Spotlight: Sex Pistol Steve Jones’ ‘Jonesy’s Jukebox’ Is Still One of LA Radio’s Most Steadfast Rock Institutions

When Steve Jones, the beloved radio host and legendary Sex Pistols guitarist widely known as just Jonesy, abruptly disappeared from the airwaves late last year, listeners were surprised and concerned — but none more so than he.

Last summer, Jones was hit with a sudden bout of Bell’s palsy that paralyzed half of his face and left his speech compromised. He took several weeks away from his popular and long-running radio show “Jonesy’s Jukebox,” which boasts an extensive list of high-profile music interviews — Robert Plant, Iggy Pop, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney have all been among his distinguished guests. But just as he was ready to return to work, the British punk icon suffered a heart attack that required emergency heart surgery, pulling him off the airwaves for months-long recovery.

Midway through last December, Jones made a quiet return to Los Angeles airwaves. With it, he moved out of the studio and into a weekly residency at the famed Viper Room in West Hollywood, where Jonesy’s Jukebox broadcasts live on Meruelo Media’s 95.5 KLOS before a studio audience every Friday at noon.

Jones’ first guest when he returned to Jukebox was cardiologist Dr. Eli Gang, with whom he discussed his health issues. The video has racked up more than 59,000 views since it premiered online just before Christmas. Fans appreciated the no-holds-barred approach to his first show back, as expressed in numerous glowing YouTube comments.

Jones reciprocates his fans’ affection. He relishes the live format at The Viper Room, where he used to attend rock shows and perform with his former band Neurotic Outsiders, the ’90s supergroup formed with Guns N’ Roses members Matt Sorum (drums) and Duff McKagan (bass) and Duran Duran guitarist John Taylor. “I love it,” he says of the new venue, sipping on a cup of coffee at a Los Angeles deli. “I like the live audience. It’s like a talk show. You can interact. You can hear them laughing if you’re funny.”

Sixteen years later, it’s still hard for Jones to believe that Jukebox ever happened. “When I first started doing it, the whole thing was just a fluke. I remember the first time I got to talk and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” he says. Jones, who moved to Los Angeles in 1983 due to “Hollywood, all the movie stars and the sunshine,” says there was a period in 2004 during which he wasn’t working while he recovered from back surgery due to a herniated disc. Whenever he was in his car, he tuned into now-defunct radio station Indie103 due to its often punk rock playlist.

Unexpectedly, one afternoon, he received a call from an executive at Maverick, the record label to which Jones’ band Neurotic Outsiders was signed. Jones was told Entravision’s Indie103 wanted to get him involved. “I said, ‘I want to be a DJ.’ I just thought about it out of the blue because I was excited about it,” Jones recalls. “I said, ‘I love this radio station. I want to DJ, but only if you let me do what I want to do and say what I want to say.’ And that’s where it started. I had no clue what I was doing, but people kind of liked that it was ridiculous and then I got a little better and it was moved up to five days a week, two hours a day after a while.”

Since Indie103 changed formats in 2009, Jones is glad Jukebox landed at its current home, Southern California rock radio station KLOS, five years ago, following a short Sunday night stint at KROQ and bouncing around some online stations. “It’s a big signal,” he says. “A lot of people are listening to it, and daytime at noon is a great, great time. People are out driving around. People are out doing things.”

KLOS program director Keith Cunningham says Jones is distinctive from other radio hosts due to his rock star pedigree in addition to his relatability. “He brings a type of swagger and vibe that really only a real rockstar can. And what I really like about him as a personality or host is he’s just authentic. There’s not a filter, he’s transparent, he’s funny, he’s not trying to be a DJ, he’s just him.”

However despite the ease with which Jones interacts with his guests, he says he’s much more private in his personal life than he may let on. And much because of that, he’s especially grateful to be back at work. “Honestly, I like that I have to get off my ass and do something, because I’m a recluse,” he says. “I don’t like socializing. I just like hiding at home, which is not good for me. It’s good to be back on the air. It’s good to have something to do. I get a lot of people saying, ‘You helped me out.’ It takes on a whole other thing of being of service. That bit, I relate to. There’s a purpose. It’s not just me goofing around.”

Still, constant reminders of his heart attack abound, including the cup of coffee he sips during the interview (he now limits himself to a single dose of caffeine per day). Though it’s been seven months since the heart attack, he’s still wrapping his head around the life-altering experience.

Overcome with disbelief as he tells the story, Jones shakes his head and holds the coffee mug tightly. “It was scary,” he says. “You don’t comprehend it until you actually have it. What a weird thing it is. First, it was like complete denial for me. It’s like, ‘Oh, I had a heart attack.’ But, after a month or two, that’s when it starts getting real as to what happened. I went through a depressed period for the first couple of months. Getting old is a bitch, man. I’m 64 and shit starts happening.”

He pauses for a moment, staring straight ahead to recalibrate. “But I’m grateful,” he continues. “I’ve got another bloody shot. I could have well easily been dead.”

As to the potential for a Sex Pistols reunion, he notes he wouldn’t be interested unless he was broke or someone offered “Rolling Stones money” for their return. In fact, he’s grown weary of discussing them. “I’m so over it because it’s always the same questions,” he says, but adds he understands the lingering curiosity around the seminal British punk band that lasted only from 1975–1978 and released just one studio album, Never Mind the Bullocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols, before calling it quits. (The remaining members reunited for a tour in 1996 and played additional shows between 2002 and 2008.)

There’s a palpable ambivalence as Jones speaks in a fond and incredulous tone about the band’s perpetual state of internal discord. “You know, the crazy thing is that I don’t get what we’re all mad at each other for,” he says.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, the Sex Pistols didn’t attend the ceremony. Still, Jones says he’s proud to be one of few punk band inductees alongside The Clash and The Ramones. “We never got airplay in America, in that world,” he says. “People in charge of stuff never liked us, at least I don’t think so. I mean, I’m glad we’re in there, but there’s a bunch of bands that won’t be in there that should be.”

Looking to the future, Jones says he’d like to do more acting — he’s nabbed a few parts, including a recurring role as a tour manager on the Showtime series Californication — and divulges that he’s been working on a solo record. He’ll also be receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, though he says he has no particular preference regarding its location. “Just so long as it’s not down an alley,” he says with a grin.

Mindful of his health, he now takes nightly outdoor walks and remains cautiously optimistic about his future. “I feel like I’m getting… I can see through the woods where it’s open,” he says. “I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I do feel like I took a turn for the better.”

SPOTLIGHT:

Dealing with musicians is like dealing with children ‘cause they are all sensitive. All musicians are sensitive.

I knew I was committed to music when I first heard Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” I was a music fan and that song, for some reason the guy who played it for me was an older guy and I just kept saying, ‘Play it again, play it again, play it again for me, please.’ I didn’t have a record player and I was obsessed with that song. Looking back, I guess that was the beginning of it being implanted in my head, that music was something that I loved and came to want to do down the road.

If I did my life over again, I would have taken a course in business so I wouldn’t have gotten screwed over so many times. I’m just not business-minded at all. I always made the worst decisions and it’s always messed with me throughout my life. I wish that was something I could have rectified earlier on in my life.

The best advice I’ve received is to stay out of trouble. If only I would have listened.

I’m always learning how to be a better person. I think you have to have a willingness to grow and a humility to want to be able to learn and to be open-minded, because I think that’s what’s life’s all about at the end of the day. You could be in a dark place all your life or you could get out of it and be in the light and it’s a choice that you make. I see a lot of people who don’t want to change and they stay miserable and I’m always wanting to better myself and I guess that’s a form of learning and it doesn’t end. You can keep learning forever. There’s always something you can do to better yourself.

Something most people don’t understand is I’m the king of rock and roll. [Laughs] I’m joking!

It’s good to have some real friends, to have a roof over your head and to be healthy.

Something I’m most looking forward to later in life is getting out in nature. Something I always look forward to is walking around outdoors, getting out of the city and getting peace and quiet. It’s very important to me to do that later on in life. It’s one of the things I do that makes me the most happy.

Spotlight is a Billboard Business series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact spotlight@billboard.com.


Christina Aguilera Stuns in Red Latex Thigh-High Boots at ‘Mulan’ Premiere

The cast of Disney’s Mulan gathered in Hollywood on Monday night (March 9) for the film’s world premiere.

In attendance, of course, was Christina Aguilera, who pulled on all of our nostalgic heartstrings by recording an updated version of her hit Mulan track, “Reflection,” for the reboot.

She strutted onto the red carpet in pink and red gown, with a slit to show off her jaw-dropping red latex boots. To complete the look, she wore her red-highlighted hair in a high bun, and added a bit more red with a bold-hued lip.

Mulan hits U.S. theaters on March 27. See Aguilera’s full premiere look below.


Big Freedia on Her Unbreakable Bond & Matching Tattoo With Kesha

Billboard is back with another episode of On The Block. On Tuesday (March 10), Big Freedia joined co-hosts Bianca Gracie and the versatile Jordyn Rolling, who filled in for Carl Lamarre. The Queen of Bounce’s appearance comes ahead of the release of her Louder EP, which drops on Friday (March 13), or as she calls it “Freedia the 13th.”

Freedia is set to explore new sounds with the six-track project, but will always stay true to her bounce roots. “I wanted to do something new and inspiring and let people know to live their best lives and be bold and proud of it. This new EP is going to be some new fun music for people to get into,” she said.

The New Orleans native connected with Kesha on the inspirational “Chasing Rainbows.” She described the song with the “Die Young” singer as being about “chasing your dreams and love conquering over hate.” The pair’s relationship has blossomed from doing music into a close-knit friendship. They even got matching tattoos while hanging on a cruise together.

