Bad Bunny Explores Blackouts and Gentrification in Puerto Rico With 23-Minute ‘El Apagón’ Music Video

Bad Bunny isn’t tip-toeing around some of the most pressing issues facing his beloved Puerto Rico. In his most recent music video — which really is a nearly 23-minute long documentary for his blunt track “El Apagón” — the chart-topping artist addresses blackouts and gentrification, among other topics, taking aim at the local government for their inaction when it comes to these social issues.

“I hope people in PR can watch my video before the lights go out,” he posted on Instagram Stories Friday (Sept. 16), minutes after releasing the clip, which begins with the song’s intro powered by thumping beats while featuring locals singing along to his song. Then, at the one-minute-mark, the song stops and in come news reports of blackouts that’ve now become the norm in Puerto Rico, impacting the daily lives of citizens — including children having to do their homework in the dark.

There are also reports about LUMA Energy, the company the Puerto Rican government hired to “modernize and maintain” the island’s power grid, and the little action they’ve taken to fix electricity issues. The Puerto Rican power grid has been in poor shape since Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, leaving the island’s energy infrastructure in bad shape. Bunny has criticized LUMA before, specifically during his concerts in Puerto Rico right before singing this track.

The video then goes back to the song, this time featuring a handful of people at a club having the time of their lives. Shortly after, the remainder of the short film is dedicated to gentrification and displacing Puerto Ricans are facing. “They are displacing the native boricua from here,” a woman says sitting in front of a group of people who are figuring out where to go after they’ve been displaced from their own homes.

The documentary’s news reports are led by Puerto Rican journalist Bianca Graulau, who’s done significant reporting on these topics. On Instagram, she posted: “What an honor for them to trust me to tell the stories of our community. Thank you to all of those that made this project a reality. And thank you, Bad Bunny, for sharing your platform and supporting independent journalism.”

The track is part of his Billboard 200-topping album, Un Verano Sin Ti, which currently hit its 10th nonconsecutive week at No. 1. Watch “El Apagón: Aquí Vive Gente” below:

NCT 127 Share Their New ‘Attitude’ & Goals for Experimental Album ‘2 Baddies’

“Fast” is the first word said on NCT 127‘s latest album and embodies the palpable excitement and passion the boy band has for their new music.

The group’s last full-length from nearly a year ago, Sticker, became the act’s highest- and longest-charting project when it peaked at No. 3 and spent 17 weeks on the Billboard 200. Their latest, 2 Baddies released on Sept. 16, is the record they plan to reach more fans with even greater ambitions and goals.

Speaking over an afternoon Zoom call in Seoul, the members talk excitedly about an album they see as pushing themselves as experimental K-pop artists who fully commit to exploring different sounds. While album openers “Faster” and “2 Baddies” embrace high-turbo energy alongside multiple racing and car references, the LP explores different sounds, the LP quickly shifts into new gears to explore various genres. There’s harmony-heavy R&B (the one-two emotional punch of “Gold Dust” followed by “Black Cloud”), both heavy and feel-good hip-hop (on the chant-heavy “Tasty” and cheeky “Vitamin,” respectively), with the LP closing out with new sonic territory for NCT 127 via the rock-pop vibe of “LOL (Laugh-Out-Loud),” and uplifting, grooving synths on the fan-dedicated track “1, 2, 7 (Time Stops).”

The guys have high hopes for their 12 new tracks and want to ensure the charts are bracing for their impact. “Tell Billboard to get ready for our No. 1 spot,” NCT 127 member Mark half-jokes before Jaehyun adds: “This is the attitude for 2 Baddies.”

Cruise into NCT 127’s new attitude below with insight into their latest LP, upcoming concerts, dreams and more.

Tell me a bit about the meaning of the title 2 Baddies, the album’s name and single. It’s a unique title.

JOHNNY: The Korean title is “질주,” which means “too fast.” It’s talking about just moving forward, not caring about what others are saying about you, and just going fast and looking forward. And my take on “2 Baddies” is because of a Porsche, basically, because most of them are two-seaters. That’s how it’s all brought together to make “2 Baddies.”

You mention Porsches, and there are car elements throughout the album: songs “2 Baddies” and “Faster,” the styling, the video. Are any of you racing fans?

TAEYONG: I really like to play car-racing games like KartRider. I really like the—how can I say it?—the blue fire nitro boosts? I really enjoyed the concept, it’s my style.

