Album Review: Quarantine Can’t Stop Bad Bunny On ‘LAS QUE NO IBAN A SALIR’

More and more, it seems like the length of time between projects has been diminishing rapidly. Ariana Grande released her blockbuster Sweetener and thank u, next albums within half a year of each other, Drake (Scorpion, Care Package, and Dark Lane Demo Tapes) released three projects in as many years, and Justin Bieber is already rumored to be following up this year’s Changes with another album by the summer. Back in February, right before COVID-19 really shook up the U.S., Bad Bunny released his second studio album, YHLQMDLG. The album, whose title is an acronym for a Spanish phrase that translates to “I Do Whatever I Want,” was a carefree Latin trap party record that became the highest-charting all-Spanish language album in the history of the Billboard 200. Now, just a little over two months later, Benito has unleashed Las Que No Iban a Salir, a compilation album of sorts that aims to keep the party alive despite the grim nature of international lockdowns.

At a brisk ten tracks and thirty minutes, Las Que No Iban a Salir features of a selection of tracks dedicated to partying, sex, and romance. The album’s title translates to “The Ones That Were Not Coming Out.” Some of the album’s tracks were rejects from X 100PRE, his debut album, and YHLQMDLG, while others were recorded while in lockdown; in essence, this new project is an album-mixtape-compilation hybrid, a perfect indicator of the blurred lines that color the streaming era. On this new project, Bad Bunny doubles down on his relatively progressive brand of reggaeton. The genre is one of the misogynistic ones out there, but Bad Bunny’s commitment to consent, leveled storytelling, and agency for his female characters elevate his music above the rest. Take “BAD CON NICKY JAM,” for example. On this track, Bad Bunny flips the script on the “winning the girl” narrative and changes the language to one that gives the woman power and agency. On the chorus, Bad Bunny sings “No la’ llame’ má’, que se fue conmigo/Yo la hice olvidar to’ lo que sufrió contigo”; the woman in this story ultimately has the final choice of who she wants to be with, she wasn’t stolen like an inanimate object. This track is also the most sonically adventurous on the album as it rapidly shifts tempos and melodies with no warning. Similarly, the Zion & Lennox collaboration “MÁS DE UNA CITA” transforms the trope of the perreo party girl into a woman who is in control of her sexuality and aware of her worth. The women in Bad Bunny’s songs are as textured as the men; he’s not a feminist icon, by any means, but he’s headed in the right direction with lyrics like these.

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The most interesting moments on Las Que No Iban a Salir are when Benito breaks out of typical Latin trap sounds and song structures and when the influence of life under quarantine sneaks into the picture. “SI ELLA SALE,” the project’s introductory track, is a bass-driven play on the “she belongs to the streets” notion in lockdown life. The streets are closed literally (and figuratively), but this woman, and Bad Bunny himself, are committed to keeping the party going. The lyrics almost read as Bad Bunny peeping on a girls’ night out, but they ultimately come off as awestruck praise. The project also shifts into balladry with “BYE ME FUI,” a significantly slower track on the project. Over a melancholic skeletal beat, Bad Bunny croons about a lover who didn’t appreciate him through metaphor drenched in the mythological and astrological. “CANCION CON YANDEL” leans into R&B as the two trade verses about how sex solves their problems; their vocal performances have notes of sadness that add some color to what is initially a run-of-the-mill track.

Of course, Bad Bunny mainly shines in his home genres of Latin trap (“BENDICIONES”) and reggaeton. Nonetheless, as fun as some of these songs are, the repetitive verses and redundant trap beats do get draining after a while. The album is short enough to keep the average listener engaged, but it’s clear that some of these tracks were throwaways. Various tracks on X 100PRE and YHLQMDLG cover the same topics with smarter lyrics and more interesting sonic choices. The important thing is, Las Que No Iban a Salir doesn’t try to be anything more than the title suggests. This is a collection of loose tracks that didn’t make official albums but still push the party forward.

Key Tracks: “SI ELLA SALE” | “BYE ME FUI” | “CANCIÓN CON YANDEL” | “BENDICIONES”

Score: 77

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