Photo: John Parra/Getty Images
2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Latin Music
A radical reinvention of genres and styles became the norm during one of the most memorable years in Latin music history
As the world began to rebuild from COVID-19 in 2021, Latin stars used their experiences to inspire art that made a lasting impact. On the one hand, the unavoidable ripples of the pandemic encouraged many artists to channel their feelings into song; on the other, the reopening of concert halls unleashed an infectious wave of creativity.
While chart-topping stars in the urbano field had the entire planet listening, artists in other facets of the genre — from rock and electronica to Regional Mexican, folk and Brazilian — emerged with luminous creations that pushed the music forward. Here are some of the notable Latin trends that emerged during the past 12 months.
For Today's Hitmakers, Stylistic Diversity Equals Musical Bliss
If the new albums by hugely successful artists such as Puerto Rico's Rauw Alejandro and Spain's C. Tangana have something in common, it is their stubborn refusal to confine themselves to the parameters of their expected genres.
Rauw's blockbuster hit "Todo De Ti" begins with the countdown of acoustic drums, then blends its urbano sensibility with touches of disco and new wave, evoked through the warm prism of childhood memories. Tangana's El Madrileño is the majestic manifesto of a rapper desperately in love with music — all kinds of music — who infuses his compositions with multiple points of view: neo-flamenco, Mexican corridos and introspective rock anthems.
Latin Rock Retained Its Power to Generate Epic Albums
Undeniably, rock has become more niche than ever following the mainstream domination of música urbana. Still, 2021 found a number of seasoned rockers releasing some of the best albums of their career.
With Sonidos de Karmática Resonancia, Mexico's Zoé demonstrated their ability to channel both The Cure and Soda Stereo through highly melodic, bittersweet tracks. On Origen, Colombian singer/songwriter Juanes paid loving tribute to a wide array of influences, from the confessional pathos of Fito Páez ("El Amor Después Del Amor") to the scorching tropical fever of Joe Arroyo ("Rebelión").
Psychedelia Returned With a Vengeance
From rockers like Babasónicos and Liquits to late '60s tropicália in Brazil, psychedelia has always had a profound effect on Latin music. Perhaps mirroring the trippy qualities of quarantine life, neo-psychedelia experienced a triumphant resurgence in 2021 through hazy, atmospheric masterpieces by Spain's Unidad y Armonía, Brazil's Glue Trip and Mexico's Daniel Quién.
Unidad y Armonía — the sextet led by singer/songwriter Miguel Martín — released a remarkable third album, Un Verano Invencible, that evokes the sweet nostalgia of summers past. From the cinematic grandeur of opening instrumental "Rayos de Sol" to the Pink Floyd-like soundscapes of "Poderes Sensoriales," this is a band that honors classic psychedelia while echoing the present.
Glue Trip’s single "Água de Jamaica" (from the Paraíba quartet’s forthcoming third album) is a wondrous psychedelic artifact, complete with cosmic keyboard effects and ethereal vocal harmonies. Hailing from Mazatlán, 25 year-old Daniel Quién creates bedroom-pop miniatures that belie his young age — evidenced this year by his second album, Aroma a Nostalgia. Equally influenced by Mexican torch song and alternative rock, his songs are enveloped in the slow-mo twilight of early Pink Floyd.
The Beauty of Folk Continued Nurturing Chilean Pop
The mystical energy of Andean folk has permeated Chilean music since the emergence of the nueva canción movement and iconic artists like Violeta Parra, Inti Illimani and Quilapayún. The same aesthetic — soaring vocal choruses, restrained arrangements, the purity of acoustic string instruments — informs the work of young Chilean musicians who move freely between electronica and pop, rock and the avant-garde.
Singer/songwriters Diego Lorenzini and Niña Tormenta brought those folk elements to their first original release together, the affecting "El Demonio del Mediodía." The pair previously collaborated on a 2020 cover of Parra's "Miren Cómo Sonríen."
The Afro-Caribbean Groove Is Truly Pan-American
Until recently, a number of tropical formats were confined to their country of origin. Most bachatas were recorded by artists from the Dominican Republic, plena was celebrated in its native Puerto Rico, and Peruvian cumbia blossomed in, well, Peru. But as reggaetón and trap continue to globalize Latin culture, more artists are writing and recording authentic samples of Afro-Caribbean genres.
It's almost hard to believe that Juan Ingaramo, a singer/songwriter from Argentina, created "El Fenómeno del Mambo," an authentic slice of merengue. Similarly, Mexico's brilliant Marco Mares gave us one of the best bachatas of the year with "Alboroto," complete with danceable chorus and syncopated bongo beats.
Old School Reggaetón Can Still Deliver The Goods
With superstars like J Balvin and Rauw Alejandro updating the urbano genre with intriguing new twists and turns, it's a good moment to celebrate the reckless fun of old school reggaetón.
This year found genre godfather Don Omar returning to the recording studio, and he did so with a bouncy, wickedly funny duet featuring fellow Puerto Rican Residente. The former Calle 13 MC is in rare form on the sinuous "Flow HP," placing his distinct flow at the service of a sonic gem that celebrates the movement that changed the essence of Latin.
In Brazil, Ladies Reigned Supreme (As Always)
It is impossible to think of Brazilian music without the contribution of literally hundreds of female legends. From Elis Regina, Sylvia Telles and late bossa nova icon Maysa to Gal Costa, Maria Bethania and Marisa Monte, women have always played a leading role in the country’s percolating sounds.
This year was marked by the appearance of many singer/songwriters with talent to spare. Vicka's "Cafeína" is funky and soulful; "nada contra (ciúme)" by Rio-based actress and singer Clarissa anchors its groove on a darkly hued alternative edge; Magi's "Bossinha" pays loving tribute to the silky song format that started it all — complete with a whistling interlude.
Against All Odds, Tango Continued to Evolve
The last stylistic development that shook tango to the core happened a good 20 years ago, when ensembles like Gotan Project and Bajofondo caused a stir by mixing the venerable rioplatense genre with electronic beats. Tango has continued to grow through incredibly sophisticated arrangements and crisp sonics.
Led by keyboardist and composer Max Masri, Tanghetto emerged during the first wave of electro-tango with a cheeky cover of New Order's "Blue Monday" in 2005. Fifteen years later, Tanghetto's 2021 album Reinventango presents a rugged masterpiece of melancholy melodies and sharp beats. Relentless in the purity of its vision, it sets a gold standard for all tango records to follow.
GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw
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
Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration
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
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
"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
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 email@example.com.
Photo: The Recording Academy
Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
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 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
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."