LAS VEGAS -- Colombian rock superstar Juanes won the Album of the Year trophy for “Juanes MTV Unplugged” at the XIII Annual Latin Grammy Awards on Thursday evening in Las Vegas, and the Mexico City sibling pop duo Jesse y Joy (that’s Jesse and Joy, to English speakers) won both Record of the Year and Song of the Year for their melancholy, down-tempo lover’s lament “¡Corre!” (Run!).
Certifying their swift rise from upstarts to establishment pros, Jesse y Joy, who were voted Best New Artist in 2007, this year also won for Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Album for “¿Con Quién Se Queda El Perro?” (translated as “Who Gets the Dog?”). They also won Best Short Form Music Video for “Me Voy.”
In contrast to last year, when the Puerto Rican sibling reggaeton-urban duo Calle 13 carted off practically every award save the Nobel Peace Prize, this year’s haul was much more equitably distributed.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, two of the Latin Academy’s favorite sons, Juanes and Juan Luis Guerra, were among the top honorees. Hours prior to the start of the telecast, Guerra, the Dominican singer-songwriter-producer, won the producer of the year trophy for the chart-topping “Juanes MTV Unplugged.”
During the telecast, Juanes also won for Best Long Form Music Video for the visual version of “Juanes MTV Unplugged.”
The pop group 3Ball MTY won the Best New Artist award in a crowded category that also included the promising Venezuelan rock band Los Mesoneros and Deborah de Corral, an Argentine model-turned-singer who’s the ex-girlfriend of former Soda Stereo frontman Gustavo Cerati. David Bisbal won for best pop traditional vocal album. Los Tucanes De Tijuana, a veteran group that has long been eclipsed by more famous peers like Los Tigres del Norte, won the Best Norteño Album, and Pepe Aguilar won for Best Ranchero Album.
Like most musical awards programs, the Latin Grammys are nominally a peer-reviewed tribute to the top artistic work in the field. But in cash-conscious pragmatic terms, they’re first and foremost a TV spectacle; only a handful of trophies actually were handed out during Univision’s three-hour telecast which kicked off at 5 p.m. from Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on The Strip.
The real attraction for the millions of at-home viewers supposedly are the red-carpet arrivals, with their fashion-forward preening, and the live musical performances -- “live” being a problematic term if you’re watching the delayed feed which aired at 8 p.m. on the West Coast.
According to a handout supplied to reporters, there were a total of 21 performances -- leading off with rapper Pitbull belting out the bilingual “Don’t Stop the Party” on a Roman bacchanal-themed set -- and altogether a dozen awards presented on live television.
Juanes was among the broadcast’s performers. Turning 180 degrees from his recent acoustic adventures, he blasted out a signature tune, “Fijate Bien,” backed by a brass section and a cameo Carlos Santana guitar solo. Guerra later brought the hall to its feet with his kinetic rendition of “En El Cielo No Hay Hospital” (In Heaven There Is No Hospital).
By far the most colorful performance came from Lila Downs, who sang her nuevo-folkloric “Zapata Se Queda” amid a procession of Aztec dancers, Day of the Dead figures and sombrero’d skirt-twirlers.
As telecast hosts, Lucero, the Mexican singer, and Cristian de la Fuente, the Chilean American actor (who changed outfits seemingly twice as often as his female partner), did their best to keep the wit quotient and scripted sexual tension high.
Some of the more intriguing awards were bestowed out of sight to all but a small studio audience. Carla Morrison, a spiky-sweet Mexican pop-rocker from Tecate who has drawn comparisons to singer-songwriters like Julieta Venegas and Natalia LaFourcade, won the best alternative song award for “Dejenme Llorar” (Let Me Cry).
Appropriately, she squawked out an expletive of pleased surprise as she took the stage in a red dress, multiple tattoos criss-crossing her arms. During the telecast, Morrison won the Best Alternative Music Album award.
It’s always a mild surprise when anyone other than Rubén Blades wins the Best Salsa Album award. This year Luis Enrique of Nicaragua carried off the upset with his record “Soy y Seré (I Am and I Will Be), besting four other nominees including Blades.
In the nebulous, catch-all category of Best Contemporary Tropical Album, Milly Quezada, the Dominican “Queen of Merengue,” received the Latin academy’s blessings over the legendary Cuban band Juan Formell y Los Van Van. In another minor wobble in the status quo, songwriters Ramón Enrique Casillas Ríos and Don Omar took the Best Urban Song for “Hasta Que Salga El Sol,” topping a group of contenders that included perennial reggaeton/hip-hopper nominee Daddy Yankee.
Veteran Mexican rock band Molotov won Best Rock Album for their latest, “Desde Rusia Con Amor” (From Russia With Love), a characteristically smash-mouth disc grounded in old-school power chords and head-butting percussion.
Yalil Guerra, a Havana-born contemporary composer who now makes his home in Los Angeles, won this year’s trophy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for his work “Seducción.” The piece, which is performed by pianist Elizabeth Rebozo, is from his album “Live in L.A.”
In recent years, a number of Latin and non-Latin artists, including Carlos Santana and Paul Simon, have raised objections to the consolidation of certain Latin-music categories by the Grammy Awards. The outcry was so fierce that last summer the Recording Academy reinstated the Grammy Award category for Latin Jazz.
Arturo Sandoval, the Latin jazz lion who won awards Thursday for Best Latin Jazz Album and Best Tango Album, said backstage he didn’t know whether the current Grammy categories are sufficient to cover Latin music. However, he said he believed that “everyone who makes a record with good intentions” and “professionalism” can be recognized, whether in an old or a new category.
One of the evening’s most quietly moving moments occurred when Fonseca won for Best Tropical Fusion Album. In accepting, he gave a shout-out in Spanish to his war-ravaged Colombian homeland which, he said “never lost the illusion of peace.”
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