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Five Burning Questions – Billboard

October 11, 2022 - Uncategorized

Like Harry Styles’ “As It Was” over on the Billboard Hot 100, global superstar Bad Bunny‘s Un Verano Sin Ti has essentially been the default No. 1 all summer on the Billboard 200 albums chart — the water-level-setting album that any new set needs to rise above to have a chance of topping the listing.

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This week, Verano spends its 13th week at No. 1 on the listing, moving 84,000 equivalent album units. (Slipknot’s The End, So Far bows one spot below it with 59,000 units, as the metal band joins a club that also includes Post Malone, Lizzo, Luke Combs and myriad other big names who have been blocked from the top spot by Bad Bunny’s blockbuster.) Meanwhile, five songs from the set continue to populate the Hot 100 — led by the Chencho Corleone collab “Me Porto Bonito” and solo hit “Tití Me Preguntó” — as a whopping 11 tracks on the album have spent at least 10 weeks on the chart.

How has Verano remained this successful? And will its success be recognized at the upcoming Grammys? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. With its 13th week on top of the Billboard 200, Verano officially moves into biggest-of-the-last-decade discussion with its chart performance. What do you think is the biggest reason behind its continued dominance on the chart? 

Griselda Flores: Bad Bunny, overall, is the gift that keeps on giving. He doesn’t just drop an album and hope for the best: He continues to develop the project even after it’s been released by dropping music videos sporadically. (Some with a deeper meaning than others — his latest for “El Apagón,” for instance, really is a documentary that explores gentrification and blackouts in Puerto Rico.) But I’d say the biggest force right now that continues to propel the album to No. 1 is his stadium tour. His album literally comes to life during his shows, which are attended by thousands around the country. Now that he’s wrapped up his tour in the U.S., it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any sort of shift in streaming numbers. 

Lyndsey Havens: Early on, say 10 weeks ago or so, I had a lot of discussions about the album’s lack of truly massive singles. It of course has its more popular hits like “Tití Me Preguntó,” “Me Porto Bonito” and “Moscow Mule” near the chart’s upper echelon, but none — or any others — dominated the Hot 100’s top spots as much as the album itself has dominated the Billboard 200. At first, I wondered if this could or would hurt the album’s longevity. But now, I believe that it’s precisely what helped Verano reach this milestone. By not pushing just one or two singles, the entire album as a whole has been able to sustain — and by that logic, Verano is arguably one of the best albums in a long while. So good, in fact, it can’t be broken apart. 

Jason Lipshutz: The biggest album of any year often represents a triangulation of music, stardom and cultural relevance — and for Bad Bunny, who’s become a stadium-headlining global superstar over the past five years, unveiling his most complete and hits-packed full-length to date (at a time when Spanish-language music is being given greater opportunities than ever before in North America) has yielded a blockbuster. Right project at the right time for the right artist: That’s how you get 13 weeks at No. 1.

Jessica Roiz: It’s his most experimental album yet. Meaning, there’s a song that just about anyone and everyone can relate to. Not only is Un Verano representative of summers in Puerto Rico, but it’s a set that easily connects cultures and generations from dembow to merengue to bolero to reggae to perreo. Beyond that, it carries a lot of important social messages, as heard in “Andrea” and “El Apagon,” that make it really hard for anyone (whether a Bad Bunny stan or not) to turn away. Simply put, it’s too good of a varied album to not have on repeat — even after summer has ended.  

Andrew Unterberger: Has there ever been a bad Bad Bunny headline? I’m sure there must have been minor controversies and criticisms he’s faced over the course of his career, but it seems to me like it’s just been a steady crescendo of success for Bad Benito, and one that’s getting its loudest at the right time for Verano. He’s the right pop star for this time: open-minded, open-sounded, conscientious, fun, impossibly cool and totally accessible. And the album is by no means the sound of him coasting; it’s a sprawling, ambitious, and extremely imaginative and energetic set designed to capitalize and expand on the interest he’s generated the past five years. He’s made all the right moves, at a level few if any other pop stars this decade can match.

2. While the streaming era has seen plenty of albums stay relevant on the Billboard 200 thanks to one or even two or three hit singles, Verano has the rare distinction of being an album with double digits’ worth of tracks that have spent double-digit weeks on the Hot 100. What has allowed the album to remain so prolific with its number of hits? 

