There’s no real reason why every late-night musical performance has to look the same. Every once in a while, we’ll see an artist who finds a way to turn it into something special. And every once in an ever longer while, we’ll see someone completely disregard the visual language we’ve come to expect. That’s what happened last night when Bad Bunny, the exploding young Latin trap artist, gave a Tonight Show performance that looked nothing like a Tonight Show performance.
Admittedly, much of the credit here probably belongs with the staff of The Tonight Show, which offered a very different episode last night. Jimmy Fallon taped last night’s Tonight Show in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan, still recovering from Hurricane Maria’s devastation and from the wildly insufficient response from the American government. Fallon rode a zipline, interviewed chef José Andrés, and did a bunch of Hamilton-related stuff with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who just brought his show to Puerto Rico. But it’s hard to imagine any musical performer bringing the sense of spectacle that Bad Bunny brought to the performance.
The setup is corny. Fallon and the Roots’ Black Thought and ?uestlove are hanging out in San Juan, and Fallon is wearing those tiny sunglasses that Bad Bunny wears. He happens to run into Bad Bunny, and this turns into a massive performance of Bad Bunny’s Drake collab “Mía.” Bad Bunny, Fallon, Black Thought, and ?uestlove march through the San Juan streets performing — or lip-syncing, really — as a parade forms behind them. It starts out like the kids running with Rocky in Rocky II, but then we get a marching band and stiltwalkers. It’s stilly, but it’s exhilarating, too. And Bad Bunny radiates cool while still being obviously delighted at all the mayhem following in his wake.
Bad Bunny has been a hugely important singles artist for a couple of years, and as he’s been growing into international pop stardom, he’s kept his Puerto Rican identity central to his persona. (It’s notable that, on “Mía,” Drake meets him on his own turf, even singing in Spanish. It never turns into a Drake song.) Bad Bunny only just got around to releasing his debut album X 100PRE, and it’s great. Check out the performance below.
There was another Tonight Show musical performance last night: José Feliciano and Ozuna, two Puerto Rican singers from vastly different generations, doing “En Mi Viejo San Juan,” the Puerto Rican standard that Noel Estrada wrote in 1942. Here’s that:
X 100PRE is out now on Rimas Entertainment. It came out right before Christmas, so it would’ve been pretty easy to miss it. Don’t do that.