“We had a tattoo artist onboard and we were like, ‘We should all get a matching one.’ We tried to start thinking about something around the cruise and water. We did a dead fishbone with the end of it going into a cage to represent Kesha. Everyone had one — my team and her team. It was a great experience.”

With fear of the Coronavirus starting to cancel events around the music industry across the globe, Big Freedia spoke to the immediate impact it has had on her career as an artist. “I was booked for SXSW and there’s no telling what else is going to be canceled,” the 42-year-old stated. “It’s a scary thing when you don’t know if you’re going to contract it. We need to get it under control quick. It’s messing up money.”

Watch the episode below.

 

RuPaul’s DragCon LA Canceled Amid Growing Coronavirus Concern

As the coronavirus continues to spread, RuPaul’s DragCon LA announced Tuesday (March 10) that the planned convention set to take place on May 1, 2 and 3 has been canceled.

In a statement posted on their website, DragCon made clear that the cancellation was due directly to the outbreak of COVID-19, and that the “health and safety” of fans and queens must come first. “The situation in California (and the world) is rapidly changing, with new information coming out everyday,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, there’s no way for anyone to know what the situation will be like in May. Due to that uncertainty, and out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided that it’s in the best interest of the talent, staff, and attendees to cancel RuPaul’s DragCon LA 2020.”

The statement added that DragCon would be back in LA in 2021, while also promising refunds to fans who had purchased tickets and were planning to attend the convention. “We will be working with Eventbrite to issue refunds for existing DragCon LA ticket holders over the next 7 days,” the statement said. “You will receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite when the refund has been issued.”

DragCon LA is just one of many major entertainment events that have been canceled or postponed due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus, including festivals like South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, UltraFest in Miami, along with tour dates of major artists like Madonna, Pearl Jam and more.

Read RuPaul’s DragCon LA’s full statement here.

Coronavirus


Linda Ronstadt & Collaborators Look Back on ‘Mad Love’ at 40

For all the speculation about 1980’s Mad Love — released 40 years ago in late February 1980 — being a new wave record, it was never the intention of Linda Ronstadt or her longtime producer Peter Asher to compete with the likes of Blondie, The Cars and the legion of acts on the vanguard of pop music at the top of the new decade.

“I don’t think that’s how we wanted it to sound like intentionally,” Ronstadt explains from her home in San Francisco. “I was just trying to find 10 or so songs to do. Back then, I was doing about an album a year, so Mad Love fell into that cycle.”

“Every Linda record is the same in that we were just looking for great songs that we really liked and Linda felt that she could really sing, and then framing them in the best way we could think of,” adds Asher. “In Linda’s case, it’s always been the songs that lead a particular movement or style on one of her records, regardless if it’s a Nelson Riddle album with songs from the 1930s or Mad Love with songs from the late ’70s. It’s all the same for us.”

For Mad Love, it meant that the new wave stylings of the record came through pure osmosis thanks to Ronstadt being introduced to material by songwriters on the bleeding edge of the burgeoning sound in 1979.

“I was looking for songs to record,” Ronstadt explains. “And Wendy Waldman, who sang with me, came to my house once with music from a young songwriter who turned out to be Billy Steinberg. So she let me hear some of his demos and I picked the one I felt I could sing, which was ‘How Do I Make You.'”

For Steinberg, who would go on to co-write such timeless ’80s hits as Madonna’s “Like A Virgin,” Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional,” Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles, it was a game changer when she selected “How Do I Make You” — an uptempo rocker that also appears on the recently reissued debut LP from Steinberg’s band Billy Thermal — for Mad Love.

“My guitarist Craig Hull, his girlfriend at the time was Wendy Waldman,” recalls Steinberg. “This was back when Wendy was singing background vocals for Linda Ronstadt. So without telling me, Wendy and Craig played my Billy Thermal demos to Linda, and Linda really took to ‘How Do I Make You’ and decided she wanted to record it. It was the first song I ever got on another artist’s record. That tune launched my career. Then, shortly after Linda recorded it, Billy Thermal got signed to Richard Perry’s Planet Records.”

Guitarist Mark Goldenberg had just gotten off the road with Al Stewart on his Year of the Cat tour and was offered the chance to record with the opening act, who happened to be Wendy Waldman.

“It was pretty weird how she found me,” says Goldenberg, who not only plays guitar on most of Mad Love but also saw Ronstadt choose three of his songs to sing in “Justine,” “Cost of Love” and the opening title cut. “Wendy had asked me to join her band and record her album Strange Company with her. And during the making of that album, I started hanging out with her bass player Peter Bernstein and Steve Beers, her drummer. So once we wrapped Strange Company, the three of us started The Cretones, and we got a regular gig at a sandwich shop near USC on Friday nights. So Peter Bernstein, his girlfriend was Linda Ronstadt’s dog walker named Marilyn, and she got a cassette of our tunes and gave it to Linda, and then she came to see us play at the Starwood in Hollywood. Then after that I get a phone call from someone in Peter Asher’s office telling me that Linda Ronstadt would like to record some of my songs and asked if that was okay. So that’s how it happened. If there were no dogs, there’d be no story (laughs).”

