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Behind Bad Bunny's History-Making 'YHLQMDLG': 'We Didn't Expect This Big of an Acceptance'

Bad Bunny
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Spotify

Bad Bunny attends the 2020 Spotify Awards at the Auditorio Nacional on March 5, 2020 in Mexico City, Mexico.

His manager Noah Assad says the album's success has been "unexpected," while streaming platforms report record-breaking plays.

With YHLQMDLG, Bad Bunny wrote and recorded a recording-breaking and history-making album in a matter of six months. From perreo anthems to trap and old-school reggaetón, his sophomore 20-track set just became the first all-Spanish-language album to reach No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart.

YHLQMDLG earned 179,000 album units in the U.S. in its debut week, ending March 14, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, scoring the highest charting all-Spanish album ever. With 201.4 million on-demand streams generated by songs on YHLQMDLG, the album also landed the biggest streaming week ever for a Latin album. YHLQMDLG notched 11 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart ending March 14.

“It all started six months ago when Bad Bunny told us he wanted to make an album,” Noah Assad, Bad Bunny’s manager, tells Billboard. “He asked for a pack of beats and I have producers around the world who sent me their music. [Bad Bunny] doesn’t care if it’s coming from the biggest producer in the game or the smallest producer. He just then goes through the beats one by one.”

More than 14 producers worked on this album, according to Assad who is also CEO and co-founder of Rimas Entertainment, Bunny’s label. And the last song recorded, “P FKN R,” was delivered just 36 hours before YHLQMDLG was released on Feb. 29.

“We always try to figure out a way to make his dreams come true. Although it’s not always easy,” says Assad.

On its first day, YHLQMDLG -- an acronym that stands for "Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana," which translates to "I Do Whatever I Want" -- recorded 61,296 streams on Spotify, according to official numbers provided by the streaming platform.

On Amazon, the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter’s album broke global records for more first week streams and on-demand voice requests with voice service Alexa than any other Latin album debut to date, Amazon Music confirmed. One of the most requested lyrics from the album on Amazon Music globally is “Alexa, play the song that goes ‘yo perreo sola’” (the title and hook to one of the album's tracks.)

“Bad Bunny is a true innovator, influencing fans and artists alike based on his incredibly unique style, which has resonated with Amazon Music listeners globally and broken records,” says Rocio Guerrero, global head of Latin for Amazon Music. “We are thrilled to have featured him as the first Latin artist on our out of home billboard in Tokyo, further signifying his global reach.”

Bunny, real name Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, also became the most streamed Latin artist on Pandora. Two days after his album dropped he went from being No. 3 to No. 1 with top markets including Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“Pandora is really big in Puerto Rico and his album had 1.5 million spins in the last seven days just in the city of San Juan,” Marcos Juarez, head of Latin music programming/manager at Pandora, tells Billboard. “For us, it’s been a cultural moment and I can’t recall another album release that had this much excitement or fervor. What’s also impressive is that people seem to like every song on the album, instead of just focusing on one track or the most current single.”

On Deezer, Bad Bunny became the No. 1 streamed artist worldwide, in any language, and maintains the position a week after the album’s release. The only other Latin artist to reach and remain in the first place position worldwide was J Balvin in 2018 and 2019.

That also goes for Apple Music. Bad Bunny has more than 3 billion streams overall to date and is the first Latin artist to hit that benchmark. Contributing to that, YHLQMDLG reached 85 million streams in the U.S. alone through March 5.

“It’s worth noting that the album hit No. 1 in 28 markets on our overall top albums chart,” says Jennifer D’Cunha, global head of Latin music at Apple Music. “He connects with so many people regardless of language or ethnic backgrounds. It’s inspiring for other Latin artists who will see that artists singing in Spanish can achieve these major milestones whether on Apple Music or on the Billboard charts.”

The album’s early feats were “unexpected,” says his manager. “We didn’t expect this big of an acceptance right off the back. We knew it would be huge but not record-breaking. I would get text messages from [streaming] platforms like every 24-48 hours telling me that we had just broken a record. It was overwhelming.”

The well-rounded album starts out with a chill vibe set by “Si Veo a Tu Mamá,” an almost bossa nova type track, and then quickly transports you to the streets with perreo and feminist anthem “Yo Perreo Sola” featuring Nesi and the Jowell & Randy and Ñengo Flow-assisted “Safaera,” a traditional DJ mix track from the streets of Puerto Rico. “It’s cool to see that old-school music like ‘Safaera,’ that never got exported outside the island, is now becoming global thanks to this album," adds Assad. "The whole album is made with love for Puerto Rico."

Bad Bunny’s album success translates to a more global acceptance of Spanish-language music and proves that “Latinos can be whoever they want to be. No need to adjust,” Juarez says. “He’s just doing whatever the hell he wants and everyone is fascinated. Overall this is great for Latin music. And, he’s also using his platform to speak about issues of social justice and equality. You really can’t ask for a better spokesperson at this moment for Latin music and culture.”

With music videos still rolling out on YouTube, his triumphant appearances on late night shows and social media dance challenges taking off, the marketing strategy isn’t as complicated as anyone else would think, says Assad. “If I’m super honest with you, we take it a day at a time. We don’t do this rocket science plan. None of that corporate stuff that most record labels try to do. We look for the opportunities but sometimes they come the week of or just hours before. Everything we think is the most organic way possible and it’s always about when the moment is right.”

YHLQMDLG, which features other reggaeton vets like Yaviah, Daddy Yankee, trap superstar Anuel AA and up-and-comer Sech, is an album that “came from the heart,” says Assad. “We enjoyed the process so much that we even forgot we were working. We didn’t think of goals, we just went and gave it our all.... It’s Bad Bunny’s boat and we just navigate.”

Bad Bunny is a 14-time finalist at the 2020 Billboard Latin Music Awards leading the tally with fellow superstar Ozuna.

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