How Bad Bunny's Grammys performance put the culture at the center of the show

"Un Verano Sin Ti" won an award for best música urbana album.

February 7, 2023, 2:05 PM

Bad Bunny made history by being the first all-Spanish opening act at the 65th Grammy Awards on Sunday.

The global sensation opened the show by paying tribute to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean, placing the culture in the spotlight during the prestigious music industry event.

He kicked off the performance singing parts of his song "El Apagón" off his album "Un Verano Sin Ti." The song honors the strength of his homeland, Puerto Rico, amid the island's ongoing power outages.

While singing, he made his way through the crowd alongside an entourage of plena dancers and musicians who showed off the traditional folkloric Puerto Rican native genre.

Bad Bunny performs during the 65th GRAMMY Awards, Feb. 5, 2023 in Los Angeles.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Dancing with Bad Bunny were the "cabezudos," which translates to "big heads," a century-old tradition of full-head puppets created by artists that honor legendary personalities.

Members of Agua, Sol y Sereno, a Puerto Rican-based arts collective, were dressed in the costumes on Sunday night, portraying such figures as baseball legend Roberto Clemente, rapper and reggaeton icon Tego Calderón, singer-songwriter Andy Montañez, poet and civil rights activist Julia de Burgos, poet and women's rights activist Lola Rodríguez de Tió, songwriter and composer Tite Curet Alonso, composer and salsa singer Ismael "Maelo" Rivera, and Felisa Rincón de Gautier, the first female mayor of San Juan.

Bad Bunny then sang "Después de la Playa," a merengue and mambo-fused tune from "Un Verano Sin Ti."

Bad Bunny accepts the Award for Best Musica Urbana Album during the 65th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Feb. 5, 2023.
Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

Later in the evening, the singer took the stage to accept the Grammy for best música urbana album for "Un Verano Sin Ti."

"It's easy because I just made this album with love and passion, nothing else," he said during his speech. "And when you do things with love and passion, everything is easier, the life is easier."

"I want to dedicate this award to Puerto Rico, the capital of reggaeton in the world," he continued. "I want to dedicate the award to all the legends and especially all the new artists, not just the legends, but also the new ones that are keeping this movement alive and refreshing it. To all the new talent, let's continue taking this genre to the next level."

"Un Verano Sin Ti" was 2022 's year-end No.1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. It spent 13 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 record chart after its release, which was the most weeks at No. 1 since 2016. The album also became the first Spanish-language LP to be nominated for album of the year.

The evening was not without controversy. During Bad Bunny's opening performance -- and later, during his award acceptance speech -- viewers watching the show at home pointed out that the closed captioning read simply, "SINGING IN NON-ENGLISH" or "SPEAKING IN NON-ENGLISH," rather than offering a direct translation. Network officials at CBS later added Spanish language closed captioning for the show's West Coast rebroadcast and to Paramount+, where viewers could access on-demand replays, according to Deadline.

ABC News has reached out to CBS for comment on the closed captioning issues.

Still, Latinos all over the globe felt a tremendous level of pride as a result of Bad Bunny's infusion of Latin culture into Sunday nights ceremony.

"LITERAL GOOSEBUMPS. Our sound, our culture, merengue performers OPENING the #GRAMMYs," Remezcla Editor-in-Chief Thatiana Roman tweeted as the show got underway, adding several Dominican Republic flag emojis. "To have some of the biggest names in music dancing merengue? When ppl ask why Bad Bunny is so loved? This is why. Him taking these moments to REPRESENT."

Bad Bunny was unapologetically himself on Sunday evening, proudly Puerto Rican and Latino, and of course, a global phenomenon who continues to make history and break records.

Most importantly, he was all of those things on one of the biggest stages in the world.

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