“I remember really liking his music, especially ‘Mad Love,’ which was occurring in my life at the time,” Ronstadt laughs. “Then Wendy and my bass player Kenny Edwards — who were once in a band together in the ’60s called Bryndle — were taking me to see The Cretones perform the songs I heard on the demo.”

For Goldenberg, whose Knacks-esque guitar pop helped drive much of Mad Love’s direction, seeing Ronstadt choose his song as the title track was an unexpected bonus.

“I was a very surprised and lucky guy,” Goldenberg laughs. “It was certainly hard for me to get up to the microphone and sing those songs after her versions. The whole experience of working with her was amazing. We cut those songs in fairly rapid order. Previous incarnations of her studio band featured a lot of overdubbed guitar and it was very produced, and I think Peter and Linda wanted to do something a little more immediate and more direction with just good live playing. And the stuff that we recorded — those vocals were live vocals. She didn’t go back later to do any overdubs; she largely sang it while I played guitar next to her.”

“The way that Peter made records was the singer was singing the lead vocal while the band was playing the track in the room,” explains guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who has played guitar on several Ronstadt albums over the years but only sang background vocals on “Mad Love” and “Cost of Love” here. “That was totally unheard of in most of the circles in Los Angeles back then. Usually you would go in and the singer wouldn’t even be there, there would only be a guide vocal and the track and when the track was done the artist would come in when no one else was there and sing the vocal for the producer. But on my first record with Linda, she’s singing ‘Blue Bayou’ as a live vocal. All those records were cut live, and Mad Love was no different.”

But perhaps the biggest elephant in the room with regards to the new wave presence that hung above Mad Love was that of one Elvis Costello, freshly basking in the adulation of music critics thanks to the success of his breakout 1979 album Armed Forces with the Attractions. Costello landed in Ronstadt’s periphery thanks to guitarist Danny Kortchmar, whose scorching guitar solo on the sultry version of Little Anthony and the Imperials’ “Hurt So Bad” the singer herself tells Billboard was “the best guitar solo he ever played on one of my records.” (“Hurt So Bad” became one of two top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits on Mad Love, along with “How Do I Make You.”)

“I was at Tower Records when I saw the cassette for My Aim Is True with this skinny motherfucker on the cover and thought it looked interesting,” explains Kortchmar, who also played guitar on albums by James Taylor, Harry Nilsson, Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne, whose hit “Somebody’s Baby” was written by the guitarist nicknamed Kootch. “So I bought the tape, stuck it in my car. I wound up listening to it over and over again. At one point I wound up in Peter Asher’s office telling him how amazing this guy was and how he should check him out. Two weeks later, he calls me back and says, ‘Elvis is doing a concert at Hollywood High, and I bought tickets for all of us.’ So we all went, including Linda, and I think that’s when she realized what a great cat Elvis Costello was and how much he had to offer, so we wound up doing some of his tunes.”

“I remember that Hollywood High show well,” recalls Ronstadt’s longtime drummer Russ Kunkel. “This was a defining moment for us as players going into this concert. We had all this success with everything that happened with Linda and James Taylor prior to that. But the winds were changing and this new wave thing was happening, so we went and saw this show and we were exposed to some really interesting new stuff. And I think that was the moment when we all felt like, ‘OK, we gotta take a little pivot here and move in this direction.’ I think the Mad Love album was exactly what came out of that.”

Sadly, however, Costello at the time was not as enthused as Steinberg and Goldenberg about having a commercial artist like Linda Ronstadt covering his songs, which began when she tackled “Alison” on 1978’s Living In The USA. For Mad Love, she doubled down on her appreciation for Elvis and took on three of his tunes in “Party Girl,” “Talking In The Dark” and “Girls Talk,” which was a single the previous year for Dave Edmunds and would also appear on Costello’s Get Happy!!, which was released around the same time as Love. In recent years however, his viewpoint has evolved considerably, culminating in a mea culpa he posted on his website shortly after a screening of the acclaimed Linda Ronstadt documentary The Sound of My Voice.

“In very different times, my reaction to having my songs recorded by other singers was downright suspicious, territorial and, at times even a little hostile,” admits Costello in the post. “To say the least, I lacked grace. Five years ago, shortly before an encore performance of ‘Alison,’ I told the audience at the Hollywood Bowl, that it was Linda Ronstadt’s rendition of that song — which was featured on her big hit album Living In The USA — that kept petrol in our tour bus at a time when we were sharing double bill with everyone from Talking Heads to Eddie Money for a $1.99¢ ticket. Linda Ronstadt and I have never met, so the stage seemed the next best place for such an acknowledgement.”

