Bad Bunny is setting more than trends. He’s shifting society’s perception of what is accepted. Though he’s not the first artist to use his platform to further the discourse around social issues, he’s making sure he leaves a mark too.
He solidified this during his performance at the 65th annual Grammy Awards.
The Puerto Rican artist kicked off the night by performing two of his songs from his “Un Verano Sin Ti” album, “El Apagón” and “Después de la Playa.” He could’ve chosen songs that would’ve been more palatable to the Anglo audience, but he didn’t. (And we are glad he took this route.)
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“El Apagón” shines a light on Puerto Rico’s current state, in which he talks about Puerto Rico’s blackout. In the song, he also sings how everyone now wants to be Latino, “pero les falta sazón.” Meanwhile, the second song was a full-blown merengue song, “Después de la Playa,” bringing rhythms that are not the norm on the Grammys’ stage.
But the way he brought each song to life deserves recognition too.
Honoring Afro-Puerto Ricans through bomba y plena at the Grammys
As he entered the venue, he was followed by dancers who exemplified the folkloric genres of bomba y plena. The dancers wore colorful skirts and large flowers and they moved effortlessly next to Benito, pleneros, and Los Cabezudos.
The pleneros carried the güiros and panderetas as they vibed to the rhythms of bomba y plena. Right after, Bad Bunny transitioned to sing “El Apagón.”
Having Bomba y plena present at the Grammys allows Benito to honor Afro-Puerto Ricans’ ancestry. In fact, bomba was a genre born out of necessity in Loíza. It was a vehicle for political and spiritual expression. The Plena genre is also political. Derived from bomba music, this genre is heard during political protests and narrates the issues important to Puerto Ricans.
Los Cabezudos de Puerto Rico shined a light on important Puerto Rican figures
Los Cabezudos de Puerto Rico were a large part of his performance as well. Los Cabezudos, which is roughly translated to “big heads,” each personified an important Puerto Rican figure. It is evident that Bad Bunny cares about history and understands the danger of erasure.
Roberto Clemente, Tego Calderón, Ismael Maelo Rivera, Julia De Burgos, Tite Curet Alonso, Andy Montañez, and Lola Rodríguez de Tio, were the Puerto Ricans celebrated by Los Cabezudos.
Bad Bunny choosing to sing his only merengue song, “Después de la Playa,” is just as significant.
Originating in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the genre of merengue típico can be traced back to the 1850s. However, merengue wasn’t always well-received. Throughout history, some even pushed to ban it because of its suggestive and sometimes political lyrics. Being that the Dominican Republic was Bad Bunny’s muse to create the “Un Verano Sin Ti” album, it made complete sense to have merengue play at the Grammys.
Every second of Benito’s performance was impactful. He ended his performance by saying, “Que viva la musica latina” and truer words couldn’t have been spoken.
El Conejo Malo was the first person to be nominated for a Grammy for Best Música Urbana Album – an all-Spanish album at that. And he won. To Latines and Puerto Ricans everywhere, this felt like a personal win.
May Latin music continue to thrive and may Bad Bunny continue to fill us with pride!