Bad Bunny’s life got derailed
Like almost everyone else, Bad Bunny’s life got derailed when the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe. Unlike most everyone else, he was coming off a performance with Shakira at the Super Bowl and shooting scenes for his debut acting role in the new season of Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico when much of the western world shut down, sending him back home to Puerto Rico to wait out the crisis. Weeks of isolation tested the limits of his ability to entertain himself—and us—without leaving the house. As he told Rolling Stone, he grabbed some old beats, called up some OGs, and pulled up to his engineer La Paciencia’s crib to track some vocals. And less than three months after dropping YHLQMDLG, the high-water mark of his career, Bad Bunny had a new album out.
The title of that album, LAS QUE NO IBAN A SALIR, loosely translates to “The ones that weren’t coming out,” a play on words that references both the songs on the record as well as Bad Bunny himself, holed up in an Airbnb with his partner since March. Nine of the 10 tracks were pulled from the cutting room floor of the YHLQMDLG sessions; unfinished, unmixed, and unmastered beats with no vocals that Bad Bunny resurrected while in isolation, with a little help from his friends. Most of them appeared in some form during his marathon home quarantine concert broadcast live on Instagram earlier this month.
The record plays quick and dirty, with uncharacteristically crunchy production value and lo-fi aesthetics. Even the album cover is lo-res. YHLQMDLG was a slickly produced homage to marquesina mixtapes; LAS QUE NO IBAN A SALIR sounds like it could actually be one, the kind of record a teen Bad Bunny might play at one of those underground garage parties. He says he put the record together in two days, and it shows. But far from detracting from the experience, the loose grit is part of the appeal. “Reggaetoncitos” that smooth out reggaeton’s rougher edges may have helped it merge with the mainstream, but Bad Bunny’s career has been defined by pulling the mainstream closer to him, as opposed to vice versa. Even as he’s reshaped urbano in his own image, he’s shown a healthy respect and admiration for its underground outlaw beginnings, and consistently made the case that there’s room for perreo on the pop charts.
A quick glance at the guest features reveals the dichotomy of old school and new school—legends like Don Omar, Yandel, and Zion y Lennox represent the OGs, while nascent hitmaker Jhay Cortez offers a glimpse of the talent in urbano’s next generation. And while YHLQMDLG standout “Safaera” felt like a five-minute tribute to DJ Playero’s genre-defining mixtapes of the 1990s, he tips his cap to them even more directly here. “BAD CON NICKY,” his collaboration with Medellin-via-Puerto Rico reggaetonero Nicky Jam, samples Daddy Yankee’s “Donde Mí No Venga,” a seminal track in reggaeton’s history from Playero 37 that makes plain the lineage that connects reggae en español and reggaeton.
Lyrically, LAS QUE NO IBAN A SALIR mostly sticks to Bad Bunny’s trademark sex flexes and party jams. But even in tossed-off mixtape verses, he retains a goofy charm; “Tantos hijos que no sé cómo los crío/Y en los dedos tengo el iceberg que rompió el Titanic/Los mato flow Sosa y quedan blancos como Sammy” he raps on “RONCA FREESTYLE” (“So many kids that I don’t know how I raise them/And on my fingers I have the iceberg that sunk the Titanic/I kill them, Sosa flow and they’re left white like Sammy”).
The album’s final track was the only one made from scratch during Bad Bunny’s self-imposed quarantine and offers the most literal view of his life in isolation. He compares the cause of his hermetic lifestyle to Puerto Rico’s corrupt governor, lamenting both his canceled concerts and lack of access to AutoTune. It’s also duet with his partner Gabriela Berlingeri, who has proven to be as much a collaborator as she is a paramour since the pair went public with their relationship earlier this year—she laid the reference vocals for his JLo collab “Te Guste,” and even shot his recent Rolling Stone cover. LAS QUE NO IBAN A SALIR is incomparable to Bad Bunny’s first two LPs: Those were two carefully crafted masterpieces, whereas this is merely an extracurricular project from a bored superstar trapped in a house for weeks on end. That it’s still this good is a reminder of his otherworldly talent.