When he released his fourth studio album this weekend, Bad Bunny made history. Again.
Within hours of its debut Friday, Un Verano Sin Ti shot to number one on Spotify and Apple Music. It's projected to top the Billboard 200 chart, with more than 200,000 units sold. And the music video for the album's opening track, "Moscow Mule," has already racked up more than 20 million views on YouTube.
These numbers might not mean so much for someone like Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber—the kind of pop star who's been embedded in our musical landscape for a while now—especially as the industry increasingly turns its attention to TikTok. But for Bad Bunny, an artist who hails from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico; who opts to record in his native tongue; and who has reinvented the art of the musical crossover, it's a feat that should not be ignored.
Un Verano Sin Ti, which Bad Bunny has described as a sonic love letter to Caribbean music, has helped solidify his reign as one of the most successful artists out there. At 23 tracks long, it's the most-streamed album of 2022 so far. Bad Bunny also broke Spotify's record for the most-streamed artist in a single day (a title previously held by Drake) with 183 million streams in a mere 24 hours, according to data shared by the service.
The album currently sits comfortably between Drake and Kanye West, arguably two of the most successful musical artists of our generation, as the second-highest first-day album debut on the platform—an accomplishment that's nearly unheard of from an artist who records solely in Spanish. While Bad Bunny is by no means the only Latino streaming giant within the industry (acts such as Shakira, J Balvin, Karol G, and Kali Uchis have all broken their own streaming records), he's undoubtedly become the most impactful.
Bad Bunny's rise comes at a time when Puerto Rico's future has never felt more uncertain. The island, currently home to more than three million citizens, is still battling poverty and electric blackouts in the aftermath of 2017's Hurricane Maria. Political corruption is rampant, and the arrival of tech bros building multimillion-dollar properties certainly isn't helping. The artist acknowledges all this, calling out systemic issues in the song "El Apagón," which fans were quick to praise online.
"What belongs to me, they'll keep it for themselves / Let them go / This is my beach, this is my sun / This is my land, this is me," Bad Bunny's girlfriend, Gabriela Berlingeri, sings on the song's outro.
The song also addresses the commodification of Latino culture, especially within the music industry (think: the cultural shift that followed the release of the "Despacito" remix). "Now everyone wants to be Latino," he sings in Spanish on the record. He told The New York Times, "It's not a critique, like, 'Don't [celebrate our sound]!' But remember that it's from here, and that we know how to do it like it's supposed to be done."
There's power in Bad Bunny's streaming numbers—but the strength is in his message, more than the broken records. When you're listening to his music (which now stretches past the limits of reggaeton and urbano, and is melding into the worlds of mambo, merengue, electro-pop, rock, and Afrobeats), you're listening to an artist born and bred, shaped and molded, by Puerto Rico, an island—and a culture—that has been arguably disregarded by the country that oversees it, along with its countless contributions to art and popular culture. (The most expensive painting ever sold? By a Boricua. The most-viewed Super Bowl Halftime Show? Jennifer Lopez with the help of Shakira. Even Spider-Man is Puerto Rican now.)
You don't have to speak Spanish to enjoy Bad Bunny's music—that's precisely what's made his crossover so impressive, his songs transcending the limits of language. But if you do understand, his message is bitingly clear: Bad Bunny will forever be synonymous with Puerto Rico, and neither should be underestimated anymore.