Why was this the right comeback song? It’s been awhile since we had a new NCT 127 album.

MARK: In my opinion, I feel like the last songs we came out with, “Sticker” and “Favorite,” were pretty new. Like, the concept of “Sticker” and “Favorite” was very new and really experimental for NCT 127. After almost a year, we feel like we should kind of bring back what we do best. For 2 Baddies, all those previous experiences that we had all came into one whole constructed song and album. Timing kind of came to us this time.

How did you guys get involved with the album creatively?

MARK: TAEYONG and I wrote some raps for the song in the album like “Time Lapse” and “Designer.” Other than being involved with the songwriting, we all really took part in recording the album because we all knew that long kind of hiatus that we had before this album was something that motivated us to [put] a lot more of our spirit and our hearts as we did the recording. For each song, we all really brought our upgraded game into the recording studio, and we all really had our own interpretations. We really took part, each and every one of us.

JAEHYUN hinted in an earlier interview that the choreography has a “free” vibe. Can you explain this a bit more?

JAEHYUN: As I kind of teased last time, there are some parts where you can kind of freestyle, smile and show a lot of emotions while doing the whole performance. It’s not like full freestyle, but I think the dance element is more free this time because you can express any kind of feeling while performing “2 Baddies.”

What’s everyone’s favorite song?

HAECHAN: “Designer”

JAEHUYN: For today, I’d say “Tasty.”

TAEYONG: Today, “2 Baddies,” the title track.

TAEIL: “Gold Dust”

JUNGWOO: I think “Vitamin,” I really like the quickness of the song.

DOYOUNG: I love “Crash Landing.”

YUTA: “Playback”

MARK: I choose “2 Baddies” today.

JOHNNY: For me, it’d have be “1, 2, 7 (Time Stops).”

How does this album continue NCT 127’s story as a group representing K-pop?

TAEYONG: We really felt that this was something that we could do the best and we were doing something that really brought out our core strengths and skills. Even when we were recording, people around us were commenting about how “This is something that NCT 127 could do the best out of everybody else.” So, we were really excited to showcase our strengths and skills through this album comeback. As a part of the K-pop community, we want to experiment and continue to show our growth and development, and, hopefully, start or kickstart a new wave in K-pop.

Yeah. More baddies in K-pop. I’m ready for it.

NCT 127: Yeaaah!

Your Sticker album hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200, which was a new best for you. Any hopes or any Billboard chart goals this time?

TAEYONG: Billboard No. 1!

JOHNNY: I think No. 1 is everybody’s goal. It’s always there.

You’ll be back in the U.S. soon for two concerts. What can fans expect from these upcoming LA and New York concerts?

JOHNNY: It’s already been two or three years since we’ve all been to the U.S. together so I think just that will have our fans very excited. But we also have the new album coming out before that so I’m just going to tell you that, yes, we’re going to implement the new music into our setlist in the concerts. We have a lot of things prepared and I’m sure everybody will fully be able to enjoy our concerts.

What else is coming up among the lots of things you have prepared? Can we expect another great repackage album like NCT 127 always brings? What else is coming beyond this new album?

MARK: Well…dang, man. [Laughs]

TAEYONG: You may see what you expect, but you also may see something that you really don’t expect. You can expect what you’ve been expecting, but you can also look forward to being surprised by something unexpected.

MARK: Wow. He twisted that up!

Anything else you want to make sure Billboard knows or is messaged around this album?

MARK: Tell Billboard to get ready for our No. 1 spot.

NCT 127: Yeaaah!

JAEHYUN: This is the attitude for 2 Baddies!

MARK: See you up there! But all jokes aside, we’re really excited about putting out our fourth full-length album. Our fans have been super patient and supportive for this whole project, and we really worked on this album like that much harder. So, we really want to show our passion to our fans as well. We’re really excited to show the world about our album as we just hope our fans love it. We’re excited to perform.

The Ledger: Spotify Beats SXM Media to Top Podcast Network Rankings

The Ledger is a weekly newsletter about the economics of the music business sent to Billboard Pro subscribers. An abbreviated version of the newsletter is published online.

With the help of ratings juggernaut Joe Rogan, Spotify topped SXM Media — just barely — in Edison Research’s Q2 2022 podcast network rankings, covering April 1 to June 30, after taking the runner-up position the previous two quarters.  

The streaming company has made Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, a cornerstone in its efforts to expand the audio platform beyond its music roots. If Rogan’s role was to help make Spotify a podcast leader, he accomplished his mission. “Rogan is not the only reason they’re no. 1, but he’s the main reason,” says Edison Research president Larry Rosin.  

