Bad Bunny is the most-streamed artist on the planet, a status further underscored by the fact that his new album, Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana, is certain to debut at Number One on the Billboard 200 album chart. He’s a fashion icon, a WWE mainstay, a gods-gift to both tabloid editors and internet rubberneckers. His last album, 2022’s Un Verano Sin Ti, was among his most eclectic to date, incorporating indie luminaries from the world of Latin pop to both expand the boundaries of reggaeton and (possibly) suggest his impatience with the genre’s constrictions. Mega-artist restlessness is a common affliction among world-straddling musical titans, and Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana is the sound of an artist processing it — and fighting it, and transcending it, and blowing it off — in his own unique terms. As always, Benito goes his own way.
Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana might be the first of Bad Bunny’s albums since 2020’s landmark YHLQMDLG where it feels like the eternally ambitious Puerto Rican artist is pointedly contending with his fame while also playing with his self-mythology. Yet, where that album was omnidirectionally ecstatic, this one is more darkly reflective. Consider, for instance, the shade-y bars he offers on the opener, “NADIE SABE,” in which he tells us how tired he is of gossip and assumptions people have now that he’s a mega-celeb: “La gente tiene que dejar de ser tan estúpida y pensar/Que conocen la vida de los famoso/Wow, qué mucho podcast, qué mucho babosos” (“People need to stop being stupid and thinking/They know the lives of famous people/Wow, too many podcasts, too many dummies”). He knows he’s at the pinnacle of his career — “Ya no estoy en mi peak, ahora estoy en mi prime” (“I’m no longer at my peak, now I’m in my prime”), he raps on “NADIE SABE.”
But he consistently invokes the paranoia that comes with such success. Throughout the LP, he seems to ask: Who is with him and who is against him? Who truly knows him and who pretends to? Who’s a real fan versus a fake fan? (“Tú no ere’ mi fan real, por eso te tiré el celular,” he raps on “NADIE SABE,” referencing the infamous phone-throwing incident that overtook headlines this year.) This comes at a cost, making the album a bit thematically repetitive and lacking some of the political depth of past projects. But it is an unflinching look into the celebrity psyche, and Bad Bunny keeps it ruthlessly honest. On “THUNDER Y LIGHTNING,” he even lashes out at J Balvin, an artist he collaborated with to help build reggaeton’s global reach.
What keeps the album engaging, and well-worth its 80-plus-minute run time, is the music itself, always his strength and his safety zone. Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana combats all the celebrity whatever swirling around him (both real and imagined) with music that marries a rich orchestral scope to beats that see him look back at the Latin-trap roots from early in his career. All the while, these songs further his natural ability to bend genres and pop histories to his will. The sonic vibe is moody and tense at times. He piles up clever, interesting samples at every turn: Hints of Madonna’s “Vogue” appear on the trap track “VOU 787″; he flips a bit of the Charles Aznavour classic “Hier Encore” on “MONACO.” “LOS PITS” has echoes of Nineties hip-hop, and while there’s almost zero reggaeton on the album, a few homages make it in. A 1996 favorite by the reggaeton veteran Frankie Boy slides into “NO ME QUIERO CASAR,” which also features a Tego Calderon snippet. The reggaeton legend also pops up on “FINA.”
The sounds lighten up the mood, showing Bad Bunny’s ability to tap into the pop-culture zeitgeist across Latin America. There are references to Lionel Messi and Peruvian talk-show host Laura Bozzo and Puerto Rican heartthrob Jay Wheeler. (Young Miko has a Dr. Simi bar on “FINA,” which is funny, but also of the time.) Toward the end of the album, Bad Bunny softens up for one of the most heartfelt lines on the LP: “Gracia, Dios, por poner en mi camino A Jan, a Noah y a Gabriela” (“Thank you, God, for putting on my path/Jan and Noah and Gabriela”). The lyrics reference his best friend and creative collaborator Janothony Oliveras, his manager Noah Assad, and his former girlfriend Gabriela Berlingeri.
But while he’s thankful for those three, Bad Bunny is mostly battling things solo on this album. Even the album art is a nod to the renaissance and durability of the cowboy figure. (The image also salutes the prominence of música Mexicana, which he has contributed to with his collabs with Grupo Frontera and Natanael Cano, and it’s a sign of his ability to lock into what’s popular.) The cover shows a figure in blue, hanging on to a bucking bronco. Even if he’s a lone rider in a hard world, the message is clear: He’s still on top.