On Sunday night, the Los Angeles Crypto.com Arena was transformed in a kaleidoscopic burst of color as Bad Bunny lifted the curtain on the 65th annual Grammy Awards ceremony. Dressed in nothing but a fresh white tee, light washed jeans, and a clean pair of kicks, the rapper-singer set the show ablaze with an indelible Caribbean mashup of “El Apagón” and “Después de la Playa” from his record-breaking Un Verano Sin Ti — the album Latines knew, unquestionably, would win the award for Album of the Year.
After all, the album, packed with summer hits, broke multiple records, was No. 1 across the world, and made history by becoming the first Spanish-language LP to even be nominated in the ever-so-coveted Album of the Year category. Across the archipelago and the contiguous U.S., Puerto Ricans gathered at Grammys watch parties to see Benito bring home the first Boricua Album of the Year. Instead, fans everywhere were left stunned when he lost to … Harry Styles.
It’s tough not to walk away feeling like he was cheated, even from a critic’s perspective. Never mind that Bad Bunny’s global reach is currently unparalleled, Un Verano Sin Ti was the biggest album of 2022. Thanks to the 23-track project, Tito and Lysaurie's bobito topped the charts for 13 weeks, the longest run since Drake’s Views in 2016. The critically acclaimed album earned billions of streams across several platforms last year. On Spotify, it was the most-streamed album globally. On Pandora, it had the most “thumbed” songs of any other artist. Apple Music crowned Benito as artist of the year. His World's Hottest Tour, which he kicked off after closing El Último Tour Del Mundo that same year, broke the record for the highest-grossing tour. And as music-tracker Luminate acknowledged in its year-end U.S. report, which also called Un Verano Sin Ti 2022’s No. 1 album, he did it all en español.
"Never mind that Bad Bunny’s global reach is currently unparalleled, Un Verano Sin Ti was the biggest album of 2022."
Un Verano Sin Ti, which merges sounds from the Caribbean, like reggaeton, bomba, merengue, bachata, dembow, and more, is a love letter to the Antilles, and especially his Borikén. The album is filled with palo after palo, some summer dance hits that you still hear every time you leave your house (or stay in!) and others with political messages that speak to issues concerning misogyny, colonialism, gentrification, homophobia, and more.
Fans near and far are understandably outraged that Bad Bunny lost to Styles’ Harry’s House. Unlike the British pop star, who accepted the award by wildly saying “This doesn’t happen to people like me very often,” Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti earning Album of the Year would have actually been a historic first, a massive win for the genre and the Caribbean, but Puerto Rico especially.
In fact, the 28-year-old’s iconicity and level of notoriety are unique to him when we consider the ways in which he rose to fame (from bagging groceries while posting music on SoundCloud) and the climate of his global ascension (a page in history where greater parts of the world are more receptive to what Bad Bunny represents and stands for). It makes perfect sense today that Bad Bunny would become the first artist performing in Spanish to crack the glass ceiling at the Recording Academy, who in recent years launched categories that dip into the Latin American music landscape.
"Unlike the British pop star, who accepted the award by wildly saying 'This doesn’t happen to people like me very often,' Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti earning Album of the Year would have actually been a historic first."
On Sunday night, Un Verano Sin Ti did win the gramophone for Best Música Urbana Album, a recently installed category by the Recording Academy. In his acceptance speech, Benito said in English: “I made this album with love and passion. And when you do things with love and passion, everything is easier.” Switching to Spanish, the artist dedicated his win to Puerto Rico, “la cuna y la capital del reggaeton en el mundo entero.”
Still, in a nomination roster that included Beyoncé (RENAISSANCE), Adele (30), ABBA (Voyage), Mary J. Blige (Good Morning Gorgeous), Brandi Carlile (In These Silent Days), Coldplay (Music Of The Spheres), Kendrick Lamar (Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers), and Lizzo (Special), the egregious fumble on Album of the Year at the 2023 Grammys must not be ignored — but neither should the way Benito still made history despite the globally recognized snub.
"There, on the most prestigious of stages, at the epicenter of bourgeoisie, Benito let his enduring message to the Recording Academy ring around the world: “Les falta sazón, batería y reggaeton.”
Bad Bunny’s opening dance spectacle alone was history in the making, and a shining ode to his homeland. He featured bomba dancers and pleneros, two music genres and dances rooted in Black spirituality and resistance. He was backed by the live band of Dahian el Apechao, who composed various parts of “Después de la Playa,” marking the first time any of us has seen Dominican mambo – or merengue “urbano” – at the Grammys. Meanwhile, a number of character cabezudos, or life-size papier maché bobbleheads, represented iconic Puerto Rican figures like reggaeton pioneer Tego Calderón and baseball legend Roberto Clemente.
And there, on the most prestigious of stages, at the epicenter of bourgeoisie, Benito let his enduring message to the Recording Academy ring around the world: “Les falta sazón, batería y reggaeton.”