This year’s Coachella line-up has been described as its most global billing yet, boasting Afrobeats courtesy of Burna Boy, K-pop from BLACKPINK, and much more. On Friday night (April 14), Bad Bunny added to that rich, world-spanning make-up with his powerful reggaeton, becoming the first Latin and Spanish-language artist to headline the Californian festival. “What do you prefer – me talking in English or hablando español?” he asked the crowd early on, the answer (Spanish, duh) colouring the whole set that followed. Here are the top five moments from Bad Bunny’s historical Coachella set.
The Puerto Rican pride
If you thought Bad Bunny was going to headline Coachella and not give it up for his home country, Puerto Rico, you were very much mistaken. His entire set paid tribute to the country – whether subtly or overtly. Despite chatter before the big night about all the big American guests he could invite, he largely swerved away from that path and instead shared the stage with fellow Puerto Ricans.
First, he brought out reggaeton duo Jowell & Randy for ‘Saraera’ while, later, after riding a jet ski around the edge of the stage, he was joined by rapper and singer Jhay Cortez for a three-song trip. In between, there was an appearance from Post Malone but the less said about that technical difficulty-plagued moment the better.
The incredible visuals
From the moment Bad Bunny stepped on stage, his Coachella performance served aesthetics that dazzled and astounded the eye. He began the set high up on top of a stage made to look like a petrol station – a nod to his recent surprise show in exactly such a location in Puerto Rico – while throughout, the big screens regularly eschewed showing any imagery of him in favour of lush designs, from a paradisiacal beach to the night’s sky studded with hundreds of stars. At one point, before ‘Safaera’, he even dropped a short film, making the Coachella field feel more and more like we’d been dropped into the middle of an immersive art experience than a typical festival headline set.
The journey through reggaeton
Bad Bunny might be one of the biggest artists in the world right now, but he’s more than aware that a swathe of the Coachella crowd are not experts on reggaeton and the music and artists that have fuelled the genre. So, at regular intervals, Benito took his chance to give us a history lesson, tracing its roots from the likes of salsa, mambo and rhumba to the reggae and hip-hop splicing force that’s taking over the world. These videos were the only real moments where you could hear the star speaking in English – an invitation into his world while the rest of the performance refused to compromise.
The transitions throughout the setlist
Bad Bunny’s setlist was almost nearly flawless and the way the songs exploded into life and segued between each other were, at times, masterful. Most stunning was ‘El apagón’, which the star began performing under a small spotlight, the rest of the stage in the dark – a nod to the track’s protest against blackouts in Puerto Rico since the country’s energy grid was privatised. Midway through, the darkness became spectacular light, colourful beams shooting across the crowd as the star and his backing dancers bounced across the stage, inciting the crowd to follow suit.
All the many, many fireworks
Throughout the show, the sky above Coachella was decorated with fireworks – silent spurts of gold and silver, and big explosions of colour taking over the night. It wasn’t just above the stage where things were popping off though – behind Benito below there were constant streams of pyrotechnics, fireworks and blazes of flames. For such a momentous performance in both Coachella and general music history, it was entirely fitting – a vibrant celebration of a superstar doing things on their own terms.
Check back at NME all weekend for more reviews, news, interviews, photos and more from Coachella 2023.