Funnily enough, however, both Ronstadt and Asher knew where he was coming from that whole time.

“I understood exactly where he was coming from and why it had bothered him,” Ronstadt tells Billboard. “If you do something and then you see someone else doing it, you think like they are taking away part of your identity. It’s a sensitive reaction; I’ve done it myself. And I took it for what it was back then. But I love Elvis. He writes like an old-fashioned songwriter. His songs are so beautifully tragic and they have a lot of meaning behind them. He’s a gentleman, and he’s got a great heart.”

“I was actually talking to Elvis about this recently,” adds Asher. “Because he actually re-apologized for some of the weird things he said at the time on his site, and he was concerned if it would’ve bothered Linda and me, but it didn’t. When he was critical of our versions of his songs, it was part of his persona at the time. But in the end it came down to ‘Party Girl,’ ‘Girls Talk’ and ‘Talking In The Dark’ all being great songs and she and I together came up with the best possible way to do them justice.”

One final, and perhaps most crucial, element in the neon residue that impacts the perception of Mad Love is the keyboard work of Little Feat’s Bill Payne, who had entered these album sessions hot off the heels of his work on Robert Palmer’s underrated 1978 LP Double Fun, just one of several Palmer albums that featured members of Little Feat in their creation. And no doubt Payne brought a little bit of that wizard dust with him for these tunes as well, though the influences on his performance throughout Mad Love were not as directly inspired by the likes of Steve Nieve and Benmont Tench as much as the film music he was hearing at the time.

“I wasn’t really listening for that kind of stuff at the time,” Payne explains of his connection to new wave music back then. “But you couldn’t avoid it, especially as a keyboard player. The European synthesizer music I was hearing in movies at the time by artists like Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre played a bigger role inspirationally than new wave. I would hear sounds and then try to replicate them. But then again, I had been playing around on synthesizers myself for a long time before that in Little Feat. I’ve always been very conscious about how what I’m doing will fit into the sound of the project and what was surrounding me.”

Ultimately, what it came down to was the same thing that characterized every Linda Ronstadt album on the market: the shots called by the singer herself. And for Mad Love, it was simply an instance of pop music’s next evolution naturally imbuing the tunes that tickled her ear.

“The thing that Linda always had was this uncanny ability to pick songs from the great songwriters, whether it was Lowell George, JD Souther, Jimmy Webb or Elvis Costello,” proclaims Kunkel. “Her strength was her ability to choose great songs. And even though Mad Love gets its tag as being her foray into new wave, she really only kept true to her roots. Because when you consider the songs by The Hollies, Neil Young and Little Anthony and the Imperials songs on here as well, it was simply a collection of songs from great songwriters.”

And as a final word, be forewarned of what you might hear from Kootch if you dare mention Debbie Harry in the same sentence as Linda Ronstadt: “Linda is so monumentally important in terms of American music and the progress thereof throughout her entire career. As a musician, I have to tell you there’s no f–king way in the world that Debbie Harry had the power and emotion and intensity Linda had. There’s no comparison. Debbie Harry is a pop star and that’s great; she’s good at that. Ronstadt is one of the greatest singers who ever f–king lived, man. She will kill you in a minute. Debbie Harry has nothing on Linda Ronstadt. There’s no one like her.”

Five Burning Questions: Bad Bunny’s Historic Debut Week With ‘YHLQMDLG’

With the Leap Day release of his second full-length solo album YHLQMDLG, Bad Bunny has achieved feats rarer than a day that comes around once every four years.

Though the set only debuts at No. 2 on this week’s Billboard albums chart — bested by Lil Baby’s My Turn, which moves 197,000 equivalent album units — it does so with an impressive 179,000 units moved itself. That number (accomplished in a shorter sales week than Lil Baby and others, due to its Saturday release) represents the biggest week for a Latin album release since Billboard began tracking titles by equivalent album units in 2014, and also results in YHLQMDLG becoming the highest-charting all-Spanish-language title in the chart’s nearly 64-year history.

How did Bad Bunny accomplish this? And will he become the first Latin artist to score an all-Spanish No. 1 album? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below.

1. Bad Bunny’s tremendous first-week numbers for YHLQMDLG represents a new high-water mark not only for his own career, but for Latin trap in general. What’s one important thing that Bad Bunny’s doing as an artist (or with YHLQMDLG specifically) that’s allowed him to get to the head of the pack like this? 

