Record of the Year
Dimelo (I Need to Know): MARC ANTHONY
Anthony’s crossover success is the story of a young salsero who funkified his clave and thus became a mainstream sensation. On hit salsa albums the Nuyorican singer had already demonstrated how he could incorporate R&B; elements into his urban-friendly tropical style. When it came time to record an English-language pop album (which includes the nominated Spanish version of this song), the timbales and congas were brought along. The result is the aural scrapbook of an American artist with Latino roots who found the ideal middle ground to satisfy both Anglo and Latino fans.
Tiempos: RUBEN BLADES
While some of his hard-core fans are still hoping Blades will return to the classic salsa style that made him famous, the Panamanian singer continues to innovate. “Tiempos” finds Blades opening a new path for Latin American pop. Backed by the soothing sounds of the Costa Rican group Editus, he delivers a poignant, Zen-influenced lyric about the importance of self-acceptance and the meaning of life. The percolating beats prove that Blades has yet to abandon the influence of Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Still, this is one of the most delicate melodies he has ever composed.
Livin’ la vida loca: RICKY MARTIN
Although it has very little--if anything--to do with Latin American reality, Martin’s smash hit symbolizes the Latin music explosion that took the U.S. by storm in 1999. You could argue this track has more in common with the Spice Girls or ‘N Sync than Celia Cruz or El Gran Combo, but the truth is that the influence of British and American pop has always been strong in all Latin countries (did anybody say rock en espanol?). If anything, Martin’s ditty--in Spanish and English versions on the album--about living a crazy life filled with dancing and sensuality illustrates the Latin spirit at its most dionysiac.
Corazon espinado: SANTANA, FEATURING MANA
Even before Santana’s comeback album became a surprise hit, the collaboration between the idealistic guitarist and the Mexican supergrupo Mana sounded like a brilliant concept. Mana’s soft rock would benefit strongly from Santana’s guitar licks, while the quartet would connect the Tijuana native with his musical roots. This composition by the band’s lead singer Fher is--just like the infamous “Oye Como Va"--a salsa-con-rock hybrid, its son montuno, tumbao and staccato cowbell clashing with a bluesy guitar solo and a 4/4 drumbeat. Commercially and artistically, it was a guaranteed success.
Fruta fresca: CARLOS VIVES
With this refreshing bit of vallenato-inflected pop, Vives demonstrated to the world that it was possible, after all, to make commercial music without sacrificing the roots of Latin America. As a songwriter, Vives is influenced by rock ‘n’ roll, reggae and traditional pop balladry, but his heart clearly belongs to his native Colombia and its wealth of song formats--from cumbias and paseos to gaitas and porros. “Fruta Fresca” manages to distill the essence of the Latin experience--its longing, joys and sorrows--making them accessible to all listeners, no matter where they come from.