Bad Bunny, Blackpink, Frank Ocean headlining historic Coachella

Bad Bunny, Blackpink, Frank Ocean headlining historic Coachella
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14 April 2023
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Hundreds of thousands of revelers were descending on California's Coachella Valley for the premier desert arts festival that kicks off Friday, which for the first time won't feature a white headliner.

Reggaeton titan Bad Bunny, K-pop superstars Blackpink and the influential but reclusive R&B artist Frank Ocean will top the 2023 edition of Coachella, the mammoth event that takes place over two three-day weekends and traditionally kicks off the year's summer concert circuit.

It's set to be a history-making weekend, with Bad Bunny -- the globe's most-streamed artist -- as the first Spanish-language and first Latin American act to headline.

And K-pop group Blackpink of South Korea is the first Asian act to receive a top billing at the festival.

Both acts debuted at Coachella in 2019 to great fanfare, teeing up an eventual headlining slot.

Ocean -- thought to be the first out queer man to headline the festival -- was originally booked as a top-billed act for the 2020 edition, which organizers postponed and eventually scrapped due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The acclaimed R&B artist, who hasn't released an album since 2016's "Blonde," is anticipated to debut new work at this year's festival.

The headliners -- in particular Puerto Rico's Bad Bunny, who is by most measures the world's biggest contemporary artist -- are some of the buzziest in years, since Beyonce shut down the stage in 2018 with her revered "Homecoming" show.

But despite their undeniable star power there was some surprise among industry-watchers and fans that Bad Bunny or Blackpink nabbed the top slots.

That take is misguided according to Vanessa Diaz, a professor at Loyola Marymount University who teaches the course "Bad Bunny and Resistance in Puerto Rico."

"They're surprised because they don't view this as mainstream American culture," she said.

"People were in disbelief because this seems so not a representation of mainstream American popular music in the way that Coachella has represented that before."

'Public demand'

The weekend is set to host perhaps the most international lineup Coachella has ever booked, including Spanish phenomenon Rosalia, Iceland's Bjork and Nigeria's Burna Boy.

South Korean girl group Blackpink performs during the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2022

South Korean girl group Blackpink performs during the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2022 © ANGELA WEISS / AFP/File

Belgium's Angele is slated to make her Coachella debut, as France's Christine and the Queens, who has been performing under the name Redcar, will also return after wowing audiences in 2019.

And the elusive electronic producer Jai Paul will play his first public performance ever.

Domi and JD Beck, the rising jazz duo comprised of a French keyboardist and American drummer, will also take the stage, months after they made a splash in Los Angeles as Grammy nominees.

Diljit Dosanjh will become the first Punjabi singer to perform at Coachella, as Pakistani singer, songwriter and composer Ali Sethi will also play a set.

For CedarBough Saeji, a professor of Korean and East Asian studies who specializes in K-pop, the festival lineup emphasizing the hottest acts from across the globe is long overdue.

"The American music industry, the American decision-makers, are not necessarily the biggest risk-takers," she told AFP. "They want to follow clear indication of public demand, as opposed to sticking their necks out."

US singer-songwriter Frank Ocean holds a robot baby as he arrives for the Met Gala in September 2021 in New YorkUS singer-songwriter Frank Ocean holds a robot baby as he arrives for the Met Gala in September 2021 in New York © ANGELA WEISS / AFP/File

English virtual band Gorillaz will also perform, as will New Wave pioneers Blondie and the American indie rock supergroup boygenius, which includes Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker.

Beyond the supernova that is Bad Bunny, the weekend will once again see a strong showing from Latinos, including but not limited to Los Angeles native Becky G, rapper Eladio Carrion, Argentina's Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and the Grammy-winning Kali Uchis.

Coachella will take place over two three-day weekends, from April 14-16 and 21-23.

And OG rock fans will get a special treat: Blink-182 announced just this week it will play a set Friday, the first time the pop punk group will perform with its original lineup in nearly a decade.

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