Favorite Track: “BOOKER T” Least Favorite Track: “HACIENDO QUE ME AMAS”
Puerto Rico’s Bad Bunny has had a career-defining 2020. Whereas many artists' output seemed to dwindle throughout the course of this year, Bad Bunny has completely crafted a career out of quarantine. His latest LP, (and third of the year), became the first ever entirely Spanish language album to sit atop the US Billboard 200. And if that wasn’t enough of an accomplishment, the twenty-six year old also racked up more Spotify streams than any other artist this year. Yet, it still feels as if his biggest accomplishment thus far has been the way in which he has managed to push the thresholds of how much Latin music can hold American chart presence. Most likely, he would agree. The final track on his third studio album, EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO, is directly lifted from Trio Vegabajeno: a legendary Puerto Rican band. He isn’t wearing his heart and his childhood musical influences on his sleeve and accidentally bringing an entire country along for the ride; rather he is exposing an entire generation to musical culture shock. It seems like less of an accident and more of a mission.
In comparison to his previous two 2020 releases, EL ULTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO brings Bad Bunny’s largest artistic leap thus far. YHLQMDLG and the supplemental project of B-sides that followed it, LAS QUE NO IBAN A SALIR, both primarily function in the world of Latin trap, mixing American hip hop influences with Latin American lyrical troupes and cadences. Each of these projects are listenable, but they don’t seem to push the envelope nearly as much as EL ULTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO. On this new LP, Bunny’s Latin Trap roots stick around, but they’re joined by sporadic influences from all over the globe. Traditional styles of American rock music, (alternative, indie), show up on this project and are met with many dancehall/reggaetón esc. synthesizer break downs. Bunny also dips his feet into a fair amount of slow-burning R&B ballads on this project. He presents each of these stylistic trends briefly, but not one of them takes a leadership position as the album’s defining sound.
While nothing to scoff at, much of the time Bad Bunny’s experimentation on EL ULTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO doesn’t go far enough. He dabbles in a laundry list of different ideas here, but the problem is that they remain just that: ideas. He never fleshes any of these trial sounds out into full versions. Take for example “TE DESEO LO MEJOR” (I wish you the best). Here he takes clear notes from emo-trap names like Juice WRLD and Post Malone, but the song barely cracks two minutes in length, and lacks the structure to develop into anything memorable. He fails to fully flesh out individual ideas within singular tracks; in the grand scheme of the album, focus is an anomaly.
Throughout the course of this project’s forty-seven minute run time, it becomes harder and harder to know exactly what it wants to be. Rock cuts come after hip hop cuts, which come after dancehall cuts, which follow spot lit ballads. EL ULTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO has a problem with commitment. Some of it’s experiments pan out and some don’t, but as a complete and cohesive body of work, it lacks the solidified identity to remain memorable.
Notably, EL ULTIMO’s highlights feel developed. As if Bad Bunny has clear and thoroughly pondered ideas for each of these songs. Namely tracks like “MALDITA POBREZA” (DAMN POVERTY). Here, Bunny pushes the envelope in terms of his regular stylistic choices; experimenting with a more rock-oriented sound that he is clearly less comfortable with. Yet when the chips are down and he commits he performs his best, and this track is a prime example. He falters when he treads water in the shallow end instead of diving into his experiments headfirst.
“BOOKER T” (named after the WWE star), is a bombastic Latin trap banger. This is Bad Bunny at his absolute most comfortable, and it’s clear that he is well-rehearsed in this lane specifically. Regardless of it being more of the same, his quickfire flows and up-tempo delivery provide enough energy to fuel this track tenfold. “HACIENDO QUE ME AMAS” is an atmospheric indie/R&B track, filled with a backdrop of 60’s esc guitars, and psychedelic sound design. The track is over three minutes and thirty seconds long, and the vast majority of it’s runtime see’s Bunny crooning over this barren instrumental universe. To boot, it has virtually no progression. It feels like the same thirty second loop on repeat, failing to find a groove or build on itself in any way, shape, or form. For a lack of better words: It’s boring.
The mix of sounds that Bad Bunny presents on EL ULTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO is certainly a more interesting batch than what inhabits much of his previous work, but this collection’s ideas never truly feel fleshed out enough to develop into tried and complete songs. Much of this album is forgettable, not because it sounds poorly-made but because it doesn’t know what it wants to be. From track to track, it changes its mind and only half of the time is enjoyable. EL ULTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO has its high points, but the trek between each one can feel like a directionless drive to nowhere.