Will Smith, Marc Anthony, and Bad Bunny
Photo: Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images
2018 Latin GRAMMY Awards: Inside All The Action From Las Vegas
An electrifying version of the torrid pop hit “Está Rico” by original performers Marc Anthony, Bad Bunny and Will Smith opened up the 19th Latin GRAMMY festivities from Las Vegas with the underlying message that the current face of Latin music is a rainbow of ethnicities - a lovingly assembled labyrinth of cultures and styles.
From their opening remarks, hosts Ana de la Reguera and Carlos Rivera kept the procedures short and sweet, taking the time to cherish the fact that so many talented performers had gathered together to celebrate Latin music’s most important evening of the year.
Fittingly, the first series of musical numbers underscored the concepts of authenticity and collaboration.
Uruguayan troubadour Jorge Drexler performed a lilting “Telefonía” joined by the vocal harmonies of two visionary young divas: Chile’s Mon Laferte and Mexico’s Natalia Lafourcade. Sinaloa band Calibre 50 merged the accordion of norteño with the tuba of banda sinaloense on a soulful “Corrido de Juanito.” And veteran singer/songwriter Carlos Vives juxtaposed the future and present of Colombian music by singing the tropical-pop scorcher “Hoy Tengo Tiempo” joined by the enchanting Catalina García and her band, the jazzy Monsieur Periné.
In terms of Latin GRAMMY winners, the first surprise of the night arrived when Mexican icon Luis Miguel won the coveted Album of the Year award for México Por Siempre!, a lush collection of traditional rancheras. The crooner was not present to collect the statuette, but charismatic presenter Thalía demonstrated her sense of humor by promising with a wink that she would deliver the Latin GRAMMY in person.
In recent years, the almighty reggaetón genre has mutated. It has grown, diversified, expanded in scope and sensibility. A poignant reminder of these intriguing new directions arrived in the guise of Colombian singer J Balvin performing “Ambiente.” Enriched by a moody intro featuring Mexican chanteuse Carla Morrison, Balvin’s singing sounded open and vulnerable against the smoldering reggaetón rhythmic pattern.
One of the evening’s most hotly anticipated appearances was Rosalía’s, the 25 year-old singer from Catalonia who this year stirred the status quo of Latin music with an innovative blend of flamenco passion and hip-hop sensibility. Rosalía did not disappoint, adding an earthy flamenco interlude to her volatile interpretation of global hit “Malamente.”
Returning to more traditional territory, Puerto Rican singer Víctor Manuelle delivered a spectacular version of “Quiero Tiempo.” In typical Manuelle fashion—he is a pioneer of the slick salsa romántica wave—the song started as a velvety tropical pop confection, then intensified as the spidery piano tumbao and fiery brass riffs veered into hardcore salsa territory.
From authentic salsa soundscapes, the show transitioned into the roots of Mexican folk, as 15 year-old Ángela Aguilar – daughter of Pepe Aguilar, and granddaughter of golden era icons Antonio Aguilar and Flor Silvestre—moved the audience with a stunning version of the classic “La Llorona.” Aguilar navigated the lyrics as if it was a torch-song, with a bluesy growl that showcased her remarkable vocal abilities.
Jorge Drexler appeared surprised when announced as winner of Song of the Year for the wispy “Telefonía.” He expressed his admiration for his fellow nominees, ending with a message of inclusiveness by mentioning intellectual writers Jorge Luis Borges and Fernando Pessoa in the same sentence as populist song formats like cumbia and reggaetón. They all should be admired and celebrated, he emphasized.
A stirring video presented the accomplishments of Maná, winner of the Person of the Year award. More than the biggest rock band ever to emerge from Mexico, Maná has also made history for its commitment to championing social justice and protecting the environment. With lead singer Fher Olvera sounding at the peak of his powers, the group launched into a medley that included timeless Latin rockers “En El Muelle de San Blas,” “Labios Compartidos” and “Clavado En Un Bar.”
Part of the reason why the show flowed so smoothly this year was that the chosen performers kept things varied by painting a wide canvass of moods. Spanish pop star Pablo Alborán chose restraint over bombast with his exquisite rendition of “No Vaya A Ser,” an anthemic tune marked by delicate echoes of Spanish folk and an irresistible chorus anchored on hand clapping, layers of guitars and Alborán’s gentle voice.
Best New Artist winner Karol G. provided a raucous take on her sensuous radio hit “Mi Cama.” The Colombian singer added a touch of rock’n’roll bravado to the procedures by having the track’s prerequisite reggaetón beat performed by a live drummer.
The night ended with another surprise, as Drexler looked downright shocked when receiving a Latin Grammy for Record of the Year.
It was time to say goodbye, but Ana de la Reguera decided to part with a timely message. She reminded us that next year will mark the Latin GRAMMYs’ 20th anniversary. Most importantly, she wished that Latin music will continue to inspire, promoting a world where we can learn to be more tolerant and supportive.
It was, in a way, the perfect summation of the all-encompassing musical offerings heard during a most memorable evening.