As is their custom, the Latin Grammy Awards this year heaped honors on many of the proven superstars of Spanish- and Portuguese-language music, including Marc Anthony, Carlos Vives and Alejandro Sanz, to name only a few. The Spaniard Miguel Bosé was feted as person of the year.
Worthy, if not exactly unpredictable, winners, they represent the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ old guard (or least middle-age guard), and its tendency at awards season to favor light pop and smooth musica romantica over spikier genres.
But there also were signs from Thursday night’s ceremony that a new generation of Spanish-language and bilingual recording artists is continuing to elbow its way into an academy so reverent of tradition that it can make the Grand Ole Opry seem like an anarchists’ mosh pit.
Among the most deserving of Thursday night’s up-and-coming winners were Venezuelan alt-rockers La Vida Boheme, who won best rock album for their sophomore release “Será,” and the Guatemalan singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno, the academy’s choice for best new artist on the strength of her 2012 release “Postales.” Never mind that she has been putting out albums independently since 2009.
Two other fresh talents, the Colombian Maluma and the bilingual Mexican American rapper Becky G of Inglewood put in an appearance on the telecast, joining in a performance of the hip-hop/reggaeton tune “La Temperatura.”
In its 14th year, the Latin Grammy Awards ceremony has settled into a benign and comfortable pattern that yields few surprises but consistently whips up an entertaining TV spectacle. That ensures a large, multi-generational audience for the Univision network. Compared to most other music awards shows, the Latin Grammys generally are tasteful and refreshingly unpretentious (take note, YouTube).
Two years ago, Puerto Rican alt-hip-hop duo Calle 13 carted off nine trophies. This year, awards were more equitably apportioned.
Anthony and a small army of co-producers, recording engineers and mixers won record for the year (i.e. best single) for his salsa anthem “Vivir Mi Vida” (To Live My Life).
Draco Rosa, the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter and former member of the boy band Menudo, capped a remarkable career comeback, including a successful battle against life-threatening illness, by capturing album of the year for his aptly titled “Vida” (Life), a compilation of earnest duets.
Yet another brand name, Colombia’s neo-vallenato rocker Carlos Vives, now (can it be?) a robust 52-year-old, and his songwriting partner Andres Castro, took home the statuette for song of the year, for their collaboration on the single “Volvi a Nacer” (I Was Born Again), already a wedding standard from Chicago to Caracas. It also won the award for best tropical song, while the record it appears on, “Corazon Profundo,” was named best tropical fusion album.
And there were accolades for perpetual front-runners like Juan Luis Guerra, Beto Cuevas, the great jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and the great Brazilian samba-funk-soul fusionist Seu Jorge.
Perhaps the award that best encapsulated the academy’s penchant for tradition over innovation went to the Mexican singer-songwriter Natalia Lafourcade. A precocious talent, Lafourcade released her witty, quirky debut album in 2003 when she wasn’t yet out of her teens.
Last night she received the award for best alternative album, for her lovely, duet-filled tribute disc “Mujer Divina: Homenaje a Agustin Lara.” Lara, a brilliant composer of pop standards sometimes called the Mexican Cole Porter, died in 1970.
Lafourcade’s album won over several more aggressively experimental competitors, including Cafe Tacuba’s “El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco,” and “Chances,” by the Argentine duo Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas, a juicy slice of urban dance-funk and hip-hop that evokes the wacky exuberance of George Clinton and the Ohio Players.
That, evidently, was a bit more “alternative” than the academy wanted, at least for this year.
[For the record, Nov. 22, 1:05 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly gave the name of the award Carlos Vives’ “Corazon Profundo” won as best tropical album. It is best tropical fusion album.]
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