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Bad Bunny’s New Album ‘Un Verano Sin Ti’ Is a Love Letter to Puerto Rico : NPR




On his new album A summer without youBad Bunny opts for personal intimacy and cultural specificity, rooting its music in the Caribbean.

Eric Rojas



Eric Rojas

On his new album A summer without youBad Bunny opts for personal intimacy and cultural specificity, rooting its music in the Caribbean.

Eric Rojas

A summer without you isn’t Bad Bunny’s heartbreaking debut album, but it’s his most grounded. On his latest outing, Bad Bunny anchors his deepest exploration of love lost in the Caribbean, with the sound of his relentless motion, the grit of his spanish, his dembow, his thick rain. And while A summer without you ostensibly speaks of a person and their absence in Benito’s life, his joy and desire are still rooted in the ground beneath him.

Bad Bunny has always put Puerto Rico at the center of his work since his breakthrough in 2016. His long-running projects have told a distinct story. Puerto Rican story in theme and sound, staying grounded in its personal authenticity, flow and community while attempting bigger and bolder experiments. his beginnings X 100PRE was his first showcase of his genre agility; YHLQMDLG squared in a scholastic reverence to the canon and legends of old-school Puerto Rican reggaeton; the last round the world was the introspective alt album, nu-metal riffs and all. But rather than selling audiences another great genre experience, on A summer without you Benito opts for personal intimacy and cultural specificity, which music cultivates at every moment.

Registered partly in Puerto Rico and partly in the Dominican Republic, A summer without youThe most notable moments come when he infuses Benito’s extraordinary flow and pop sensibility with hyperlocal touchpoints. Benito is adept at delivering a surprise and he consistently outdoes himself on this album. After “Moscow Mule,” the first single and summer hit opener analysts could have predicted pretty well, comes left-field “Despus de la Playa.” After Benito warms up the chorus over some spacey opening synths, he taps the mic and turns into a mambero, his “Zumba!” exploding a volcanic merengue concocted by Dominican merengue architect Dahian el Apechao. It’s a living, breathing track that evokes the intimacy of great live albums past, reverberating with the acoustic warmth of a room and the bodies moving within it.

His production team closes the deal, with Marco “MAG” Borrero’s string riffs, authorial experimentation by Tainy, and original crew member La Paciencia creating a cross-genre soundscape that creates room for innovation even on the album’s most stereotypical tracks. “Tit Me Pregunt”, an ironic turn of phrase on the natural law of harassment stuck up aunts, features a soulful acoustic riff threaded through a distorted Kiko el Crazy sample and a soulful synth bridge. His collaborations are meticulously curated, this time opting to center not just reggaeton heavyweights, but indie innovators as well. The astonishing “Ojitos Lindos” renews the idea of ​​falling in love after a heartbreak with a duet with the Colombian Bomba Estreo, whose silvery guitars, bright distant brass and Li Saumet refrains are an encyclopedic entry into this what is becoming of modern Caribbean music. And more YHLQMDLGThe precedent of featuring reggaeton forebears, the album spotlights Chencho Corleone and Plan B’s Tony Dize in tracks that ring since 2005.

Not all reminders of the past have the same effect. “Dos Mil 16”, although full of nostalgic references to its 2016 debut including its original “bad bunny baby“tag up top is more wrapped up in concept than execution. The inclusion of “Calaita” as the final track, at this three-year stage, is at best a reminder of how reliably Benito can organize the sound of the summer (its ambient seagulls recur throughout the album), but at worst, an otherwise demanding record feels carelessly outdated at 23 tracks with a familiar, if less daring, closer.

Unlike many projects in the Latin pop industry, Bad Bunny’s subject matter and musical references are precisely targeted. In April, Puerto Rico experienced an island-wide blackout, the latest in a series of blackouts after its power grid was damaged by Hurricane Maria. In 2021, the electricity network was privatized, a decision met public protest about skyrocketing costs, ongoing outages and concerns about transparency.

“El Apagn”, which refers to blackouts, assembles excerpts from a song, a performance and an interview by salsero Ismael “Maelo” Rivera, a chorus sampled from a mixtape by DJ Joe and the vocals of his girlfriend Gabriela Berlingeri with a sovereign claim centered on this reality. The repetition of the song “Puerto Rico es bien cabrn” is as urgent as Gabriela’s outro pointed to wealthy white settlers displacing Puerto Ricans for tax benefits: “Que se vayan ellos / Que se vayan ellos”. (“Let ’em go / Let ’em go.”) Like YHLQMDLG’s “Safaera” before him, “El Apagn” is in constant conversation with the musical terrain laid before him and possesses a dizzying ability to make connections between seemingly disparate materials and expressions. Reflecting the reality of neglected infrastructure and displacement as a byproduct of continued colonization, the song’s celebration is as resolute as its resistance, an integral component of the lineage of Puerto Rican music, from Maelo to Benito , and one older than both of them.


A summer without you is as emotionally intimate as it is specific. Her most character-driven track “Andrea” with electronic duo Buscabulla is a meditation on the inner life of a Puerto Rican woman navigating her dreams, desires and anxieties regardless of the constraints imposed by the men she despises. family expectations and finances. She does not want to leave Puerto Rico for the United States. Ironically, Benito compares her to both Saint Joan of Arc and the oft-vilified and often iconic cabaret star Niurka Marcos. But even amid all this character decor, the song doesn’t pretend to understand his struggles, it’s slightly beyond his full comprehension, as it should be.

A summer without you is a vehicle of nostalgia in every way, full of musical movements that move forward and backward and a sense of solar fatigue that accompanies solace in the present despite everything. It’s a dialectic familiar to the Caribbean. There is a determination to find peace in the midst of so much change and yet not enough, as Raquel Berrios de Buscabulla sings in the chorus of “Andrea”: ​​”Que digan lo que sea / Yo subo y bajo como la tide”. (“They can say anything / I rise and fall like the tide.”)




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