Innovation in popular music is one of the constant patterns in Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio’s career. Since the release of his debut album, X100PRE, breaking pre-established patterns has been a rule in all of his work—from his music videos to his songs and records. That consistency is what has really distinguished and elevated Bad Bunny’s proposal over other artists today.
2020 has been the Puerto Rican artist’s most fruitful year. He’s released three albums: YHLQMDLG, the highest-charting all-Spanish-language album on Billboard and a nostalgic, impressive tribute to the roots of reggaetón. Then came LAS QUE NO IBAN A SALIR, a series of B-Sides that bear witness the golden age the artist is living. Despite being outtakes, they were what many other artists would have liked to have as A-Listers in their repertoire.
And then, last Friday, amid rumors of his retirement from music, Benito released EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO. 16 of the most experimental, risky songs and a daring narrative of his career. At first, it may feel like an awkward, weird record, but that’s because there is nothing quite like it in the world of Spanish trap and reggaetón today. In El Último Tour Del Mundo, the recently crowned most-streamed artist in the world on Spotify clearly seeks to distinguish himself even more from other mainstream artists showing a new facet of artistic exploration and experimentation. Unlike his other records and singles where he does similar things, in this album, he seems to have found himself more than ever, and it will definitely trace a new path in his career.
Songs such as “Yo Visto Así” or “Haciendo Que Me Amas,” resemble the style of Lil Peep or Lil Uzi. Their aesthetics of American emo/trap, show how the 26-year-old found an evolutionary way of doing Latin trap with new melodies, chords and a generally heavier sound. Such natural evolutions are necessary to give some fresh air to these genres. In “Maldita Pobreza,” we can hear some influence from Café Tacvba or Caifanes, showing another side of experimentation with rock classics in Spanish (something he already did with “Un Peso” Ft. Marciano Cantero in OASIS). Not to mention its beautiful lyrics that portray the feeling of many people in Latin America: “Maldita pobreza/solo se me olvida cuando tú me besas.” Damn poverty/I only forget about you when you kiss me.
Most experimental, risky, and daring narrative of his career.
Lyrically, Bad Bunny is in a fine place. In “El Mundo Es Mío” we hear him say he is the master of the world. In “Trellas” he seems proud of having sex with aliens and, on the excellent “Booker T,” he’s proud of being at his peak without having to promote his songs.
The music industry and the very successful present of reggaetón and Latin music make it seem like it is better to remain in the realm of the known, resulting in monotonous records with no real artistic risks that can damage the genre in the long run. The same old formula for success. Several reggaetón artists fall for this.
In an interview with Metro, Benito said: “Sometimes I don’t sleep thinking about what I’m going to surprise people with.” And boy does he do it in EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO. Perhaps most obviously so on “Trellas”—an ode to the golden and experimental era of rock en español via a ballad that resembles Gustavo Cerati or Fito Páez’s chords, melodies and harmonies. Is there any other mega artist in this space who we can say is doing anything like that?
He’s a blueprint for many artists to follow.
Bad Bunny is in the sweetest commercial moment of his career. He has the world in his hands—and that doesn’t always go hand in hand with the creative level of an artist. But for him, it does.
Benito acknowledges that he will be one of the most successful Latino artists in history and understands that in order to achieve a cultural impact beyond trends and one-hit wonders, artists need to reinvent and search within themselves for other sounds, narratives and textures. They need to rethink their work, ask themselves questions and understand why they do what they do, and be willing to fail before the eye of criticism or even before their own fans.
Many artists have done this in the brightest moments of their careers. You can find this kind of experimentation in other songs like “Haciendo Que Me Amas,” “Dákiti” and “Yo Visto Así” but not so much so on others like “La Noche De Anoche”—a guaranteed hit that’s a bit alien to the experimental and daring concept of the album.
Dare to innovate.
In the final chapters of the album, you will find the brilliant song “Antes Que Se Acabe,” which can easily be one of the best songs in Benito’s repertoire. A song that evokes 2000’s pop-punk melancholy and feels like a possible reminiscence of that iconic +44’s record When Your Heart Stops Beating.
EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO may not satisfy fans who were expecting club hits from Bad Bunny, but it’s important to celebrate its creativity and how good this album is for commercial Latin music. Benito is much more interested in his artistic legacy than predictability—a blueprint for many artists to follow in order to break the barriers of mainstream Latin music and dare to innovate within reaggetón and trap, genres that have become very monotonous.