Griselda Flores: There isn’t just one thing that has allowed it but rather a collection of things. For one, I’d say that every song has sort of taken a life of its own with standout characters such as Chencho Corleone on “Me Porto Bonito” or even the lady who comes in the middle of “Tití Me Preguntó” and whose line I’ve completely memorized. Plus, everyone has a song they’ve adopted as their very own anthem — there isn’t just one song that everyone is gravitating toward, which tends to be the case with many albums because there’s always that one song. There’s something for everyone on this album and given that there’s 23 songs on it, people are still processing it and discovering that a new song they hadn’t paid attention to before is now their new favorite one from UVST

Lyndsey Havens: I feel like Verano has adopted the “together, we rise” mentality. By having so many hits — yet none that, to me, stand too far out as a favorite among the rest — they’re all sort of able to sustain without getting in the way of one another. And as a result, I think that’s been the secret sauce the album’s success as well.

Jason Lipshutz: Verano has benefited incalculably from the proliferation of streaming: none of its biggest songs have become the type of standout that dwarfs other tracks on the album and becomes ubiquitous within popular culture, but because multiple songs continue to dot prominent streaming playlists and rack up millions of streams each week, they’re never too far from the top of the Hot 100. Bad Bunny’s voice is so commanding across these songs, and general interest in him is so high, that multiple tracks have become streaming juggernauts.

Jessica Roiz: Not only are they club bangers but the same way five of the tracks on the album are going strong in the Hot 100, the same way they are still going strong on TikTok. Collectively, “Me Porto Bonito,” “Tití Me Preguntó,” and “Efecto” have over seven million video creations on the app (at the time of publishing), further proving why they’ve become fan favorites. Not far behind are the focus single “Moscow Mule,” which gets a lot of radio play, and “Neverita,” which has a well-received music video and even a new cover from Elvis Crespo, whose “Suavemente” clip the “Neverita” visual pays tribute to.

Andrew Unterberger: This has gotta be the question every major artist (and their associated major labels) are asking right now: In a landscape where even new albums by artists like Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé can’t seem to sustain massive streaming interest in more than a song or two for a week or two, how did Bad Bunny do it with half his 23-track album?? I don’t have a great answer, except to say that the variety of Verano certainly helps: You could poll 15 different listeners and get at least 12 different favorite tracks, and no two of them will sound all that alike, while all remaining high-quality and still sounding like quintessential Bad Bunny. Easier said than done, as most of those other artists would attest.

3. When we discussed the album’s likely breakout tracks upon its release nearly half a year ago at this point, few among us tabbed “Me Porto Bonito” or “Tití Me Preguntó” as the set’s likely breakout tracks — yet those are the two songs still hanging around the Hot 100’s top 20. Are you surprised that those two songs have proven most enduring, or have they come to make sense as the LP’s biggest hits?

Griselda Flores Let the record show I was not one of the few that said those two would likely be the sets breakout tracks! (I chose “Moscow Mule”). But now it makes sense why they would be. The experimental nature of these songs — they’re not just another urban song — makes it hard to get tired of listening to those songs on repeat. They went from soundtracking our summer to now certified, chart-topping anthems. 

Lyndsey Havens: Looking back, I appreciate how unclear the would-be hits were. And since I didn’t have a strong idea of what would become the stand-outs, I can’t say I’m that surprised now that “Me Porto Bonito” and “Tití Me Preguntó” are the ones to have climbed the highest. For me, as a non-Spanish speaker, so much of Verano is about the vibe Bad Bunny created through his delivery and the productions. That said, these two songs do make total sense to be the album’s biggest hits — but then again, so would a handful of others in my opinion. 

Jason Lipshutz: I am indeed surprised — I would have bet big money on “Moscow Mule” becoming the breakout hit, and lost that big money! I underestimated the frenetic pace of “Tití Me Preguntó” as well as the reggaetón haze of “Me Porto Bonito,” which play off different strengths of Bad Bunny — dance floor filler on one track, romantic lead on the other — and now sound like slam-dunk singles to me months later.

Jessica Roiz: It’s no surprise at all. Both tracks are certified hits. “Me Porto Bonito” because of its modern-day perreo fused with old-school party de marquesina beats, and its ultra-hyped lyrics about being confident and beautiful. “Tití Me Preguntó” because of its homage to the growing dembow movement from The Dominican Republic’s bajo mundo, and, of course, its relatable lyrics about not wanting to find love and settle down. 

