Dominican singer-songwriter Juan Luis Guerra swept the Latin Grammy Awards on Thursday, taking home five musical honors including album of the year, record of the year and song of the year.
Guerra’s album “La Llave de Mi Corazon” and its playful, upbeat title track also won the singer and his band, 440, trophies for best merengue album and tropical song.
Praise for “La Llave” also extended to its production, as the album garnered the award for best engineered album.
“I want to dedicate this award to the Dominican Republic,” said Guerra upon being named the Latin Recording Academy’s person of the year, recognizing career and personal achievements. Guerra talked about Tropical Storm Noel, which recently thrashed the Caribbean nation and killed dozens of people.
“In recent days, we’ve had some difficult moments. . . . But we are a strong and courageous people,” said Guerra.
Guerra, credited with popularizing the bachata dance rhythms outside the Dominican Republic, bested Miguel Bose, reggaeton duo Calle 13, Ricky Martin and Alejandro Sanz for album of the year.
Among the artists he beat out for record of the year were Martin and other superstars: Beyonce and Shakira, and Bose and Paulina Rubio.
Martin and Calle 13 each picked up two trophies.
The awards show made its Las Vegas debut, and the flavor of Sin City was evident from the get-go, when Martin opened the show with a rousing performance along with the blue-painted musical trio Blue Man Group.
The superstar performed a medley of “Lola Lola” and “La Bomba” while Blue Man Group added its signature frenetic dance visuals. It was one of the show’s several mash-ups of nominees and Las Vegas Strip staples.
Later, reggaeton star Daddy Yankee performed “Ella Me Levanto,” flanked by the showgirls of “Folies Bergere.”
Backstage, Martin praised Guerra as “the father of Latin American poetry.”
Martin took home the award for long-form music video for “MTV Unplugged” and for male pop vocal album.
Calle 13, which also started the evening with four nominations, picked up the trophy for urban music album for its politically charged “Residente o Visitante,” beating out Daddy Yankee, Orishas and Ivy Queen.
“We are super thrilled, nervous -- this has been a lot of pressure,” singer Rene Perez said onstage. “To all of Mexico, Colombia, from the heart -- to all Latinos: From here, no one will remove us.” One track, “Pal Norte,” on which the group highlights hardships faced by immigrants trying to enter the U.S. illegally, nabbed the urban music song trophy, which recognized songwriting.
Jesse & Joy, siblings from Mexico who scored a hit this year with “Espacio Sideral” off their debut album, garnered the new artist trophy.
The pair beat out several newcomers, including pop singer Alejandra Alberti and Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto.
Among the other winners, Italian singer Laura Pausini won the trophy in the female pop vocal album category for “Yo Canto"; Michael Salgado won the Norteno album trophy for “En Vivo.”