J Balvin to performances on the world’s largest stages – Coachella and a surprise performance at Super Bowl LIV alongside superstars JLo and Shakira – to multiple Grammy Award nominations, el Conejo Malo has proven himself to be a worldwide force to be reckoned with and he did so without ever using English.

Not too long ago, the only way for Latin artists to prevail in the states was to sing in English. The song about heartbreak from a male artist was only salvageable when coupled with hypermasculinity and demeaning remarks about his ex-lover (see: Drake’s “Hotline Bling”). Celebrities had to choose between lasting fame and being activists for causes they believe in. Gender roles were definite and not to be challenged.

Well, Bad Bunny– an anti-conformist from the start– has broken every rule in the book. And, thankfully, he continues to do so on his sophomore album “YHLQMDLG,” released Feb. 29.

Photo credit: Rimas Music, 2020

“Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana,” which literally translates to “I Do What I Want,” is playlist for the broken hearted with a twist. With the help of Latin legends like Daddy Yankee and Anuel AA, the 20-track project is an unpredictable exploration of love and loss delivered through a combination of trap rap and reggaeton that– only a decade ago– was seen as too risqué to perform outside of garage parties. That, combined with its not-so-subtle odes to throwback artists that paved the way, makes for 1 hour and 5 minutes of pure bliss.

The first half of “YHLQMDLG” seems to be inspired solely by the artists’ past experience with women. And, while the brokenhearted man is not an unfamiliar trope in the music industry, Bad Bunny does something astronomically different: he maintains respect for the ex-lover who broke his heart. In fact, both the artist and album seem to be wholeheartedly respectful of the feminine, something lacking in most mainstream rap music.

It starts with the opening, “Si Veo a Tu Mamá,” in which Bad Bunny bears his soul as he describes a painful breakup that he is clearly not yet over. In it, he sings lyrics like Y si veo a tu mama / Yo le pregunto por ti / Pa’ ver si ya tienes a alguien / Alguien que te haga feliz,” which translate to “And if I see your mom / I’ll ask for you / To see if you already have someone / Someone who makes you happy.”

The heartfelt lyrics are coupled with a remixed sample of the 1964 bossa nova classic “The Girl from Ipanema” and trap percussion, making it impossible for the listener to decide if they should cry or dance. Whichever they choose, they have a bonafide banger to use as inspiration.

The second track, “La Difícil,” continues the theme of heartbreak, featuring el Majo Conejo himself pleading with a lover who refuses to commit. Though, once again, not an unfamiliar topic in the music industry, the track proves what makes the bunny so different from other male artists: he manages to portray his feelings without drenching them in sexism.

Whereas Drake’s “Hotline Bling” comes off condescending, painting the woman who broke his heart as a ruthless one who now goes out all the time and wears limited clothing, “La Difícil” manages to express feelings of disappointment and sadness while maintain his ex-lover as an equal rather than a random “whore.”

“Yo Perreo Sola” (“I Dance Alone”) and “Bitchy Gyal” (“Bad B*tch) are also odes to women but in a less romantic sense. One is a feminist anthem that celebrates the female club-goer with the guts to go out alone while the other is a beautiful, Spanglish tribute to the return of MC Yaviah, a musician and “bad b*tch” who has grown popular on the island of Borinquen.

Fifteen songs in, the artist drastically switches gears, reminding listeners that they do not call him Bad Bunny for no reason. Between “Puesto Pa’ Guerrial, featuring Myke Towers, “Está Cabron Ser Yo”– which directly translates to “I’m that f*cker”– featuring Anuel AA and “P FKN R” featuring Kendo Kaponi and Arcangel, suddenly, the artist that has spent 45 minutes moping and crying about his poor luck with women turns into a full-blown trap gangster ready to throw shots and finish any beef that that comes his way.

“YHLQMDLG” takes yet another turn on the final track, “<3.” The artist, which most fans consider not yet having reached his prime, shocks listeners with an unexpected confession: that he hopes to retire for good after releasing one more album at the end of 2020.

“And even though my best songs have not come out yet,” he admits. “To be clear, people, I already don’t sleep / And all this fame has made me sick.”

Given that he reached fame only two years ago and that many consider him capable of rivaling the likes of Kanye and Drake in success, this was the ultimate mic drop.

While his hardcore fans hope and pray that he reconsiders, there is one ray of sunshine amid the gloomy revelation: we will always have the masterpiece that is “YHLQMDLG.”

Click here to listen for yourself.

ABOUT THE ALBUM

Title: YHLQMDLG

Artist: Bad Bunny

Label: Rimas Music

Release date: Feb. 29, 2020

Available on Spotify, Apple Music

Reception: “YHLQMDLG” became the first all-Spanish-language album to reach number two on the Billboard 200 chart. Additionally, the project landed the biggest streaming week ever for a Latin album, with 201.4 million on-demand streams of its 20 songs.

March 25, 2020

Reporters

Jordan Lewis


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