How Bad Bunny Has Redefined Global Music Superstardom

Innovators 2022: The “Un Verano Sin Ti” singer is breaking streaming records, selling out arenas and landing big movie roles — while proudly showcasing his Puerto Rican identity

Bad Bunny performs onstage during 2022 Made In America in Philadelphia in September 2022. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Roc Nation)

It’s hard to imagine any season sin Bad Bunny: The Puerto Rican singer, rapper and actor — born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio — is the hottest musician in the world right now. And as a genre-bending artist whose sounds span reggaeton, EDM and trap, he’s redefining the very definition of a global music superstar — one who proudly keeps his Latin identity front and center.

First, the record-breaking numbers: Back in May, Bad Bunny’s latest album, “Un Verano Sin Ti,” (A Summer Without You) debuted at the top of the Billboard charts, where it stayed for 10 weeks. By mid-July, he broke his own all-time Spotify record for most streams in a year with 10.3 billion, making him the most-streamed artist on the platform. At one point, nine out of the top 10 songs on Spotify’s Daily Top Songs Global chart were his, and he smashed Drake’s previously held record of most album streams in 24 hours by a cool six million. At just 28, he’s the first artist to hit No. 1 on Billboard 200 with an all-Spanish record. Which he’s now done twice.

He also sold out back-to-back arena and stadium tours: With $120 million in North America alone, this summer’s outing is the highest-grossing tour by a Latin artist in Billboard Boxscore history. In his spare time, he made his big-screen debut opposite Brad Pitt in the action flick “Bullet Train.” Next up, he’ll enter Sony’s universe of Marvel characters as the first-ever live-action Latino hero in “El Muerto,” due in January 2024. 

Bad Bunny: World's Hottest Tour - Los Angeles, CA
Bad Bunny on stage in California in September, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

As Bad Bunny has risen — and risen some more — since his 2018 debut, he has never strayed from his Boricua identity. In fact, he’s used his platform to shine a light the puertorriqueño musicians who have come before and grown alongside him. At his show in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, Bad Bunny brought out Ivy Queen (known colloquially as the Queen of Reggaeton), Jowell y Randy and Chencho, as well as Colombian band Bomba Estéreo, Panamanian artist Sech and Cardi B, with whom he had his breakout hit “I Like It.”

He’s proud of who he is and how heritage shapes his artistry. He’s also bucked longstanding industry expectations for Spanish-speaking artists to “cross over” into the English-speaking mainstream. In May, he told the New York Times that he made a conscious decision not to seek out collaborations with pop stars like Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus. And he told GQ that same month, “I never made a song thinking, ‘Man, this is for the world. This is to capture the gringo audience. Never. On the contrary, I make songs as if only Puerto Ricans were going to listen to them. I still think I’m there making music, and it’s for Puerto Ricans. I forget the entire world listens to me.” 

Now that he’s broken barriers and smashed records, for Benito (as he’s lovingly called by his fans), the only way forward is up. “Maybe, for some people, it’s different in that the higher they go, the less pressure they feel, because maybe they’re confident that everything they do will be a success,” he said. “But I’m the opposite — the more I acquire an audience, the more I go up, the more pressure I feel to keep going.”

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Correction: A previous version of this article misstated “El Muerto” as a part of the MCU.