Six years after breaking out on SoundCloud, Bad Bunny played a set of classic hits in front of a sold-out concert Tuesday at Nationals Park, paying homage to the birth of his career.
The Grammy-winning, Puerto Rican artist delivered on his classic sound of reguetón – a genre from Puerto Rico that blends Latin rhythms and hip-hop or rap – as he kicked off his two-hour performance with the intoxicating beat of his summer hit song “Moscow Mule.” The artist also known as Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio stayed true to himself while mixing his early, formative hits like “Vuelve” with his newest album, “Un Verano Sin Ti” against the backdrop of a brightly lit beach, reminiscent of the Puerto Rican influence that shaped his career as a reguetòn artist.
The D.C. stop of his World’s Hottest Tour featured DJ Deorro, a Los Angeles native who became a SoundCloud sensation last year, as an opener. Deorro combined Spanish rock hits from the early 2000s with reguetón music to warm up the crowd before Bad Bunny made his entrance.
A raised platform formed a walkway that sliced through the floor of the arena before meeting the foot of the stage, breaking up the different sections of the “playa” or beach section that filled the baseball field. Later in the show, palm trees, beach towels and coolers decorated the scene, simulating a typical beach afternoon in Puerto Rico.
Bad Bunny began the first leg of his show with eight songs from his new album, an emotional, intimate love letter to Puerto Rico with the Caribbean poetry that enshrines reguetón, including summer sensations “Efecto,” “Tarot,” “Me Porto Bonito” and “La Corriente.” The songs infuse modern reguetón beats with traditional reguetón from 2005 to honor the influence of his reguetón forefathers Chencho Corleone and Tony Dize.
Bad Bunny then launched into a medley of songs off his previous album “El Último Tour del Mundo” with “Ni Bien ni mal,” “200 MPH,” “La Romana” and “Estamos Bien” to flaunt his Spanish-rock reguetón sound.
The crowd around the stadium stood up and sang the lyrics at the top of their lungs, with the bleachers shaking along.
Bad Bunny’s Puerto Rican dancers’ significant use of social media stands out as part of his celebration of Puerto Rican culture. Household names like Melanie Avilés, Thony González, Karina Ortiz and Emilio Villalobos provide behind-the-scenes coverage for fans to consume.
Bad Bunny sang a hit of his from this year, “dos mil dieciseis,” which starts with the same introduction and beat Bad Bunny had been known for in his early years and led to a medley of his hit songs dating back to 2016. Reminding me of the first time I heard him back in Puerto Rico during my middle school and early high school years, a sense of homesickness overpowered me.
Bad Bunny cast a sense of nostalgia and homesickness across the audience as his songs brought a reminder of my younger years on the island where I would spend afternoons dancing and laughing with my childhood friends.
As the fast-paced “El Coco” began playing, Bad Bunny approached a small plastic island at the corner of the stage with the plastic palm tree placed center stage. He hooked himself with a rope to the giant tree that lifted him into the air to the upper levels of the crowd. There he performed the fan-favorite experimental ballad “La Cancion,” a track in his experimental collab album “Oasis” with Colombian reguetón artist J Balvin that became a fan favorite for its intimate nature.
As the concert began to come to an end, Bad Bunny took a moment to talk about regular weekly power outages that have forced the locals to find new ways to live without electricity due to the recent privatization of the electric company and lack of infrastructure for the island’s electricity grid. The serious moment shifted in a more energetic manner as he jumped into “El Apagón,” a song that spotlights the mass displacement of young Puerto Ricans to the U.S. due to the increased cost of living and the loss of public land in Puerto Rico as foreigners look to invest on the island.
“You might not know, right now in Puerto Rico, there’s hundreds of thousands of families without electricity,” Bad Bunny said to the crowd. “Hospitals without power, without electric service – it’s affecting the lives of many in Puerto Rico.”
The concert ended with this hit song, “Después de la Playa,” an urban merengue track, with the dancers swinging their hips into their merengue choreography, a type of ballroom dance from the Dominican Republic, as the fireworks decorated the sky behind the stage.
“Quiere quedarse en PR, no irse pa’ ningún estado, pero todo se ha complicado,” I sing the words reflecting every Puerto Rican in the stadium.
In English – she wants to stay in Puerto Rico, not leave for any state, but everything has become more complicated.
This article appeared in the August 29, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.