We Need to Criticize Bad Bunny’s ‘YHLQMDLG’ - DJBooth

We Need to Criticize Bad Bunny

“At its best, ‘YHLQMDLG’ is a nice try at embracing the diversity of what the urbano landscape has to offer. At its worst, the album feels like a playlist on shuffle.”
Author:
Publish date:
Bad Bunny, 2020

By now, you’re likely aware Latin trap phenomenon Bad Bunny released his sophomore album, titled YHLQMDLG (Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana), on February 29. The LP, his latest project after a joint album (Oasis) with J Balvin, is the long-awaited follow-up to Bunny’s 2018 Christmas Day solo debut, X 100PRE.

YHLQMDLG begins in a very Bunny-esque way. A sad Conejo wants to catch up with an ex-lover’s mother to see how his former partner is doing. Opener “Si Veo a Tu Mamá” features a Nintendo-ish sample of Brazilian hit “Garôta de Ipanema,” teasing an album full of treats for the Latinx community. Bunny even sings a catchy and woke chorus. With his natural flow, over some hi-hats and a fat bassline, our heads can’t help but nod from the jump. However, Bunny’s formula becomes a leitmotif quicker than it should, despite his best efforts to innovate and incorporate the whole urbano spectrum. For example, “Pero Ya No,” a generic trap song that sounds like someone made an approximation of a Bad Bunny song.

Thankfully, the reggaeton side of YHLQMDLG is more inspiring. Genre legend Daddy Yankee joins for “La Santa”; the hard-hitting anthem “Yo Perreo Sola” is an enthused declaration; and the forever changing “Safaera” throws it back to DJ Playero-esque marquesinas (Puerto Rican garage parties), with its constant beat diversity and nods to genre classics.

Still, the album, standing tall at 20 tracks, fails to keep the momentum. There’s the unfortunate timing of the Anuel AA collaboration “Esta Cabron Ser Yo,” which Bunny slots in at 16, “Una Vez,” which falls at 13, and the Sech collab single, “Ignorantes,” which manifests in the muddy middle of the album.

By the time we arrive at “25/8,” one of the best deep cuts on YHLQMDLG, the heavy bass and kick drums have already run dry. There’s only so much El Conejo can do to keep the album feeling fresh after 15 tracks. On “Hablamos Mañana,” track 19, Argentinian trap lord Duki features on the final verse and chorus, contributions which turn the trap hit into an emo/nu-metal collision with a heavy guitar and a drum kit exploding in the background. The record is a breath of fresh air on YHLQMDLG. Sadly, Bunny also buries “Hablamos Mañana” in the tracklisting. By the time we arrive, we’re already prepared to leave.

As you may have guessed, or you know because you already pressed play on the album, the problems with YHLQMDLG lie in structure, sequencing, and momentum. Does anyone actually recall “Puesto Pa’ Guerrial” or “A Tu Merced?” It’s not that these songs don’t work—both would serve as a great single selection—it’s that they feel like afterthoughts. We might be in the era of the playlist, but albums require cohesion, progression, and intention. 

More distressing than the album itself is the lack of critics who are willing to discuss the structural failings of YHLQMDLG. This failure says a lot about the current state of music media currently covering Latinx artists. Fans can hype up their favorite artists as much as they want, but music journalism doesn’t have that privilege, and it has come to my attention that many are praising YHLQMDLG as something it’s not: a pinnacle album.

Bad Bunny and his albums cannot exist without critique. Such status is not only harmful to the artist, but also the Latin trap community. We must hold the genre to the same quality standards as American hip-hop. Remember: we critique out of respect.

At its best, YHLQMDLG is just fine, a nice try at embracing the diversity of what the urbano landscape has to offer, but one that needed a little more aim. At its worst, the album feels like a playlist on shuffle that needed better curation.

Latinxs, myself included, appreciate the attention the album is receiving, but what we want is to be taken seriously. That includes submitting our music to heavy, respectful criticism—not only in the trap scene but in music as a whole. Latin trap falls underneath the hip-hop umbrella. How does YHLQMDLG compare to recent hip-hop records? If we take the Latin part away, what are we left with, then?

Not every Bad Bunny record is excellent by virtue of merely existing. We owe the sub-genre of Latin trap more than blind approval and overstated excitement. Besides, I’m sure Bad Bunny himself would appreciate some respectful critique, it’s a sign of love.

Related