For all the controversies — from accusations of racism to Neil Young‘s demand that Spotify pull his catalog over Rogan’s comments about COVID-19 — TJRE has delivered an audience like no other podcast. Rosin compares Rogan to Aaron Judge, whose 57 home runs is 20 more than the next best hitter in major league baseball, and American Idol, which in its prime could have lost half its fifth-season audience and still rank in the top 10 shows on television. “That’s kind of what Rogan is to the rest of the field in podcasting,” says Rosin.  

That said, Spotify’s lead over SXM Media is tenuous because networks regularly gain and lose shows, which means their market shares are in flux. “That’s part of what happened,” says Rosin. “SXM had a bunch of shows come out,” such as Exactly Right Media switching from SXM Media to Amazon’s Wondery (taking its flagship podcast, the No. 5-ranked My Favorite Murder). “That was really the difference,” he says. It was enough to allow Spotify to nudge out SXM Media “by a tiny margin.” 

Topping Edison’s podcast network rankings is a notable achievement for a music-first company that is pushing hard to build a broad audio platform. The company sees spoken-word audio as a necessary means to help deliver the growth Spotify’s investors expect. Not only can podcasts help attract and retain subscribers, but they can also provide additional advertising revenue. As its podcasting business scales, it can improve upon music margins that are surrendered to licensing deals with record labels. In Spotify’s June 9 investor presentation, Spotify executives said the company can achieve podcast gross margins of 30-35% within three to five years and sees 40-50% as attainable further in the future. In 2021, Spotify’s podcast business left a $103 million negative impact on gross margin.    

Spotify has spent handsomely on podcast-related acquisitions for content creators The Ringer, Parcast and Gimlet and technology platforms Anchor and Megaphone. That’s not including exclusive licensing deals for TJRE, Call Her Daddy, Barack and Michelle Obama‘s Higher Ground (which left for Amazon’s Audible in June), DC Comics and others.  

SXM Media is the sales organization of SiriusXM Holdings Inc. and covers three companies: SiriusXM, Pandora and Stitcher, a podcast platform. It has some of the most popular podcasts in the U.S., including No. 2 Crime Junkie, No. 10 Office Ladies, No. 11 Dateline NBC, No. 18 Pod Save America and No. 23 WTF with Marc Maron. In all, SXM Media has seven of the top 30 podcasts in Edison’s Q2 2022 ranking.

Spotify has only two shows in the top 30: The Joe Rogan Experience and Call Her Daddy. But both shows are in the top 10 — Call Her Daddy is No. 8 — and Spotify has both exclusively through lucrative licensing deals. It has one other podcast in Edison’s top 50: Reply All, from Spotify-owned Gimlet, which ranks No. 49.  

But for Spotify, success in podcasting isn’t necessarily reflected in its position on Edison’s podcast ranking chart. Spotify needs a wide range of shows to be interesting to ad buyers, says James Cridland, editor of Podnews, in an email to Billboard. “Total time spent listening is important when it comes to revenue, and this is something that Edison Podcast Metrics doesn’t measure.”  

This is where Spotify’s acquisitions of Anchor (in 2019) and Megaphone (in 2020) come into play. Anchor gives creators tools to make their podcasts; Megaphone distributes the podcasts and sells advertising. In June, Spotify had over 4 million podcasts on its platform, up from 500,000 in 2019, and 75% of them come from Anchor, said Maya Prohovnik, Spotify’s head of talk verticals, at the June 9 investor presentation. By owning two podcast hosting companies and publishing a wide range of shows, “Spotify has access to both the big hits and the breadth of content that will help them achieve both a high number of total audience and a wide range of different shows,” says Cridland. 

Just as hit-focused major record labels have built businesses around selling and distributing music’s long tail, Spotify is tapping into the value of podcasting’s ocean of niches and less-than-mainstream content. In May, Edison found that more than half of all listening in the top thousand podcasts is happening in the top 100. “That doesn’t mean they aren’t avid audiences,” wrote Rosin, “and it certainly doesn’t mean they are not monetizable audiences.” Outside the top thousand podcasts are hundreds of thousands of creators with millions of episodes. Each title by itself has a small audience, but in aggregate they can make a noticeable difference on Spotify’s bottom line.  

