Even with the scores of K-pop fans, it’s entirely possible that Puerto Rican experimentalist Bad Bunny is currently the biggest musical brand in the world. Breaking Drake’s monster first-week streaming totals with his fourth solo studio album after a surprise drop, Un Verano Sin Ti is over 80 minutes in length and rarely feels like it. Turning his genre-mashing and surprising beat switches up higher than ever before, Bad Bunny essentially proves with this project that his infectious delivery and ear for a great melody are on such a high level that he can put whatever he wants underneath instrumentally. Luckily, in doing so listeners get to experience a culturally rich and always engaging world of diasporic Latin genres that shifts from one locale to the other at will. What Bad Bunny has been able to do with the often-rigid genre of reggaeton has been incredible to watch, and while this lengthy project does sag in the middle a little bit, a mountain of music from this creative is always appreciated.
The project opens with Bad Bunny’s most impressive run of tracks since the YHLQMDLG album. “Moscow Mule” is set to be a massive worldwide hit, and the bright, atmospheric and overwhelmingly summery sound has a certain kind of indescribable X-factor for just how much it makes you picture the environment of the beachside summer fling El Conejo describes. The track begins in a contemplative state before a colossal reggaeton beat hits and he starts speeding up his flow – just one of the many examples of Bad Bunny’s melody lines being so crystalline that they work upon any backdrop. The experimentation and beat-switches get much more ambitious later on. “Después de la Playa” opens with future bass-adjacent glitchy synths flitting around in the back before a completely unexpected and electrifying switch to a breakneck tempo, mariachi horns and every instrument operating at their full capacity for chaos as Bad Bunny lyrically leads us into a mambo club. “Me Porto Bonito” recruits a local hero in Chencho Corleone, who periodically brings the track into a more traditional dembow space during his verses. The two deliver one of the most memorable choruses, and it’s even better when you understand how charming and flirty it is. “Un Ratito” houses another great vocal performance as Bad Bunny sounds believably crushed that a new love won’t last due to his lifestyle, but “Tití Me Preguntó” is a shining star of the early goings. Trust Bad Bunny to make the typical “name all the girls I have” rap a little wholesome, as he replies to his aunt asking about his love life with an “if only you knew.” The mixing is top-notch as the track veers halfway through from reggaeton to trap, the percussion hitting unbelievably hard the entire time.
The surprises keep coming with “Yo No Soy Celoso,” which drops into an acoustic guitar loop as Bad Bunny whistles the hook. “Ouch, mi corazon” is about as Bad Bunny of a lyric as you’re going to get, as he introduces the theme of the next couple tracks while criticizing his own feelings of jealousy about the girls flocking to someone else for once. Bad Bunny’s attitude of shrugging rejection off and platforming the opposite sex as equally confident and ready to take what they want has always been admirable in a genre that desperately needed it. “Tarot” sees him reuniting with Jhay Cortez for a track that’s better than their previous collab “Dakiti.” The off-kilter swirling rhythms of the instrumental behind them make the standard reggaeton beat into something entirely new, while lyrical comparisons of a club-hopping girl to timeless works of art make the belted chorus of “I hope I’m lucky” all the more endearing. “Neverita” continues the narrative of the song’s object of desire in the driver’s seat, as Bad Bunny watches from afar, promising late-night TikTok sessions and offering to apply sunscreen. The track comes with a breezy pop pulse that he hasn’t quite hit on before, using some of his softer low tones instead of that full-on Bad Bunny belt, and his more trap-oriented cuts have always hit hardest to this listener. “La Corriente” feels like the first track without a big surprise, but once again sees him platforming a local legend in Tony Dize, while “Efecto” and “Party” are reminiscent of the hazy, blissful romance of his Rosalia collaboration “La Noche De Anoche.” While the chopped-up chorus of “Party” gets a little annoying, “Efecto” is another fantastic moment as the sound continues to vary.
The album loses a bit of its experimental spark around the middle, but that doesn’t mean that the tracks aren’t still solid. “Aguacero” is one of the only tracks here that feels a little empty, lacking the energy of everything that surrounds it, but things immediately pick back up with “Enséñame a Bailar,” where Bad Bunny might be audibly having the most fun recording a blissful track about losing yourself to dance. “Ojitos Lindos” is blowing up as the album’s hidden gem, and hearing Bad Bunny duet with women is almost always a recipe for success. Bomba Estereo are an equally experimental Latin band, and they bring their psychedelic cumbia sound to the table as an echoing horn section in the background continues to evoke tangibly summery vibes. “Otro Atardecer” is another female duet with indie-pop band The Marías, and Bad Bunny sounds surprisingly incredible against the frontwoman’s breathy vocal. “Dos Mil 16” and “El Apagón” keep the party going, the former finding Bad Bunny longing for the simple days against an intentionally juxtaposed extravagant trap beat and the latter finding him performing an infectiously hectic rap track yelling about how fantastic his home territory is as the sirens wail.
As the end looms, “Un Coco” is another pretty standard reggaeton track that feels a little dark in the midst of all the fun Bad Bunny has been having, as he strategically positions himself under a tree in hopes that a coconut will end it all in the wake of a romantic disappointment. Continuing the wildly shifting tones are “Andrea,” the longest track here where Bad Bunny drops into a lowkey voice to tell a story condemning the rampant violence against women in his community, and the subsequent “Me Fui de Vacaciones,” where he drops the “ton” and goes full reggae for a track that should put a stupid grin on anyone’s face. Things close out with the brief tracks “Un Verano Sin Ti” and “Agosto” before inexplicably ending with 2019 smash hit “Callaita,” although it certainly fits the album’s overall vibe and is always a welcome sight.
To have a 23-song album with almost no skips is a truly impressive feat, especially in a genre which typically has the most traps of repetition to fall into. Alongside his always progressive lyricism and videos, Bad Bunny continues to prove himself as a worthy global superstar for a new era in culture and music.
Favourite Tracks: Después de la Playa, Tití Me Preguntó, Me Fui de Vacaciones, Neverita, Ojitos Lindos
Least Favourite Track: Un Verano Sin Ti