Tropical, urban Colombian rhythms and a zippy hit on love and technology topped this year’s Latin Grammy Awards, which saw several stars push a message for peace but mostly shied from politics.
Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler cleaned up with three trophies including for Song of the Year for “Telefonia,” (“Telephony”), a soft, melodic hit about the telephone’s power to foster love.
But while Drexler and Mexican balladeer Luis Miguel took home the ceremony’s top prizes — with the latter winning the coveted Album of the Year for “Mexico por siempre!” (“Mexico Forever!”) — hits rooted in driving reggaeton basslines stole the limelight at the star-studded ceremony in Las Vegas.
Colombian star J Balvin performed a medley of hits from his record “Vibras,” which took home Best Urban Music album.
It was his only win despite leading the pack with eight nominations, in a night that saw many younger winners cite his reggaeton style mixed with electronica, house, trap and R&B as inspirational.
J Balvin has been riding the wave of his smash hit “Mi Gente” (“My People”) with a number of collaborations that has placed him among the successful Spanish-language acts to dominate the global soundwaves.
After recording his initial version of “Mi Gente” — rooted in the African dance beats of French DJ Willy William’s “Voodoo Song” — J Balvin worked on a remix with pop royalty Beyonce to produce a charity version for hurricane relief.
Puerto Rican salsa star Marc Anthony kicked off the night with the first live performance of his bubbly new hit “Esta Rico” (“It’s Tasty”), joined onstage by American actor Will Smith and Puerto Rican star Bad Bunny, known for his pummeling Latin trap beats influenced by reggaeton and rap from the US south.
And Spanish sensation Rosalia, who debuted last year with a revisionist version of traditional flamenco infused with pop, R&B and electronic sounds, meanwhile took home two awards, including Best Alternative Song for her hit “Malamente” (“Badly”).
“This is a dream,” said the singer, who was the most nominated female artist of the night with five.
In accepting the award for Best Urban/Fusion Performance she thanked other women in the industry who “have taught me that it is possible, because thanks to them I’m here.”
Colombian Karol G, famous for her chest-pounding club hit “Mi Cama” (“My Bed”), scored the prize for Best New Artist.
The Latin Recording Academy, which awards the prizes, named the Mexican rock band Mana as Person of the Year, the first group ever to receive the honor.
Speaking on the red carpet prior to the ceremony, lead singer Fher Olvera paid tribute to the thousands of immigrants trekking towards the United States.
“All those Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans are human beings,” he said. “They are just like us.”
“We have to be human with them.”