Unhealthy Bunny didn’t must strap himself to a pretend palm tree and fly simply over the heads of his viewers to make anybody really feel near him Friday evening.
To be clear, that’s simply what the Puerto Rican singer and rapper did close to the tip of his sold-out live performance at SoFi Stadium — a wonderful little bit of stagecraft in a street present, not inaccurately billed because the World’s Hottest Tour, that additionally featured fireworks, fog cannons and a pair of large, drone-propelled inflatable dolphins.
But Unhealthy Bunny’s particular sauce as a pop famous person is the intimacy of the bond he shares together with his followers, a lot of whom name the 28-year-old by his actual first identify, Benito. By his quirky attraction, his expansive concepts about gender and sexuality, his dedication to the wants of his homeland — and, in fact, by his music, which feels deeply private and attuned to historical past on the identical time — Unhealthy Bunny has cultivated a global following whose intense devotion has a sort of tight-knit familial vibe. Individuals know him (or consider they do); extra essential, they consider he is aware of them, which is why SoFi erupted when he shouted out among the many international locations — Mexico, El Salvador, Cuba — to which members of the group might proudly hint their roots.
What’s all of the extra outstanding about this sense of mutual belonging is that it’s solely elevated together with Unhealthy Bunny’s fame since he scored his first chart hit in 2016. Friday’s present was the primary of two on the cavernous SoFi to wrap the U.S. leg of his tour earlier than he heads to Latin America for an additional couple of dozen stadium dates behind his newest blockbuster studio album, “Un Verano Sin Ti,” the largest LP of 2022 by far and the explanation Unhealthy Bunny is probably the most nominated act at subsequent month’s Latin Grammy Awards. (“Un Verano Sin Ti” — which pulls from reggaeton, bachata, hip-hop, dembow, synth-pop, mambo and reggae — is broadly anticipated to select up a nod for album of the yr at 2023’s non-Latin Grammys, through which case it might change into the primary Spanish-language mission to be nominated in that class.)
This week the L.A. Metropolis Council even designated Oct. 1 as Unhealthy Bunny Day, with Councilman Kevin de León saying that the artist’s “cultural affect could have an amazing and constructive affect on future generations and can redefine Latino tradition in Los Angeles for years to return.”
This stage of fanfare could make a man go all Bono. Earlier than the flying and the pyro, although, Unhealthy Bunny started Friday’s 2½-hour efficiency chilling in a seashore chair subsequent to a primary red-and-white cooler on a set designed to appear to be a seashore. All evening he carried himself casually however with sufficient swag to point out he relishes the privilege of his followers’ adulation; his tender baritone vocals — which he delivered right into a microphone personalized to resemble the sad-heart determine on the quilt of “Un Verano Sin Ti” (whose title interprets to “A Summer season With out You”) — had a conversational high quality, as if he had been buying and selling confidences with tens of hundreds of his closest mates.
At one level he sat down onstage with 20 or so dancers — women and men of various racial backgrounds and physique sorts — and handed round a bottle of wine as he sang “Yo No Soy Celoso,” a winsome acoustic ballad about romantic jealousy. Moments later, Unhealthy Bunny was again up, bouncing round to rapid-fire snippets of his harder-edged Latin-trap oldies. In each modes his frivolously held charisma made the stadium really feel one way or the other smallish even because the Unhealthy Bunny bracelets his workforce had handed out twinkled all the best way up towards the roof.
To what ends does Unhealthy Bunny use this particular closeness? He’s difficult standard notions of masculinity, as in a beautiful rendition of “Ojitos Lindos,” about somebody rediscovering his female facet, for which he was joined by the tune’s featured visitor, Liliana Saumet of Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo, who wore a pink overcoat emblazoned with a material vagina.
He’s laying out a transparent musical lineage — particularly helpful in an period when digital streaming has made it simpler than ever to take an ahistorical view of pop. (Consider “Un Verano Sin Ti” alongside Rosalía’s “Motomami” and Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” as key artifacts in a growing push amongst A-list stars to point out their reliance on the work of trailblazers.) At SoFi, Unhealthy Bunny introduced out a number of essential figures from reggaeton’s previous: Chencho Corleone of Plan B, Jowell y Randy and Ivy Queen, the final of whom he gave the stage so she might do a short efficiency of her personal.
He’s additionally — and possibly right here’s a contact of Bono in spite of everything — advocating for political change. For his next-to-last tune, Unhealthy Bunny carried out the throbbing and rave-y “El Apagón” (or “The Blackout”), which he wrote after a personal firm took management of Puerto Rico’s susceptible energy grid final yr — and which felt all too related Friday given the island’s current energy failures within the wake of Hurricane Fiona. The tune is a livid critique of colonialism and its legacy, and Unhealthy Bunny adopted it by inviting a stay drummer and horn gamers to assist him shut the present with an prolonged jam on “Después de la Playa” — a attractive post-swim come-on through which the musicians, and the viewers, discovered ecstatic solidarity.