The problem that occurred during Bad Bunny’s Grammy performance should have never happened in the first place


@badbunnypr on Instagram

One of the pictures Bad Bunny posted on Instagram after the Grammys.

The 2023 Grammy awards were filled with iconic moments in history and controversy like no other. For the past month, I have heard all about the drama surrounding how Beyoncé should have won Album of the Year, along with the judgy murmurs around Harry Styles’ acceptance speech. While I, too, have plenty to say on both subjects, there was one aspect of that night that everyone seemed to brush over all too quickly.

Bad Bunny is a Puerto Rican rapper who made history this year by having the first Spanish album—Un Verano Sin Ti—be nominated for Album of the Year. Furthermore, he opened the award show with one of the most entertaining Grammy performances I can remember. 

Since his entire performance was in Spanish and not everyone in the US knows the language, the logical thing to do would be to put English subtitles at the bottom of the screen. However, CBS did not think logically, and instead displayed “[SINGING IN NON-ENGLISH].”

Furthermore, while giving his acceptance speech after winning Best Música Urbana Album, the closed captions were similar to those from his performance, reading “[SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH].”

That does not justify why they did not have any translations for his performance, where they knew he was going to be speaking fully in Spanish.

The solution to this problem was far from complicated: CBS could have hired a translator to write closed captions, or they could have at least replaced “non-English” with “Spanish.” This act was noticed by many viewers, and they have all called out CBS for these racist remarks. It was most definitely called for, since CBS was blatantly ignorant and too lazy to carry out a simple act of respect that almost any other channel could have easily implemented. In fact, West Coast Encore and Paramount + included translated closed captions for Bad Bunny’s performance and acceptance speech.

Spotify has also not-so-subtly called out CBS for their mistake. After seeing Bad Bunny and Taylor Swift bond throughout the night including Swift dancing with Bad Bunny during his performance and multiple photos taken of them together, they made a playlist of a mix of the two artists’ songs titled “[SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH]” as a dig toward CBS and the Grammys.

Along with that, Bad Bunny has also called out CBS for the lazy subtitles. On Feb. 6, the day after the Grammys, Bad Bunny posted on Instagram expressing his gratitude for the night before. The fifth picture on his post was of him on TV performing, and the subtitles were on the bottom of the screen. Bad Bunny is also aware of this situation and is calling CBS out for their wrongdoings. 

Since the night of the award show, the subtitles have been revised and translated for any replays of the show. Furthermore, US Representative Robert Garcia (Dem. CA) wrote a letter to CBS expressing his distaste toward the situation. CBS President/CEO George Cheeks has responded to this letter, saying that the company will reevaluate its current subtitles and he hopes to improve Spanish subtitles in the future.

The problem with this whole situation is not how CBS has handled it all, but rather that this was a problem to begin with. Considering the fact that the Grammys are based in the US, where 78% of the population speaks English, a performance and speech in Spanish should be translated so that people could better understand what was being said.

People could argue that CBS did not know for sure if Bad Bunny was going to win the award for Best Música Urbana Album, therefore they did not have a translator prepared to write subtitles. That does not justify why they did not have any translations for his performance, where they knew he was going to be speaking fully in Spanish. And, since the nominees for that specific award all speak Spanish, it would have been safe for CBS to assume that there would be Spanish incorporated in their acceptance speech, no matter who won the award.

This situation could have easily been avoided. It should be common knowledge to add translated subtitles to a performance entirely in Spanish, along with Spanish speeches. Let’s not make this “mistake” again.