Five years later, the 29-year-old entertainer himself drew tens of thousands of spectators to the main stage of the annual event held in the California desert, where he became the first Spanish-language artist to headline the bill.
Their two-hour performance sent a clear message: the lineage of Latin music in the Americas is deep and rich and has a powerful impact on today’s most popular and profitable music. It is a message that the powerful in the industry are beginning to accept and process.
“I don’t think the narrative of the United States as a white, English-speaking nation is going to change completely in the short term,” said Vanessa Díaz, a professor of the course “Bad Bunny and the Resistance in Puerto Rico” at Loyola Marymount University. But “I think we see a reckoning with people’s demand,” she added.
Proof of this is the warm reception given at Coachella, for example, to “Un Verano Sin Ti”, Bad Bunny’s latest successful album, the first work recorded entirely in Spanish to win a Grammy nomination for the coveted Album of the Year award.
Bad Bunny also included parts of his earlier work, interspersing his songs with documentary-style footage that traces the heritage of Latin music, and specifically the Caribbean rhythms, that have led him to global stardom.
Bad Bunny, the son of a trucker and a teacher, grew up in Vega Baja, a small town near San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island that is part of the United States.
He honed his vocal skills in the church boys’ choir, before becoming a tween who loved to spend hours creating beats on his computer, and also began to dabble musically in everything from bachata to the Bee Gees.
He was working in a supermarket packing groceries when he received a call from a label about his viral plays on the SoundCloud platform.
Thus began his rapid path to the top of world music: the highest-grossing tour and most-streamed artist, all while remaining firmly rooted in his own heritage.
He proudly celebrates Puerto Rico and its traditions through his music and public appearances, while in tune with contemporary social evolutions, including the fluidity of gender perception, something that particularly appeals to young people.
“His art stems from his experience of being born in a colony and growing up under colonialism and the struggles in Puerto Rico,” said Díaz, noting that his authenticity is part of his appeal to the masses.
“Everyone understands that intimate connection with the homeland. That resonates deeply worldwide,” Díaz explained.