The 12th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards on Nov. 10 transformed Sin City into Calle 13 City.
The hip-hop duo consisting of Eduardo Cabra (Visitante) and René Perez (Residente) lit up Las Vegas, collecting a record nine Latin GRAMMY Awards for the prestigious Album, Record and Song Of The Year categories; Best Urban Song for "Baile De Los Pobres"; Best Alternative Song and Best Short Form Music Video for "Calma Pueblo"; Best Tropical Song for "Vamo' A Portarnos Mal"; and Producer Of The Year. Calle 13 nearly doubled their Latin GRAMMY career output, with their cumulative total jumping from 10 to an impressive 19.
Producer Rafa Arcaute emerged as a big winner given his association with Calle 13. As co-producer for the duo's Album Of The Year-winning Entren Los Que Quieran, Arcaute picked up six total awards, including sharing Producer Of The Year honors. Taking home two awards each were Paquito D'Rivera, Franco De Vita and Zoé.
Fittingly, "Latinoamérica" emerged as the catalyst for the group's unforgettable evening, representing not only the poignant award-winning song by the visionary Puerto Rican duo, but also Latin America. The continent responsible for an array of dizzying sounds, colors and textures was celebrated in full splendor throughout the telecast, from the sunny Norteño-pop of Los Tigres Del Norte with Paulina Rubio to the ranchera pathos of Pepe Aguilar and the sticky reggaetón beats of Wisin Y Yandel.
Perhaps more than previous installments, the 12th Latin GRAMMY Awards managed to paint a timely, accurate picture of the trends and developments in Latin music today: the marriage of reggaetón with infectious pop; the vital presence of regional Mexican music and its many subgenres; and the creative apex experienced by such artists as 2011 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year Shakira, singer/songwriter De Vita and Calle 13.
Calle 13 set up a soulful atmosphere from the beginning, leading the show performing "Latinoamérica" with the epic accompaniment of a full symphony orchestra conducted by Venezuela's prodigy Gustavo Dudamel.
The majestic strains of an orchestra were present throughout the ceremony, backing a thunderous rendition of the '70s José José ballad "El Triste" by contemporary crooner Cristian Castro (which was applauded from the audience by no other than a teary-eyed José José himself) and adding depth to the lovely "Golpes En El Corazón," the smashing duet between Los Tigres Del Norte and Mexican pop star Rubio. An orchestra also enchanted the chorus of "¿A Dónde Vamos A Parar?" — which was performed with passion by Mexican balladeer Marco Antonio Solís.
The show's other main protagonist was the Colombian diva Shakira, who was feted the previous evening as the Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. Visibly moved, Shakira thanked the many artists who participated in the Person of the Year gala performing her songs, modestly adding that it was "an honor I don't deserve." Shakira also emphasized the important role musicians play in all our lives by helping us overcome life's difficult moments and giving true meaning to Latin music.
Shakira proceeded to give Latin music some powerful meaning herself. Her performance of three strikingly different numbers showcased her unlimited potential and unique artistry, from the crackling tension of the power ballad "Antes De Las Seis" to the hard-rock dynamics of "Devoción" and the sinuous vibe of the urban merengue gem "Loca" — the latter emerging as one of the highlights of the night, complete with the star's notoriously sensuous dance moves. The songstress would not go home empty-handed, landing Best Female Pop Vocal Album honors for Sale El Sol.
True to Las Vegas' reputation, the daring telecast incorporated a number of unusual musical pairings. Cuban-American rapper Pitbull and Nuyorican salsero Marc Anthony performed a live rendition of their successful collaboration "Rain Over Me," surrounded by bursts of fireworks and a seemingly endless parade of gorgeous women. Best New Artist winner Sie7e, representing Puerto Rico, was joined onstage by the Black Eyed Peas' Taboo. Young starlet Demi Lovato paired with Pablo Alborán for a scintillating rendition of "Solamente Tú." And former Aventura singer Romeo Santos showed us that Usher can perform the bachata as well as authentic bachateros from the Dominican Republic, evidenced by their smooth rendition of the honey-laced duet "Promise."
As the night advanced at a breathless pace, Calle 13's Residente and Visitante appeared increasingly surprised each time they returned to the stage to collect another award — even though their stunning victory marked a clear vote of confidence by Latin Recording Academy voters attesting to the purity and originality of their musical vision. While Residente took the opportunity to chastise commercial radio for refusing to play Calle 13's music, he also found the time to deliver the telecast's most memorable line, when receiving one of the awards for "Latinoamérica."
"I have to thank Latin America," said Residente. "Because it taught me how to write this song."