Tatiana Cirisano: The album title says it all. (The acronym stands for Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana, a mouthful which roughly translates to I Do Whatever I Want.) Bad Bunny has always done whatever he wants, whether that means flaunting acrylic nails, infusing classic reggaetón with punk rock and other influences (more on that later) or making urgent political statements other artists might shy away from. He is boundlessly creative and unafraid to push the boundaries of the genre, and more often than not, he’s pushing it forward. YHLQMDLG is bejeweled with the kind of sonic miracles you can only get by taking risks, like the gritty, Linkin Park-esque breakdown of “Hablamos Manana,” operatic outro of “Si Veo a Tu Mama” or the ambitious, glorious chaos of “Safaera.” It’s thrilling to watch Bad Bunny be Bad Bunny, and to wonder what he’ll do next.

Griselda Flores: I think it’s protecting his individuality in music and lyrics, fashion choices and his persona that has made him stand out in a crowded field of urbano artists. One quality that I truly appreciate from him and that I think has helped him connect with a younger fanbase in the Latinx community is that he doesn’t shy away from politics or social issues in his music — and also, that he isn’t afraid to defy heteronormative standards of masculinity. He’s the modern reggaetonero we need right now representing Latin culture. He’s showing Latinos that there is no need to adjust to social norms, he’s showing up-and-coming artists that it’s ok to be yourself and that Spanish music can achieve historic success on the Billboard charts and beyond.

Musically, his modern take on reggaetón accepts and celebrates vulnerability with raw and honest lyrics about heartbreak and other topics. But then he gives you a 360-degree turn and becomes this “I do whatever I want” trap superstar… all in one album.

Bianca Gracie: As Benito’s star continues to ascend, he’s become completely unapologetic when it comes to showing just how silly he can get. And now, his fun personality has connected even more with an English-speaking audience, thanks to recent late-night show appearances. Aside from the persona, he continues to push his own sonic boundaries. YHLQMDLG continues his trek of going beyond the ledge of what is expected for Latin artists and that fearlessness really resonates with fans.

Jason Lipshutz: I think the most important thing has been Bad Bunny’s exaltation of the album as a viable format for telling his story — whereas other Latin pop and Latin trap artists have built buzz through a stream of singles and treated subsequent full-lengths as collect-them-all afterthoughts, Bad Bunny has focused on building projects, both solo and collaborative, as contained worlds that fans of all levels need to experience. And because of that, fans have been more interested in checking out a full body of work upon its release.

Andrew Unterberger: His natural blend of easy charisma and unpredictable flamboyance is the stuff star power has always been made of, across all genres and nationalities. But let’s also not overlook the importance of having a singular voice, and Bad Bunny’s congested-sounding (but somehow still undeniably smooth) croon is one of the most immediately recognizable sounds in pop music right now.

2. In addition to its stellar performance on the albums chart, YHLQMDLG also notches 11 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 this week. Which of the 11 do you think has the best shot of catching on as the breakout hit from the album? 

Tatiana Cirisano: The sharp, pop-flavored “La Santa” with Daddy Yankee, which captures the essence of reggaetón romanticism and brings one of its beloved pioneers along for the ride. Sure, the “saint on the outside, sinner on the inside” shtick is overused in hip-hop, but Bad Bunny adds new layers, exposing the titular character’s hypocrisy when she wants to change him: “You ain’t a saint, I am not a saint either/ We met each other sinning” (sung in Spanish) is a helluva burn. With its sun-splashed, chirping hook and vocoder flourishes, I could also see the wistful “Solía” becoming a sleeper hit in the summer months.

Griselda Flores: A lot of these songs on this album have a good shot at becoming breakout hits like “La Santa,” “Yo Perreo Sola” and “Si Veo a Tu Mamá.” It’s difficult to just pick one but if I had to, I’d say “Safaera” featuring OG reggaetoneros Jowell Randy & Ñengo Flow. The infectious beat is a result of meticulous production work by hit-makers Tainy and DJ Orma who were able to make this traditional, underground mix track into a standout track on the album. Effectively switching from perreo to reggaetón and citing musical references like Alexis Y Fido’s “El Tiburón” and the hook to Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On,” there are a lot of production elements flavoring this song.

But what makes this an instant hit for me is that it pays homage to that old-school reggaetón beat from the early 2000s that many fans will appreciate — and quite honestly, who isn’t nostalgic for the 2000s? On top of that, add the #SafaeraChallenge that has taken over social media with a bunch of people posting videos getting down, including Bunny himself, to this reggaetón anthem. Like its fast-paced beat, “Safaera” is unstoppable.

Bianca Gracie: I know that “Si Veo a Tu Mamá” is leading the charge, but that crown goes to “Safaera,” featuring fellow Puerto Rico reggaetoneros Jowell & Randy and Nengo Flow. It’s quickly become my most replayed song on the album, and it’s all because of that throwback reggaeton sound. “Safaera” is essentially four songs with completely different sounds all meshed together that would surely blow any speaker it comes in contact with. For those who were in Puerto Rico when reggaetón was in its baby stages, those who couldn’t stop playing DJ Playero’s mixtapes, and people like me who grew up in the Bronx or Washington Heights where this kind of raunchy music blasted through people’s cars on the street or at sweaty perreo basement parties, it takes you back to that thrilling time where reggaetón was just on the brink of becoming an international force.

