You will not meet anyone who loves Shakira more than I do. (I’d bet money on it, but I’ve made some bad bets in the past and I should learn from my mistakes.) Shakira is beautiful and talented beyond measure; she is one of the best pop vocalists out there, and has been putting out soulful ballads for over 20 years. But even Shakira’s reign should only spread so far; and even I, the president of Shakira’s fan club, can acknowledge that there are other new and exciting Latinx voices who are worthy of industry attention. The Recording Academy, on the other hand, cannot.
Last night, the 18th Latin Grammy Awards (the Grammy Awards’ much young cousin, if you will) took place in Las Vegas. The ceremony was more political and critical of the industry than it has been in years past—the night opened with a moment of silence of Puerto Rico and Lin Manuel Miranda ended a speech with a plea to help the disaster-struck island.
The awards themselves, however, were hardly groundbreaking. Puerto Rican rapper Residente, who received the most nominations this year for his genre-bending self-titled, debut solo album, argued onstage that we should stop looking at data and start recognizing art. He took home two awards, despite a whopping nine nominations. Meanwhile, Luis Fonsi won four, including Record of the Year, for the inescapable “Despacito.”
One of the biggest ongoing criticisms of the Latin Grammys is that the show celebrates the same small handful of already-successful artists across Latin music genres every year. Bringing Shakira back into it: The singer was nominated six times this year and took home Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Album. Juanes, the Colombian pop star, has won 23 Latin Grammys, including one last night for Best Pop/Rock album. Alejandro Sanz, who took home the title of Person of the Year, has won 18 Latin Grammys. Even Residente, who probably feels snubbed after last night, has been handsomely awarded by the Academy throughout his career. Before yesterday, he was tied with Juanes for the most Latin Grammys ever, the recipient of 22 awards from his days in reggeaton group Calle 13.
Moreover, many of the performers last night were repeat performers. From the L.A. Times:
...the show’s producers seem to have a single set of performers on rotation. [Carlos] Vives, who performed this year, also performed last year. Banda El Recodo appears to be the go-to Mexican regional band. They were on the telecast two years ago. So was reggaeton singer Nicky Jam. Juanes is a regular repeat performer, as is [J] Balvin.
It is a truly exciting time for Latin pop; the genre has never had this much mainstream attention, due in large to “Despacito.” The music industry should be using that boon to draw attention to those artists who are actually doing things we’ve never seen before. Maybe next year the Academy will reflect the innovation taking place across Latin musical styles.