The biggest moments from the Latin Grammys
The 22nd annual Latin Grammys promised viewers the biggest night in Latin music and this year they delivered. After a year of socially distanced awards programming, this year's show felt like a massive family reunion. And like any good Latinx family reunion, there was unbridled joy and puro desmadre — in a good way! The celebration brought together Latin artists from all genres in a way that honored music titans often forgotten in English-centric events, and artists from a broad group of countries were represented among the 53 categories.
Camilo, Juan Luis Guerra, and Rubén Blades proved to be the night's biggest winners. Camilo took home three awards for three separate songs, as well as an award for Best Pop Vocal Album. Juan Luis Guerra also took home four awards, including one for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Rubén Blades on the other hand came away with some of the most important awards of the night, including Album of the Year for Salswing! and Person of the Year. It's been a long time coming, but Blades is finally getting his flowers from the Latin Recording Academy for his influence and impact on Salsa music at large.
In the night's biggest categories, Record of the Year went to father and son duo Caetano Veloso and Tom Veloso for their ballad "Talvez." It was a shocking win for the pair, given the powerhouse pop stars nominated in the category. The Velosos beat out names like Camilo, Rauw Alejandro, C. Tangana, and Marc Anthony, among others, for one of the most important categories of the show.
Song of the Year went to "Patria y Vida" by Cuban conglomerate Yotuel, Gente De Zona, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo & El Funky. The six artists came together to create a Cuban protest anthem with an openly political message that went viral online earlier this year, and performed the song early in night as a stripped down salsa rendition. It was another shock for the night, given the Latin Recording Academy's hesitance to promote explicitly political content.
On top of being one of the night's biggest winners, Camilo was also one of the rare performers to get a set completely to himself. He began the set with his song "Vida de Rico" in an entirely white room, and transitioned out onto a colorful, rainbow-adorned stage to perform his hit song "KESI" (sans Shawn Mendes, who is featured on the song's remix.)
The theme of this year's Latin Grammys was "Rediscovering Life Through Music" and it really came to life in the breadth of the performances delivered. In a lot of ways, the awards themselves felt like an afterthought. Instead, audiences were treated to a plethora of elaborate performances that relied heavily on unique collaborations between artists across genres.
Gloria Estefan kicked off the night with a star-studded three-song medley. The opener featured Giulia Be and Farina on a rendition of "Abriendo Puertas." That led into Laércio da Costa, Pedro Capó, and Diego Torres joining Estefan in "Cuando Hay Amor," and ended with Anitta and Carlinhos Brown taking Estefan home in a fully Portuguese rendition of "Magalenha."
Puerto Rican rapper Myke Towers' performance was defined by his seamless ability to move between genres. In a stunning performance of his song "Pin Pin," Towers took the genre-bending record that already places the flow and bassline of reggaetón against a classic salsa instrumental and blurred the lines between urbano and salsa even further. Backed by a full salsa band, this performance was truly a convergence of two uniquely Borinquen genres in a way that perfectly melded the past and present of the music dominating Puerto Rico.
C. Tangana's performance of his hit song "Ingobernable'' was a complete throwback to his el tiny Tiny Desk (Home) Concert that took the internet by storm earlier this year. Reusing his "Last Supper"-evoking set, Tangana was seated around a large dinner table fit for a huge feast. This time, however, he invited some of the biggest names in Latin music to take the stage with him in a star-studded upgrade of the aforementioned concert. The performance featured Omar Apollo, Nathy Peluso, Natalia Lafourcade, Jorge Drexler, Antonio Carmona, La Hungara, Israel Fernández, and Diego Del Mora, and it felt like a huge family reunion.
Among the performances was a powerful tribute to Rubén Blades, the 22nd annual Latin Grammys' Person of the Year, who took the stage to perform his hit song "Paula C." Afterwards, Blades accepted the night's highest honor, presented to him by rapper Residente, who delivered a heartfelt speech about the impact of Blades' candor regarding his battles with mental health and the power of his lyrics.
It was also a huge night for Mexican Regional music. The show featured performances by Grupo Firme, Mon Laferte with Gloria Trevi and La Arrolladora Banda El Limón, Calibre 50 and Banda El Recodo, and Los Dos Carnales. Carving out so much space for performances by Mexican Regional artists felt like a huge win for the genre, which has traditionally been sidelined when it comes to performing at the biggest night in Latin music. The genre also saw some huge moments during the awards — in the Musica Norteña category the award went in a tie to both Los Dos Carnales and Palomo, a first for the category.
In the Latin music for Children category, Colombian-based rock collective Tú Rockcito with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Medellín took home the award for their collaborative album Tú Rockcito Filarmónico. The win marks the first award for the rock collective composed of Colombian educators and child care workers.
The Urbano category hosted a highly contentious series of awards after multiple discussions about the role of Latin Urbano music erupted in the months before the awards ceremony. In a now-deleted tweet from the Colombian artist, J. Balvin previously called for a boycott of the night over the Academy's perceived disrespect of Latin Urbano music. Many online, including rappers Residente and Bad Bunny, were confused by the call out, given the fact that Balvin himself was nominated for three categories and the night saw significant representation for Urbano artists in comparison to prior years.
But J. Balvin's absence was barely felt, despite the controversy started by the reggaetonero in the lead up to tonight's event. Before the televised ceremony, it was announced that "Patria y Vida" by Yotuel, Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo, and El Funky won the award for Best Urbano Song. The award for Best Urbano Album ultimately went to Bad Bunny for EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO. It's a small improvement for Bad Bunny, who has often been shut out by the Latin Grammys, while having much more success at the American Grammys despite being a Latin artist. Karol G, who missed this year's ceremony, took home the award for Best Reggaetón Interpretation for her song "BICHOTA." She was the only woman nominated in the category.
Boycotting the Latin Grammys on behalf of Urbano artists is not a new concept. A similar boycott — that was much more successful — was launched in 2019 against the Latin Recording Academy for their dismissal of Reggaetón. While there has been an increase in nominations across all major categories for Urbano artists, the Latin Recording Academy and titans of the Urbano genre have struggled to grapple with a different and potentially more pervasive problem. These conversations have often left out Black Latinx artists, many of whom pioneered the genre and were still inadequately represented in both nominations and performances throughout the night.
With a few surprises, including a tie for two winners in an unprecedented category, a celebration of a Salsa legend, and a fizzled out boycott, this year's Latin Grammys was an impressive look at the biggest and most revered Latin artists in the industry. But it also memorializes how much work needs to be done to truly represent these genres in their entirety.
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