February 07, 2023
Un Grammy sin Ti- A Bittersweet win for Bad Bunny speaks of the Latino Glass Ceiling
Over the past two days, we’ve seen a series of mixed reactions to Bad Bunny’s Grammy win of Best Musica Urbana Album of the Year at the 2023 Grammy Awards for Un Verano sin Ti. There’s no doubt about Bad Bunny’s success in breaking the glass ceiling as the opening artist for the Grammy Awards Ceremony and celebrating Puerto Rican and Dominican culture on the stage. This is all to say that Benito did his part. He again used his platform from promoting influential leaders in Puerto Rican history to centering traditional Bomba dancing on national television.
But this isn’t enough, and the Latino audience should not settle for Best Musica Urbana Album of the Year. Yes, we’re proud. But here is the catch, we’re being fogged by the small wins. There has never been a Latino artist win Album of the Year, and we ought to look closely at why.
Why did Bad Bunny lose the Album of the Year award?
Like The Atlantic writer Spencer Kornhaber said, “the Grammys are a popularity contest.” To a large extent, to win a Grammy means the artist has penetrated and influenced American pop and mainstream culture. To award Bad Bunny Album of the Year, the institution would have recognized that a Latino artist had influenced American pop and mainstream culture. It’s undeniable that his music has been highly influencial and has made a presence around the world. There is no question about Bad Bunny’s influence and success.
Losing Album of the Year echoes across the Latino community as not being good enough. What does Bad Bunny have to do to win Album of the Year? What does it take? If anyone is even close to winning this award is Bad Bunny.
As if “Spotify’s most-streamed artist of the year, for the third straight year in 2022” wasn’t enough, according to Spotify Wrapped 2022.
As if 18.5 billion streams weren’t enough (more streams than every person living on this planet), according to Music Business Worldwide.
And herein the irony:
As if Un Verano Sin Ti, the most-streamed album worldwide in 2022, above Harry Styles’ album Harry’s House, wasn’t reason enough to award Bad Bunny Album of the Year.
These are not questions to discredit Harry Styles, the official winner of the Album of the Year, who is by no means the scapegoat of this outcome, but rather to The Grammy Awards themselves and their view of culture and music in our country as hegemonic and wholly centered around Americanism in around the world is the culprit of this outcome.
The Grammy Awards are a well-oiled machine designed to enforce and reinforce the tone-deaf attitudes and perceptions of white America’s view on Latinos, the “other,” the foreigner: the speakers of “non-English,” marginalize even the most popular kid in town, Bad Bunny. Ranging at over 66 million monthly listeners on Spotify, almost two million more than Harry Styles, Un Verano Sin Ti is negated as the Album of the Year.
The Grammy Awards failed to recognize how Bad Bunny has debunked the rules to success as a Latino artist, created his own rules to fame, and even reshaped pop culture for Americans nationwide. From his androgynous and gender play looks to his simple fashion sense of wearing Crocs, fanny packs, and sweats, he has transformed American pop culture and transcended beyond race. His music has given young Americans of all races and genders a new form of expression. His phenomenon has made it acceptable for men to paint their nails, redefine their masculinity, and empower women to be more independent. His music has made society confront our ideas of gender and social norms while making America more bilingual through his unapologetic use of Spanish as an art form of literary inclusion, which Americans desperately need.
Just 24 hours after the Grammy Awards, for the first time, CBS included actual Spanish-language closed captioning for the replay of his opening performance at the 2023 Grammy Awards. Such a trivial act of inclusion, and yet the network had never done this before in its history covering the Grammy Awards. Bad Bunny is making changes wherever he goes. It’s a matter of recognizing if these changes are worthy of the Recording Academy members, the righteous voters of Sunday’s winners.
It is an understatement to say that Latinos are often left out of mainstream recognition, lacking in leadership positions, and undervalued for their performance in the workplace. Good Morning America, a widely accepted American TV show, is where we quickly notice the lack of coverage on Bad Bunny. After seeing the 4:42 seconds of Good Morning America recapping the 2023 Grammy Awards, on Monday morning we noticed he was mentioned only once and for only five seconds during the entire recap.
The Latino music genre has been unable to break the glass ceiling in these prestigious awards even though artists such as Bad Bunny have broken into American culture more than these awards can recognize. Due to having done the impossible, Latinos once again come to this conclusion, “are we good enough?” Despite the answer being obviously yes, we continue to experience a lack of recognition for our work, which comes at the hefty price of systemic inequity.
For Bad Bunny to have won The Album of the Year would have meant that mainstream media recognized a brown man’s influence on greater American culture and how he, a young Puerto Rican man, has even shifted a nation’s pop culture and society across generations. The Recording Academy is not ready for Bad Bunny.
It may not have been the Grammy Awards that validated Benito’s success at the 2023 Grammy Awards. But the world hummed his beats, and billions of people danced to his rhythms. To all the rest of us Benito is enough and we ought to demand it as such.