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Armed with his biggest album and tour(s) yet, El Conejo Malo united global audiences and pushed pop music forward in 2022, dominating the entire year.

For this year’s update of our ongoing Greatest Pop Star by Year project, Billboard is counting down our staff picks for the top 10 pop stars of 2022 all this week. At No. 1, we remember the year in Bad Bunny — who made the jump from being the world’s greatest Latin pop star to simply the world’s greatest pop star.

In the summer of 2021, Billboard talked to Bad Bunny about him producing Tommy Torres’ new album, El Playlist de Anoche – his first run at producing an album outside the urbano realm. “Everything in life is a risk,” he said then. “I made this album because I wanted to do it and because it fulfilled me.” If there’s one that’s clear about the Puerto Rican chart-topping artist, it’s that any project he works on, he does it for those two reasons — which allows him to deliver genuine projects that connect with countless millions of fans across the globe.  

Billboard’s Greatest Pop Stars of 2022:
Introduction & Honorable Mentions | Rookie of the Year: Steve Lacy | Comeback of the Year: Sam Smith | No. 10: Nicki Minaj | No. 9: Future | No. 8: Jack Harlow | No. 7: Doja Cat No. 6: Lizzo No. 5: Drake | No. 4: Beyoncé | No. 3: Taylor Swift | No. 2: Harry Styles

Benito Antonio Ocasio Martínez, or in his own words, “Benito Martínez el más hijueputa (the biggest motherf–ker),” has proven to be a force to be reckoned with — and, in a matter of two years, has unsubtly transitioned from Latin star to global superstar, penetrating the mainstream in a way that no other Latin artist has. Just last year, Bad Bunny was No. 10 on our Greatest Pop Stars of 2021 list. This year, he’s unequivocally No. 1. 

Statistically both Billboard’s Top Artist of the Year and (for a third consecutive year) Spotify’s most streamed artist globally, El Conejo Malo been on a wild ride since he made his grand return to the stage with El Último Tour del Mundo at the top of 2022, winding his way to the spring release of his blockbuster album Un Verano Sin Ti — which catapulted Bunny to unprecedented heights, on and off the charts.  

By 2022, Bad Bunny’s success was already an anomaly. Between 2020 and 2021, he had released three consecutive Top Latin Albums-topping sets (YHLQMDLG, Las Que No Iban a Salir and El Último Tour del Mundo), had a WWE sting during a tag-team match against The Miz and John Morrison at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, and produced that album for Torres — which landed the veteran singer-songwriter his first top 10 entry on Top Latin Albums in nearly a decade. He’d also announced an ambitious tour for 2022, which would mark his grand return to live touring since the pandemic. “POR FIN!!! ESTÁN LISTOS??? (Finally! Are you all ready?),” he captioned the announcement on social media.  

Boy, were they ready. After becoming the fastest-selling trek since 2018, with 480,000 tickets sold in less than a week, Bad Bunny finally kicked off his El Último Tour del Mundo stint in the U.S. in February, marking the start of a blockbuster year for the artist. With El Último Tour, Bunny embarked on his biggest stage tour yet, earning $116.8 million in North American arenas, according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore. It then became the highest grossing Latin tour in Boxscore history, breaking local records in more than half of the markets where he played. (It’s worth noting that even before he began the U.S arena tour, in January, he announced an ambitious 29-date stadium tour that would kick off in the summer, following El Último Tour.) 

It made sense that he’d tour again. When Bunny revealed plans for a second trek, he also announced he was releasing a new album. The new set would be a follow up to 2020’s El Último Tour del Mundo, which earned him his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, marking the first all-Spanish-language album to reach No. 1 in the then-64-year history of the all-genre chart. Could Bad Bunny best his last album? Probably, given his career-long upward trending. But no one was expecting that Un Verano Sin Ti, which was released in May, would rewrite records broken not just by a Latin artist, but by any artist in general.  

Un Verano Sin Ti debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 (dated May 21), earning 274,000 equivalent album units in the U.S., according to Luminate. And with 356.66 million on-demand official streams for the set’s songs in its first week, the album registered the largest streaming week ever for a Latin music album. Verano – which spent 13 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 – also placed 22 songs from the set on the May 21-dated Billboard Hot 100, the most in a week for a core Latin music artist and the most in a week performed all in Spanish. 

There’s no one reason for the unprecedented success of this particular album, but there are many contributing factors. For one, Latin music market share has been on the rise for some five years now, since “Despacito” opened the floodgates for a wave of Spanish-language songs to become global. And, for the first time ever, Latin music expected to reach a billion dollars in revenues by year’s end in the U.S., according to the RIAA. Its 23% increase is outpacing overall market growth.  

Then there’s the obvious. Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti is packed with back-to-back hits that, sonically, all sound completely different (from dembow to mambo and alt-rock). He’s completely deviated from the traditional to innovate, pushing all popular music forward and expanding pop in a way few major artists are right now. There weren’t just one or two singles that were being pushed from Verano — rather, the entire album was being streamed on repeat. Everyone had a different answer when asked which song was their favorite from the set, because there’s a song that just about everyone can relate to – which helps explain why a stunning 11 of the tracks stuck on the Hot 100 for double-digit weeks.   

Within a few months, Verano had grown into easily the biggest non-English-language album of the century — without Bunny having to record in English or do a major non-Latin collaboration – and in early August, he expanded his multi-platform stardom with his first major film role, as an assassin in the Brad Pitt-starring action-comedy Bullet Train. But despite being intended as a summer album, UVST’s dominance carried over to Fall — thanks to Bunny’s stadium tour, which kicked off with three sold-out performances at El Choli in his beloved Puerto Rico in July.

The U.S. leg officially opened in August, with shows that began very much on brand for the album: a seagull call filled the stadium; Bad Bunny appeared sitting on a beach chair with a neverita (cooler) next to him. His UVST vision literally came to life in every show. Later that month, his Yankee Stadium performance was beamed into the VMAs, with the superstar stealing the awards show without even attending. “I always knew that I could become a huge artist without changing my culture,” he said (in Spanish) while accepting the artist of the year award — the first Latin act to win that category. 

His second tour of 2022 doubled the gross of his prior record-breaking trek: The World’s Hottest Tour grossed $232.5 million and sold 944,000 tickets from just 21 shows in the U.S. The combination of El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo & World’s Hottest Tour landed him at the top of Billboard‘s annual Boxscore recaps. Moreover, Un Verano Sin Ti became the first non-English album to ever top the Year-End Billboard 200 albums ranking, and tied Drake’s Views and Disney’s Frozen soundtrack for the most weeks at No. 1 on the chart in the last decade. In November, it also earned the first ever nomination for album of the year at the Grammys for an all-Spanish release, one of three nods Bad Bunny garnered for the 2023 ceremonies. 

Bad Bunny wasn’t the only artist who dominated this year. There were Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, too, and many other stars who had stellar years with new album releases. But while those artists had years that felt momentous, Bunny’s was truly historic — capturing the zeitgeist not just of Latin music, but for all of global pop. 

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