Unlike some of his past top-secret projects, Bad Bunny began dropping clues that he was working on his record-smashing album Un Verano Sin Ti months before it came out. He left little dispatches from a remote island on his Instagram and hinted at a breezy beach theme he was playing with starting in January. But even though he’d tipped fans off just a bit, he managed to pack jaw-dropping surprises onto the album when it came out in May, loading it with bright, adventurous sounds and unexpected collaborations with experimental producers, bands, and artists, Buscabulla, Bomba Estéreo, and The Marías among them.
Even more dazzling? The incredible response to the LP, which blasted up the charts, becoming the most streamed album in a single day on Spotify (a record Taylor Swift broke later) and the album that’s been at the number one spot longest on the Billboard 200. It also scored two Latin Grammy nominations, and became the first-ever all Spanish-language project to earn a Grammy nomination in the coveted Album of the Year category. The reaction has been awe-inspiring especially to the acts who Bad Bunny enlisted to help him pull off such a sonic feat. Many of them spoke to Rolling Stone about the stories behind the songs they were a part of, and what it meant to them to be part of an album that continues making history.
Li Saumet, Bomba Estéreo
I believe when you always make things with your heart, and really from the soul, you’ll get beautiful results. It’s a real song. Bad Bunny had the vision. He told Tainy about it and then he told me, and I understood clearly. It’s as if the lyrics just came to me. It was very magical. That’s how things come together when they come from a real place — how art is made because to me, this is art.
In fact, it was like the most easy collaboration of my life. It was very natural. I did it in like one take. My creative process now through the years has become a spiritual process because I’m super convinced that artists are spiritual channels and that they can bring a big message to the people and that’s very beautiful. That’s what I like the most about this song. It came from a real feeling. Bomba Estéreo has always made music that you can dance to, and the type of music that we make is almost on the same wavelength: to make the people happy. Here, we don’t have any rules. Bad Bunny is the biggest artist in the world and he does what he wants to do. He wanted to work with alternative artists because he likes them and that’s what he wanted to do, and that’s very respectable and incredible.
María Zardoya, The Marías
We were on tour, and we got a call that [Bad Bunny] wanted to collaborate with us on a song. I’ve always known Benito to be super selective and particular with who he chooses to collaborate with, so we were honored when he thought of us! It was serendipitous timing because we both had a day off at the same time. We then flew to Los Angeles to our home studio for a day, met with his producer and added our parts. The song had such a different direction than his other songs, so we were excited to experiment with what he had already written and created. We were like, “Indie reggaeton? Sign us up.”
I knew he had created a project that was truly iconic after the first listen. No other Latin artist can pull off so many different genres and sounds and still make it sound cohesive and his own. It also made me proud to be Puerto Rican. The whole album felt like a love letter to our people. He was making our little island and all of its eccentricities known to the entire world. And the political undertones in some of the songs shows that Benito truly cares about the island and its future. That, to me, is one of the most important parts about being an artist – reflecting and sharing with the masses injustices that need to change. And with someone at his caliber, real change can come from it.
My chemistry with Benito and the way we express ourselves through music, it’s very similar. I can make things with him without fear of it being thought of as weird. We’re seeing the evolution of him as an artist. We’re seeing him try new and different things. His growth in the way he writes, in how he picks the songs for an album. He’s helping people appreciate albums again. The way he focuses on all the details of an album so that people can listen to the whole thing, and understand it and appreciate it. I’m growing with him as well and learning things.
For a song like “Ojitos Lindo,” it wasn’t forced. It was the message and the vibe that Bad Bunny was feeling. LiWe were already connected mentally. The spirit of each person was there for the creation of the song and I was there uniting the parts. We can fuse things and bring sounds together, and I achieved that. I believe they’re both great artists. This song reminds me of being on the beach, and with the instrumental you’re transported to that place. Everything flowed so well.
Raquel Berrios, Buscabulla
It all happened very fast. MAG, who produced the track, pretty much hit me up on Instagram. We’d been friends for more than a year and he’d reached out a long time ago saying he was a fan of the band. He’s like, ‘Hey, I’m in the studio with Benito and he wants you to sing on this track.” I literally wanted to die. It was like 11 o’clock at night on Easter Sunday, which I also thought was funny — like, the Bunny on Easter. MAG sent me the track and I loved it immediately. I felt like it was so fresh for Bad Bunny, and it was different. I was like, “Yeah, tell me what you guys want,” and MAG goes, “Can we just call you?” I got a Facetime call and it was Benito on FaceTime. Benito was in Miami and we were in Puerto Rico in our house in our pajamas, and we spent a good half-hour call just getting to know each other and diving into what he wanted. We were like, “When do you need it by?” And he goes, “Uh, in two weeks.”
The message of the song was important to me, and I wanted to embody this sort of conceptual idea of women and independence. In Puerto Rico, we’re just judged harshly. These are issues in Puerto Rico, you see it in the news, of domestic violence. But what’s cool is that the new generation is speaking out about it and transforming the way we are viewing women, and the fact that Benito is being really vocal about it is extraordinary. Not a lot of people in his genre are doing it, and I respect the way he’s going about it… I wanted to send a message that no one should women what to do; we’re free to do whatever we want. I wanted to make a statement of our complexity and how we want to be understood — and not only understood, but loved and respected.
Luis Alfredo Del Valle, Buscabulla
When MAG hit us up, he told us that he got started on this track with us in mind. So when they shared it, the foundation was already built. Benito was already singing on it, but it sounded real familiar to us. It sounded like it was a world we’d feel comfortable in, and it was cool that they’d done it with us in mind, with our sound as a reference. Benito just said, “Take that and run with it. Extend it and make it your own.” And that’s what we did: We produced the last part of the song. It was an awesome collaboration and a really cool way to tie a bow around it.