Andrew Unterberger: Still surprising to me! I like both songs but neither feel like they best represent the bursting-at-the-seems summertime exuberance of the set. However I am heartened by the fact that if you were only judging from at-bat walkup music in the ongoing MLB playoffs, you would think “Después de la Playa” was not only the biggest hit on the album, but the biggest hit of the entire decade. As it should be!

4. All summer, the Hot 100 and Billboard 200 have been dominated by Harry Styles’ “As It Was” and Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti, respectively. Does one of the two long-running chart-toppers feel more representative to you about the state of pop music in 2022? 

Griselda Flores: I think in general, the pair speaks volumes about the fact that pop music is no longer a one-size-fits-all type of style. It’s now a much larger spectrum, with Harry Styles on one end and Bad Bunny on the other. The two artists couldn’t be more different in sound, but both capture the zeitgeist and fluidity of pop culture today. 

Lyndsey Havens: To me, the story of Bad Bunny is the story of the global music scene right now. To dominate with an entire album versus with one single shows just how strongly the Benito’s music is resonating — and the fact that he’s raking in tens of millions of dollars on his tour right now only bolsters that fact. 

Jason Lipshutz: Un Verano Sin Ti represents a landmark moment for Spanish-language music in the United States — which has enjoyed several commercial breakthroughs over the past half-decade. But lest we forget, it was less than two years ago that another Bad Bunny album, El Último Tour Del Mundo, became the first all-Spanish No. 1 album ever on the Billboard 200! Bad Bunny continues to break down barriers this year, not just for himself, but for all Spanish-language artists with stardom in their sights.

Jessica Roiz: From his beginnings in Latin trap to dipping his toes in other genres, there’s no doubt that Bad Bunny has gone from Puerto Rican rapper to Latin music’s biggest pop star, without having to compromise his first language and his Latin culture, and also while breaking gender norms. I personally believe, more than anything, that Bad Bunny is where he’s at today because of the power his lyricism holds. He navigates topics of love, mental health, heartbreak, sexuality, human rights, domestic violence awareness, and many more, best showcasing how an artist is meant to use their star power. Styles is just as representative of this, and that’s why both artists have achieved chart-breaking success. 

Andrew Unterberger: Both are very 2022-sounding, but I’d give the edge here to Verano. Nothing new, culturally speaking, for the breakout heartthrob of a beloved boy band to have the biggest song of the summer with his most undeniable single to date — that’s basically happened at least once a generation since The Beatles. But for an almost entirely Spanish-language album to dominate without any concessions to the English-speaking market — and without even a true top 40 crossover hit — feels like it could only happen in 2022.

5. We’ve discussed how one of the few remaining frontiers for Bad Bunny as a global pop star is to land a Grammy nomination in one of the major categories. Do you see that finally coming for him this year with the success of Verano and its many hit songs? 

Griselda Flores: Absolutely! At least he should. I’m thinking at least album of the year for UVST’s runway success. I predict competition would be tough if he gets into that category but I’m cautiously optimistic he could even win and if he does, it would be massive. 

Lyndsey Havens: Let’s just say in a year when Adele and Beyonce both returned with albums, I’m still rooting for Bad Bunny to take home the AOTY trophy.

Jason Lipshutz: If Un Verano Sin Ti isn’t nominated for the album of the year Grammy, there will be a sizable backlash, since projects with such critical and commercial success are often recognized in the category. I do see Bad Bunny scoring an album of the year nod, and while there will likely be stiff competition in the category — projects by Harry Styles, Beyoncé, Adele and Ed Sheeran will all be eligible — Bad Bunny has as good of a shot at taking home the top prize as anyone.

Jessica Roiz: A million times yes! If his 2022 Latin Grammys album and record of the year nominations are any indication, Un Verano Sin Ti (and any of the tracks) are worthy of a nomination in the major categories at the Grammys. After Bad Bunny become the first Latin artist in MTV VMAs history to win artist of the year, I’m very hopeful that he will not only be nominated but also win a major Grammy award.

Andrew Unterberger: I’d be really worried if there were still only five or even eight nominations in the category — there’s just too many voters that will blanch at a Spanish-language album, especially one without a ubiquitous entry point — but with 10 now, it’s sorta hard to see it getting denied. Not unthinkable, though, and if it does the backlash will be swift, loud, and for the most part, deserved.




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