Musicians like Bad Bunny, Karol G, J Balvin, Shakira, and many others are dominating Latin music today.
Some of them have been able to cross over to American audiences, the most powerful example being Bad Bunny, whose album “Un Verano Sin Ti” was nominated for a Grammy this year. No one can deny the influence these artists have on the music world. But on a closer look, their music is not as great as it seems.
It is no secret that the music industry is a capitalistic system that profits from the economic status of its listeners. A YouTube video from the channel “Art Support” has a video titled “Bad Bunny–How To Turn Yourself Into A Superstar.” The video description reads, “Are you stuck in a dead-end job with bigger dreams? Don’t worry, so was Bad Bunny, arguably the world’s biggest music star right now. In this video, he shares how you can turn yourself into a music superstar.”
In that same video, Bad Bunny says, “Remember me I’m like just a normal guy. I’m a guy that dreamt about this and did what he always wanted.”
Before achieving superstardom, Bad Bunny was an average guy who worked different jobs to make ends meet.
Now, how do you go from this to preaching, “I went to the Billboards / to the Grammy’s / and I didn’t see you, nah / I’m a legend, no one has climbed as far as I have.” The lyrics are from a song he released back in 2020, titled “Hoy Cobre.” What would a Reggaeton anthem be without bragging about how much power and money you have?
It is possible to become a star no matter where you come from. But the troubling thing is how these musicians frame success.
They are not honest with their fans when it comes to the reality of superstardom, much less to the people living in poverty like most Spanish-speaking countries.
Back in 2019, Colombian reggaeton star J Balvin caused controversy after releasing an Instagram post that read, “Life is perfect. We all have what we work for. Luck doesn’t exist. Poverty comes from the mind.” Many people disliked this statement, especially considering that over 13 million Colombians were living in poverty in 2018 near the time of this post, according to Chilean newspaper La Tercera. Although the number has dropped as of 2023, the problem of poverty and inequality still affects many countries throughout South America, such as Venezuela, Honduras, Bolivia, and Ecuador, to name a few.
People will say that artists like Bad Bunny are changing the game because he is speaking about problems like corruption and economic inequality.
It does not change the fact that he still preaches a message and writes music that fits into the idea of “I’ve got everything. Cars, a good life, a bunch of women around me. You can be just like me if you work hard and never give up on your dreams.” It fits in with what J Balvin wants his audience to believe: Poverty comes from the mind.
Capitalist agendas aside, Reggaeton is notorious for its machista portrayal of women.
It confounds me how musicians like Maluma are still in the business despite the extremely misogynistic lyrics of their songs.
In 2016, he released a song titled “Cuatro Babys”. The song was petitioned to be banned from all streaming services, but the petition has failed to remove the song from Spotify. In the song, Maluma sings, “I’m in love with 4 babys / They always give me what I want / They f–k when I tell them to / None of them give me a ‘but’.”
He has not improved much from then, as his recent songs like “Hawai” and “Madrid” tell the story of a man who is stuck in his sexist delusions.
Even Bad Bunny is not free of misogyny. His party anthem “Titi Me Pregunto” is about a man who brags about all the girls who want him, talking about them like they are clothing items he cannot decide to wear. And honestly, some of the lyrics in this song are atrocious.
“A lot of them want my baby gravy / They want to have my first-born / And take the credit.” My stomach is churning. These lyrics are only contributing to the misogyny prevalent in Hispanic culture. If Bad Bunny and Maluma claim to love and respect women, why do they put out songs that demean them as objects for sexual pleasure?
I am not saying that we should hate these musicians for their success. It is not a sin if you dance to these songs at a party. But we have to be aware of the contradictions, problems and false ideas being given to people who will never reach their levels of fame. Maybe it is time for a Reggaetonero superstar to speak about these flaws of the industry in their music.