Kanye West Admits He Hasn’t ‘Read Any Book’: ‘Reading Is Like Eating Brussels Sprouts for Me’

Reading is fundamental… unless you’re Kanye West, apparently. On Friday (Sept. 16), the rapper confessed his aversion to all things literary in a new interview.

“When you said I hadn’t read this book, I actually haven’t read any book,” he said in an interview with the Alo Mind Full podcast. “Reading is like eating Brussels sprouts for me. And talking is like getting the Giorgio Baldi corn ravioli.”

However, Ye’s admission didn’t stop him from trading philosophical proverbs with host Danny Harris, who was expounding on his love for a book whose title he didn’t actually share. “There’s two people: the man who thinks they can and the man who thinks they can’t. And they’re both right,” he declared with a smile. “That’s what you were saying, but that was like a simplified version.”

The Alo Yoga co-founder went on to add, “That’s right…Yeah, the one who wins the race is the one who believes they can. The oak lies in the acorn.”

West later revealed his perspective on his outside-of-the-box approach to his music, fashion design and other business ventures, saying, “Now we talk about language, what I did realize is, sometimes, it’s not that I’m not right — wait for it, watch I’ve got a good one, here we go — sometimes I’m just not right now. It’s not right now; it’s not that you’re not right. It’s just not right now. … And I have to, like, be here ’cause that’s not a good thing, to be too ahead. ‘Cause what do you do then? You lose the audience.”

Earlier this week, West shared the news that he had parted ways with Gap following the rollout of Yeezy Gap in the store’s locations across the country. However, his deal with Gap Inc. is supposed to extend through 2030 and he still has an active contract with Adidas.

Watch Kanye’s sit-down on the Alo Mind Full podcast below.

Tiktok Owner ByteDance Offers to Buy Back $3B in Outstanding Shares

TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd. could spend as much as $3 billion to buy back shares from investors after the company scrapped its plans to go public this year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing a memo sent to ByteDance investors. 

The China-based company offered to repurchase investors’ existing shares for up to $176.94 per share, a move that would value ByteDance at close to $300 billion, much higher than previously reported, according to the WSJ.  

While the company did not provide a reason for the share repurchase in its memo, the move would provide liquidity to some of its long-term shareholders, offering some recompense for the scrapped IPO plans, the WSJ reported. 

ByteDance indefinitely shelved plans for an initial public offering in the U.S. or Hong Kong in July after officials in China warned management to address data security risks, with founder Zhang Yiming making the decision after meetings with regulators, it was reported at the time. The company was then thought to be valued at $180 billion, according to its most recent funding round in December.

ByteDance did not respond to Billboard’s request for comment by the time of publishing.  

If the $3 billion Bytedance budgeted for the share repurchase is not enough to meet investor demand, the company will buy back an equal proportion of shares from each, according to the WSJ.  

Chinese authorities have increased scrutiny of technology companies since late 2020 in an effort to crack down on what it perceives as monopolies. It has also instituted new rules governing data collection and cybersecurity. 

Here Are All the Easter Eggs in BLACKPINK’s ‘Shut Down’ Music Video

BLACKPINK is officially back in your area. Two years after the release of the K-pop girl group’s debut album, The Album, the four-piece — Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa and Rosé — finally released their second album, Born Pink, on Friday (Sept. 16), and with it, an Easter egg-filled video for the album’s title track, “Shut Down.”

As it turns out, video Easter eggs are not just a favorite of Taylor Swift (who is, notably, a fan of the girl group). When the visual for “Shut Down” arrived in the early hours of Friday morning, fans noticed that it acted as both a reflection on BLACKPINK’s past eras since their 2016 debut with “Whistle,” in addition to a fun game for eagle-eyed viewers to decode all the small details and links to the group’s previous video releases, as well as their solo and group discography.

The video for the fiery track immediately kicked off with a callback to the quartet’s 2016 music video “Playing With Fire,” with Lisa standing in a very familiar location at the very start of the video. Then, a group shot of Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa and Rosé in an alley filled with posters gives devoted Blinks several things to sink their teeth into.

Such a detailed video does not come without thought. In an interview with CR Fashion Book, Lisa told the magazine of how intentional the group aims to be with its final products. “We try to bring out the best outcomes by discussing our thoughts on music videos, outfits, choreography, and even the littlest details such as hair colors,” the rapper said, adding, “I think our fans are as excited about our new album as we are.”

See each one of the Easter eggs from “Shut Down” — as well as time stamps for where to find the original video callbacks — below.