Ozuna, Bad Bunny, Juanes and Fernandez family shine in performances
RosalÃa, the breakout Latin music star of 2019, and fellow Spaniard Alejandro Sanz wereÂ the top winners at the 20th edition of the Latin Grammys, taking home three awards each. Rosalia won the all-important Album of the year award and Best contemporary pop vocal album for El Mal Querer, and Best Urban song for â€œCon Altura,â€ her collaboration with J Balvin. El Mal Querer also won best engineered album (with wins going to El Guincho and Brian HernÃ¡ndez) and best recording package, translating to five wins for RosalÃa.Â
â€œI canâ€™t believe it,â€ said a euphoric RosalÃa. â€œTruly, Guincho and I did this album in a room with two computers and a keyboard and thatâ€™s it.â€
Veteran Spanish singer/songwriter Sanz’s three awards included record of the year and best pop song for â€œMi Persona Favorita,â€ his duet with Camila Cabello. And Kany GarcÃa, Tony Succar, Juan Luis Guerra and AndrÃ©s Calamaro followed in wins with two awards each in an evening that was a festive celebration of music where awards seemed to be distributed among many genres and personalities.
The 20th annual awards show was also a socially-conscious affair, with many artists making reference to problems and unrest in their native countries, particularly in their media room interviews, and with the show itself paying homage toÂ a different, perhaps more egalitarian approach to music and music-making.Â
The song of the year award, for example, which has typically gone to big legacy or slightly esoteric fare went this year to â€œCalma,â€ a good-vibes anthem by Pedro CapÃ³ that found global success in its remix with Farruko.Â
Instead of having models give the awards onstage,Â the Latin Grammys were doled out by winners of scholarships given by the Latin Grammy Foundation.Â
And artists took a more irreverent approach. Bad Bunny took the stage to collect his best urban music album award for X100PRE dressed in Bermuda shorts and carrying a styrofoam cup (of hot tea, as it turns out; heâ€™s been sick). Fonseca, who won best traditional pop vocal album for AgustÃn, actually announced what he was singing — as if he were performing at a bar — when he took the stage only with his guitar to perform a tribute to JosÃ© JosÃ©.Â
And there was a decided passing of the torch in key awards. Aside from RosalÃaâ€™s wins as a newcomer, and CapÃ³â€™s win for song of the year, 20-year-old Christian Nodal won best ranchera album and Tony Succar won producer of the year. In the best new artist category, as ever a hotly-contested affair, the winner was Venezuelan singer Nella, a Berklee grad with a luminous voice who acknowledged that her music â€œwas not commercialâ€ and dedicated her win to â€œVenezuela and all those like me who come to this country and weâ€™re battling to get ahead.â€
The controversy of the lack of reggaetÃ³n in the Latin Grammys, which so dominated the conversation at the time of the nominations was virtually inexistent during the award show. Only when Bad Bunny picked up his award, did he address the elephant in the room.Â
â€œReggaeton is part of Latin culture and it represents Latins just like many other genres do,â€ he said, then flipped the conversation.Â â€œAs I tell my friends in the genre, letâ€™s bring genuine things and different things [to the music]. The genre has become all about numbers and views.â€Â
There were many high points in the evening. In a first-ever moment, ranchera icon Vicente FernÃ¡ndez performed alongside son Alejandro Fernandez — also a star — and grandson Alex FernÃ¡ndez. Hearing the elder FernÃ¡ndez with a voice as potent as ever was breathtaking.
Ozuna, who the night before more than proved his mettle covering Juanesâ€™ â€œLa Camisa Negraâ€ at the person of the year gala, delivered again in a medley of hits that included new song â€œHasta Que Salga el Sol.â€
And â€œCantalo,â€ the new single by Ricky Martin with Residente and Bad Bunny, was more convincing in this live energized version full of percussion, horns and dancers while Bad Bunny took a gamble performing with a string orchestra.Â
Person of the year Juanes performed an emotional and really outstandingly executed medley of hits, beginning with his breakout song, â€œFijate Bien,â€ â€œA Dios le Pidoâ€ (with a full string orchestra) and duets with Alessia Cara (singing totally in Spanish) and Sebastian Yatra.Â He later was visibly surprised when Lars Ulrich of Metallica showed up to give him his person of the year award, recalling when he had first met Juanes and learned he was a Metallica fan.Â
â€œTonight, weâ€™ve come full circle: I proclaim myself a Juanes fan. My brother in rock, mi amigo, mi parcero, Iâ€™m proud to recognize you as person of the year for the Latin recording Academy,â€ said Ulrich.Â
â€œOne of the reasons Iâ€™m making music is because of you guys,â€ Juanes told Ulrich. â€œYouÂ changed my life, man.â€ Then he proceeded to thank a long list of people, from his immediate family, to manager Rebeca LeÃ³n to former manager Fernan Martinez.Â
While there was fluidity in language — Alicia Keys also performed, for example — the evening was most decidedly an homage to Latin music and to figures past and present in the awardsâ€™ two decades, from Celia Cruz to JosÃ© JosÃ©, who died this year.
â€œI say without diversity, there is no Latin Grammys,â€ said Sanz backstage.Â
And overwhelmingly, it was all about music, as gleaned when RosalÃa was asked backstage to comment on current political issues.Â
â€œItâ€™s such a delicate topic,â€ she said. â€œIt would take much, much time and thought. And today, really, I would really like to celebrate music.â€Â