Jason Lipshutz: Not sure if “Está Cabrón Ser Yo” becomes a crossover hit or just a club anthem, but the chemistry between Bad Bunny and Anuel AA on this trap track crackles, and the song would make for a great addition to any hip-hop playlist or rap radio rotation. Out of all the highlights on the album, this is the one I’ve found myself returning to most frequently.

Andrew Unterberger: I’ll also say “La Santa,” thanks to that bleating synth beat and Bad Bunny’s most instantly captivating chorus since at least “Callaíta.” Plus, we’ve all seen what Daddy Yankee can do adding ad libs and a scene-stealing verse to a irresistible reggaetón jam with a massive hook.

3. Bad Bunny’s already shown himself to be far from a one-trick rabbit musically. Is there a sonic direction he explores on YHLQMDLG you might be interested in seeing him pursue further on future releases? 

Tatiana Cirisano: Whenever Benito taps into punk rock, my ears perk up. It’s an interest he explored on X 100pre’s tinny, heartfelt Blink-182 homage “Tenemos Que Hablar,” too, but perfected for 30 head-banging seconds on new track “Hablamos Mañana,” which is capped off by a metallic, cathartic-yet-controlled screamo moment. (Is it a coincidence that those titles align?) Anyway, I’d love to hear what a purely rock Bad Bunny album would sound like.

Griselda Flores: I really liked the stripped-down Bad Bunny on the closing track “<3.” We already know that he can drop some mean trap beats but this guitar-led song with a softer beat in the background really shows off his versatility as an artist. He exposes a different side of his music, one that doesn’t need for the fast-paced cadence. Instead, it’s a slowed-down Bunny sharing this intimate moment with his fans. It’s clear that Bad Bunny is one of the best reggaetón/trap artists we have in the game right now but I do want to see more of Bunny in this intimate space where it’s just him, a guitar and a microphone.

Bianca Gracie: There was a brief moment of this on X100PRE with “Tenemos Que Hablar” that gave nostalgic Blink-182 vibes, but I’d love for him to continue tapping into more emo-leaning, softer music. While it’s not technically in the same vein as “Tenemos Que Hablar,” he does slow things down on “<3″ on YHLQMDLG. Bad Bunny really shines when he digs deep into his vulnerability, and the contrast of his signature raspy voice with tender production makes for truly beautiful songs. But he also gets completely rowdy on the thrashing end of “Hablamos Mañana” — can we manifest a Bad Bunny x Ozzy Osbourne collaboration in the future please?

Jason Lipshutz: if “Hablamos Mañana,” with its hoarse-scream vocals and crashing drums, has proven anything, it’s that we desperately need a full-on Bad Bunny emo project. Even just, like, a five-song EP in which he channels his inner Dashboard Confessional would be spectacular! It’s difficult to be surprised by an artist so daring in terms of sounds explored and subsequently conquered, but “Hablamos Mañana” suggests a wild new rabbit hole for Bad Bunny (excuse the pun).

Andrew Unterberger: There’s always one song on a Bad Bunny album where the beat sounds like a monster rampaging a small village — the beginning of “Safaera” on this one, the back half of “La Romana” on X 100pre, and the entirety of “CUIDAO POR AHÍ” on Oasis (which, smartly, actually featured a monster menacing its music video). An entire Bad Bunny album of that level of five-alarm beat-storming would probably be too much to take — but maybe just two songs next time?

4. Though Bad Bunny’s numbers are historic; he still loses out on No. 1 this week to rapper Lil Baby’s similarly streaming-dominant set My Turn. Do you think Bad Bunny will be the first Latin artist to score a Spanish language No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — and who might be his greatest challenger for the honor?

Tatiana Cirisano: If he delivers on his lyrical promise in “<3” to release another album in nine months, I think he could do it. At 25, Bad Bunny has all the classic hallmarks of superstardom under his belt, having performed on the Coachella main stage, at the Super Bowl halftime show and on late-night television; charted omnipresent hits with the likes of Drake and Cardi B; and earned three Grammy nominations. At this point, an eventual No. 1 album feels like a given. But if not Bad Bunny, Rosalía and J Balvin are strong contenders (and each have accumulated many of those same accolades). With Balvin soon to drop his epic sonic rainbow Colores, it could be one of Bad Bunny’s closest friends and collaborators who makes history first.

Griselda Flores: J Balvin’s Colores is dropping March 20, and that’s also a highly anticipated all-Spanish-language album that I can see debuting in the top 5 on the Billboard 200. But I think Rosalía is his greatest challenger. Like Bunny, there’s a lot of mystery to the Spanish artist’s musical projects which just keeps us all on the edge of our seats. She’s also become a superstar on her own terms and doing music her way, and I think fans react positively to that individuality.

