In 'Don't be afraid to be right', different show business figures talk about success, disobedience and survival. Bad Bunny was one of them. Here we bring you Benito's secrets.
All that glitters is never gold: by now we should know that. Behind our most successful and emblematic artists -covered in hairspray, spotlights, eccentric jewelry, photos on boats and glitter- there are also dark clouds, anxieties, panic, insecurities, the feeling of being constantly judged. An aura of failure and ridicule constantly hovering over their heads.
When all this comes together with a social and political vocation -that of those musicians committed to the world they live in and its injustices- the discomfort can become great. Because they can get muddy and lose revenue, especially in a world driven by neoliberalism and with traces of authoritarianism that, by dint of money, manages to silence dissident speeches.
The photos with luxury and laughter are just photos. The video clips in which the party is not enough are the same: partial images of a schizophrenic life, a roller coaster. This is the case of Bad Bunny, who defines his career as "a fight against many things: whether it's the system, the government, society or the music industry": "For me, the most fun of all this is to do something that they say you can't do". But you know that after the fun comes the anguish. The vertigo.
We saw his artistic might, more than ever, in this rare year, when he released 'YHGQMDLG', which topped all the charts and got those confined to the living rooms and showers of pandemic-ravaged homes dancing. We will never thank him enough for the joy he breathed into us on the worst days. Being by far the sexiest album of the year, he also managed to break the patterns associated with the genre: he demanded that women should dance alone, fought against harassment, talked naturally about bisexuality and even went so far as to cross-dress in one of his music videos.
The beginning of the obsession
Soon after, he released 'Las que no iban a salir', which contained demos discarded from his previous album and songs produced during his forties -with collaborations with Nicky Jam and his girlfriend Gabriela Berlingeri-. He began to become obsessed with not being pigeonholed and that led him to produce at a delirious pace. Finally, he released 'El último tour del mundo', much more melodic and smooth, which did not seduce his audience with such intensity, who needed to dance as if they were at the discotheque.
All those changes had been affecting him psychologically, and even more so considering that Benito went from working as a delivery boy in a supermarket to winning a Grammy, to performing on the main stage at Coachella, to collaborating with J Balvin, Drake and a long etcetera of genre kings. He had even helped overthrow the governor of Puerto Rico, taking to the streets of his country with Ricky Martin and Residente, from Calle 13. He had even performed at the Super Bowl with Shakira and JLo, sneaking into that exclusive place that had been reserved for Anglo-Saxon artists.
The decline, as he tells in the book, began a week before George Floyd was assassinated -with the consequent worldwide Black Lives Matter movement-. He was beginning to feel really bad. "When I'm reaching my limit I disconnect so I don't break down, so I don't explode, so I don't fall into a depression or go crazy. I gave up social media, the phone, I left." Although he learned what had happened, he couldn't react. "I don't even know how to explain. At that moment I felt so much anguish, so much anger, so much fear, so much helplessness. It's a very strange sensation that has happened to me only a few times in my life".
He kept silent, simply, but the audience did not forgive him. Accustomed as they were to Benito's involvement in social and political issues related to global inequalities, they longed for his intervention, his complaint, his punch on the table, his condemnation of Floyd's murder. His followers began to attack him and the press accused him of hypocrisy "for having built his fame on positions of awareness and inclusion and disappearing at such an important moment."
"I had a lot to say, but, at the same time, I didn't feel right saying it. There was so much emotion and so much anger, there was going to be personal stuff mixed in... It was a loud noise. I wanted to help fix the problem, but I felt so, so small. I felt so weak. If you mix that with personal problems and my state of mind... People don't know what you're going through. They forget that you're a human being," he recounts. "I hid. I didn't want to come out, I was afraid of the outside, of people, of the news, I was afraid of the world."
He believes that the pressure exerted on him was "unfair": "I feel that this makes many artists and public figures express themselves only to please people, to look good in the public eye and keep their fans quiet. They put a little black square and settle the debt. I find that wrong. If you don't feel ready to talk about a subject, don't do it because it hurts you. Do it when you feel good about yourself. At that moment, I couldn't even come up with a song".
Composer of the Year
When he was named Songwriter of the Year by the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers, the reviews kept coming, relentless. So he decided to release a track in response, Songwriter of the Year, which "took the opportunity to put his finger on the wound and rap furiously about racism, police violence, political injustice, social division, gender issues, femicide, the migrant crisis and the pandemic," the book explains.
He adds: "It was a rage that I had been holding in and had not been able to get out. And add to that the criticisms of people, without knowing, without reading the story. I feel that this song was very necessary for me to get it off my chest".
It would be easier for him, like many others, to live oblivious to the pain of the world. He is an artist, yes, but also an activist. "I have a huge audience who likes to dance, who likes to f*ck, who likes to go to the disco, but there are also many who are interested in the progress of society, who are interested in contributing, who are interested in growing".
The same thing happened to him with his desire to show a new masculinity. "I think a lot of men are like me, but they want to rise up when they are not really like that. Those men are afraid of something," he points out. He also strives for his lyrics to be "as neutral as possible, that they can be dedicated to a woman or a man."
He says that fame has made his miss out on many things and that this has hurt him deeply: "It seemed easy, but it wasn't. It was so intense that it made the time go by. It was so intense that it made the time go by very fast and three years turned into a week. I missed this, I missed that... Where is this person? Wait, where is this friend of mine? What, what's he like? My brother is eighteen now? What?" he stammers.
The crash with the wall was strong: "I got depressed. I felt I hadn't been able to enjoy everything I had achieved because it was so fast that I didn't even have time to process it. I was on autopilot, I did what I had to do because I had to do it. I was in character, and I just exploded". Luckily, his family and friends were there for him.