Since 2018, Bad Bunny, born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, has been recognized as one of the most important and successful figures in modern music, both Latin and mainstream. Not only for his numerous record-breaking accolades (like getting his third No. 1 album on Billboard 200 earlier this year) but also for what he has contributed to the Latin music genres of trap, reggaeton, and hip hop, as well as the Latinx community overall. This year, he was recognized by Forbes’ annual “30 Under 30” list for the second time since 2019, which recognizes 30 people under the age of 30 who have made a notable impact on their respective industries. Given his accomplishments this year, there’s no question that the 29-year-old artist would be on the list again. But this year, Forbes named him the “King of Pop,” a title that has been exclusively used for Michael Jackson for decades, prompting backlash from fans and music lovers all over the world, according to Newsweek.
“If there is a constant in Bad Bunny, who is 29 years old, it is that everything he creates becomes a worldwide hit,” Forbes wrote in the profile. “In April, Bad Bunny made history as the first Latin artist to headline the Coachella music festival. And he’s done it all while singing solely in Spanish.”
It’s easy to document the Puerto Rican superstar’s success through the years, from being one of most streamed artists on Spotify to taking home numerous music awards. While it’s hard to say if it’s enough to compare him to the original “King of Pop,” what is clear is that he is, by all definitions, not a pop artist. His popularity in the mainstream space outside of Latin music is commendable but in years past, he has been more accurately recognized as the “king of streaming,” the “king of reggaeton,” the “king of Latin trap,” and the “king of Latin music.” As a result, people flooded the comments of Forbes’s recent Instagram posts disagreeing the decision and leaving hateful messages, both defending Jackson and pointing out that Bad Bunny doesn’t sing pop. At the same time, there has been a xenophobic tone by many users who have openly criticized him for singing exclusively in Spanish and thus not deserving the title. In any case, no backlash can take away from his success as an artist or global superstar, no matter what genre he makes music in.
“I don’t know if I’ve fulfilled that 100 percent. I always end up working but I have taken time out for myself and I’ve enjoyed it. I think I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot this year. I’ve been to new places, met new people. I’ve tried new things so yes, you could say that 2023 has been for me,” he told Forbes in response to a previous statement he made about 2023 being his year. “Music doesn’t have a language,” he added. “I let myself feel in the songs, beyond music is made up of many things, beyond what could seem simple. They see that this is me and I show my true self. I think that’s what anyone can feel, anywhere regardless of their language, regardless of their culture, regardless of their country. They can feel it through the music, and through what I do. I think that’s what connects me to people from around the world.”