Bianca Gracie: At this point, he deserves it — the numbers don’t lie. I think the main competitor he’d likely have to be wary of is, coincidentally so, his musical brother J Balvin whose Colores album is supposed to arrive later this month.

Jason Lipshutz: It will be interesting to see what type of fanfare greets Rosalía’s next full-length: El Mal Querer flew under the radar of the general U.S. population when it was first released in 2018, but since then, the Spanish singer-songwriter has morphed into an eclectic, undeniable star. If its follow-up gets the right rollout and stumbles into some opportune timing, I could see Rosalía pulling off a No. 1 album.

Andrew Unterberger: Agreed that Bad Bunny and J Balvin are the co-front-runners in this race. I’ll throw in two more names, though: YHLQMDLG collaborator Anuel AA, a long-rising star whose international popularity seems to grow every month, and Shakira, obviously a longtime legend in the game, who — with the right collaborators/producers — could possibly ride post-Super Bowl momentum to her first No. 1 album.

5. YHLQMDLG already marks Bad Bunny’s third project released in the past 15 months, following Dec. 2018’s X 100pre and June’s Oasis set with J Balvin. Which of the three do you think is best?

Tatiana Cirisano: YHLQMDLG. Much love to the overflowing party that is Oasis, but for me, it’s between Bad Bunny’s two solo albums. And while X 100pre had the feel of an emerging artist proving his worth (which he was, and which he did), his latest project has the swagger of something more free-flowing and confident, like he’s having fun, relishing his success, and maybe even showing off a little. And let him!

Griselda Flores: All projects are very different from each other but I have to say that Oasis is still my favorite and it’s an album I can listen to every day. I love how Bunny and J Balvin balance each other. I might regret this answer later and wish I would have said YHLQMDLG but for now, I’m sticking with Oasis. You just can’t top Bad Bunny and Balvin together, right?

Bianca Gracie: From the genre-bending music to the eye-catching videos, I still don’t think Oasis got the praise it deserved. But in an overall sense, X 100pre remains the project that shows all facets of Bad Bunny’s sonic versatility. He packs in traditional reggaetón, emo rock, latin trap, bachata, pop and dembow in a near-flawless package that set the standard for what a millennial Latin artist should be aiming for.

Jason LipshutzYHLQMDLG is the most complete project of the three, building upon the ideas and momentum of X 100pre and offering more introspection than Oasis. It’s only been a week and change since its release, but it’s pretty clear Bad Bunny just released his strongest statement to date.

Andrew Unterberger: All the respect in the world to the ambitious sprawl of Bad Bunny’s two solo albums, but personally I still lean towards the all-killer Oasis set. Just listening to Balvin and Bunny offer up their artist IDs back to back is thrilling.

Ultra Music Festival Will Not Issue Refunds to 2020 Ticket Holders, Offers ‘Benefit’ Package Instead

Ultra Music Festival will not issue refunds to 2020 Miami edition ticket holders in light of its year-long postponement. The 21st-annual three-day event was originally scheduled for March 20—22, but was held off in light of rising Coronavirus cases in Florida and around the world. The next festival is scheduled for March 26—28, 2021.

In an email to ticket holders and first published by The Miami Herald, sent Tuesday morning (March 10) at 12:59 am ET, Ultra promised that all 2020 tickets would be honored at either the 2021 or 2022 Ultra Music Festival Miami events, though ticket holders have only 30 days to choose which year they’d like to attend. The event is also working on a “digital online Ultra experience as soon as possible.”

Alongside the future festival admission, Ultra is offering a “Benefits” package that includes an “Extra Ultra Hour” main stage DJ set before gates open exclusive only to 2020 ticket holders who attend in 2021, one free ticket to any non-Miami Ultra Worldwide or Resistance events in 2021 or 2022, a discount code for 50% off official merchandise order of $250 or more, and other incentives.

The decision not to refund ticket holders is concurrent with Ultra’s official refund policy, which states that in all cases, including governmental acts and acts of God, the “Organizer may, in its sole and absolute discretion elect to either, (a) issue Purchaser a full or partial refund, (b) postpone the Event for a future date and/or (c) offer Purchaser a comparable ‘make good.'”

Ultra is far from the only event effected by the Coronavirus. SXSW was recently canceled and Coachella and Stagecoach are in talks to reschedule to October or cancel the 2020 event all together.

There is yet no word on how artists may have been effected by Ultra 2020’s cancellation, or if the 2021 lineup will mirror the planned 2020 event. Ultra’s partnering convention, Winter Music Conference, was officially canceled for 2020 on Monday. Many of the satellite parties for Miami Music Week, March 16 — 22, are as of yet going ahead as planned.

Read the full email sent to Ultra Music Festival Miami 2020 ticket holders below.

Coronavirus