1999: The Year Latin Pop Conquered America

Jennifer Lopez



1999: The Year Latin Pop Conquered America

1999 saw an unprecedented dominance of Latin pop sounds in American music, opening the public's ears to multilingual songwriting

GRAMMYs/Oct 7, 2017 - 02:15 am

The U.S. music scene in 1999 saw an unprecedented surge in the popularity of Latin pop.

Hispanic artists and various elements of Latin sounds dominated the charts to such an extent that by the end of the year even artists with no Latin heritage to speak of were looking to capitalize on the movement by recording Spanish-language versions of their singles in hopes of activating the crossover market.

Sure, there were prior Latin crossover rumblings — remember Dru's Hill's 1998 Latin-inflected Top 3 hit "How Deep Is Your Love" from Rush Hour? But most argue that it all started with Ricky Martin.

Ricky Martin

"It was completely sudden, and it had a lot to do with Ricky. After his performance at the GRAMMYs, everyone was on alert, so to speak, and expecting his new album. The first hit, of course, was "Livin' La Vida Loca" with that sensational video. I think that was the beginning." — Leila Cobo, executive director of Latin content and programming, Billboard

As a young man, Martin came to prominence between the ages of 12 and 17 as a member of the GRAMMY-nominated boy band Menudo. The Puerto Rico native was also a successful actor and solo recording artist before he burst onto the U.S. music scene in 1999. In the '90s, he acted in TV series such as "General Hospital" and "Getting By," telenovelas and stage plays, and he'd released four successful Spanish-language albums.

Martin won his first career GRAMMY — Best Latin Pop Performance for Vuelve — at the 41st GRAMMY Awards in 1999, but it was his show-stopping performance of "La Copa De La Vida" that same year that made it clear something big was on the horizon.

Martin's "Livin La Vida Loca" was released one month after his spectacular GRAMMY performance, and quickly became his first-ever No. 1 charting single, holding the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks. 

The singer's self-titled fifth solo album — his English debut — was released two months later, and hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 almost immediately. The most successful album of Martin's career, it has gone on to sell well over 15 million copies worldwide. Needless to say, 1999 was a big year for the Puerto Rican pop star.

Leila Cobo, executive director of Latin content and programming for Billboard, was working as Miami Herald's pop music critic at the time, recalls one event that served as an interesting tell sign.

"I went to cover [the signing] and found a line of hysterical girls at 11 a.m. on a school day that went on for blocks," she says. "I had never seen anything like this, ever."

Writing for Billboard roughly a month after "Livin La Vida Loca" hit store shelves, Michael Paoletta, now executive producer, A&R and music supervision for Comma Music, commented prophetically, "In the weeks since [the GRAMMYs], it seems like every record label exec has been in a heated search for the next Latin hottie."

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez had worked as a successful dancer and actress during the '90s, notably appearing as a Fly Girl on Keenan and Damon Wayans' sketch comedy and variety show "In Living Color." In 1997 Lopez earned a huge breakthrough in the leading role as GRAMMY-winning Tejano singer Selena in the titular biopic about her life and tragic death. The Bronx native's performance in the film was lauded by critics and fans alike, putting her in the entertainment spotlight and at the same time making her ripe to become the breakout female star to help propel the Latin pop movement.

Lopez's debut single, "If You Had My Love," was released in May 1999, just a week before Martin's self-titled album hit the shelves, arriving at the perfect time to sate the appetites of stateside listeners. The single climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and became one of the best-selling singles in the U.S. for 1999. Lopez's first studio album, On The 6, released a few weeks later, also skyrocketed, debuting at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 and ultimately earning triple-platinum status.

"Waiting For Tonight," the second radio single from On The 6, would go on to be nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards.

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The same month that saw Lopez release On The 6 also saw another well-established Latin pop star blow up in the U.S.

Enrique Iglesias

Enrique Iglesias had previously won his first GRAMMY for Best Latin Pop Performance for his first self-titled 1995 studio album. The Spanish singer also came from an impressive musical pedigree, being the son of GRAMMY-winning Latin pop crooner Julio Iglesias.

"Bailamos," the junior Iglesias' inaugural English language release, was selected for the 1999 blockbuster action flick Wild Wild West, thanks in part to a request from GRAMMY winner Will Smith. The single would top the Billboard Hot 100 and become an immense success, eventually selling more than 5 million copies worldwide.

Almost certainly the biggest success story of the 1999 Latin pop explosion, however, was to be the eponymous band led by then-52-year-old guitar god Carlos Santana.


"We connected with hip-hoppers. … We connected with middle white America, we connected with Latin America, Africa, Asia, Australia. It's like the Champs-Elysées in Paris: This CD is connected to all the streets." — Carlos Santana on Supernatural, 1999

When Santana's 17th studio album, Supernatural, was released in 1999, the group had been playing live together for longer than the likes of Martin, Lopez and Iglesias had been alive. The album's lead single, "Smooth," featuring Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas, was an absolute phenomenon that year. It spent an astonishing 12 weeks in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Santana's first chart-topping song.

Supernatural would net Santana a total of eight GRAMMYs at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards, including Album Of The Year and Best Rock Album, with "Smooth" taking home Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals. Commercially, Supernatural would eventually sell more than 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. Due to its equally strong chart performance, "Smooth" would be the final song of the decade to stand atop the Hot 100.

The Latin GRAMMY Awards

Following the incredible explosion of Latin pop music in 1999, the year 2000 heralded the inception of the Latin GRAMMY Awards, hosted by the Latin Recording Academy, which was established in 1997 as a counterpart to the Recording Academy.

Nuyorican Marc Anthony would become the first artist to take home the inaugural Latin GRAMMY for Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "I Need To Know (Dímelo)," from his Top 10 1999 self-titled album.

While some later argued that the 1999 Latin explosion was a brief high-gloss blip on the pop culture radar, its impact cannot be underestimated. The 2000s and beyond have seen a steady stream of Latin artists dent the Billboard charts — including Shakira, Juanes, Luis Fonsi, J Balvin, and Nicky Jam, among others. The past year has seen the continuing dominance of Latin sounds in the modern pop scene, with crossover hits such as Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" serving as but one example.

And the Latin GRAMMY Awards has emerged as The Biggest Night in Latin Music, honoring top Latin music talent and featuring top-shelf performances that thrill millions worldwide — a testament to the staying power of Latin music.

"To have a song in Spanish, and to be in the top of the Hot 100, that's something that rarely happens," Fonsi told CNN regarding "Despacito." "I'm just very proud that Latin music has grown so much and people are just really connecting to it."


GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy


Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images


Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards