meta-scriptPoll: Who Would You Choose For Best Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative Album At The 2020 GRAMMYs? | GRAMMY.com

news

Poll: Who Would You Choose For Best Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative Album At The 2020 GRAMMYs?

Would you choose Bad Bunny, J Balvin, ile, Rosalia or Flor de Toloache?

GRAMMYs/Jan 18, 2020 - 03:23 am

The 2010s were a strong decade for Latin music. The decade gave birth to the Latin urban boom, which brought reggaeton and Latin trap to the top of the streaming charts but also saw artists pushing the Spanish-language music landscape to new boundaries outside of the subgenre. The 2020 GRAMMYs Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album nominees represent some of the artists who have not just earned the admiration of their colleagues but are a testament to the ever-evolving genre that continues to impact global audiences. Who would you choose as the best album?

Is it Bad Bunny's surprise Christmas drop X 100PRE? The full-length album is the Puerto Rican artist's much-awaited debut after releasing singles like "Chambea" and explosive song collaborations with the likes of Farruko, Nio Garcia, Jennifer Lopez, Jhay Cortez, J Balvin and more. His love-stricken raps, a bit of nostalgia, success flexes and tribute to emo music make for an album that is as fluid as his love of nail polish colors. 

Speaking of J Balvin, the Colombian artists and leader of reggaeton's new wave is also nominated for a collaboration album with Bunny himself (yes, Bad Bunny is up against himself in this category). If there's one thing J Balvin has, it's a good ear for collabs and OASIS is an album featuring chill reggaeton-influenced pop songs and ballads, with one even featuring legendary rock frontman Marciano Cantero of Enanitos Verdes, that get you in your feels while simultaneously wanting to dance. 

Or is it Flor De Toloache's Indestructible? The Latin GRAMMY-winning band from New York City's album is a collection of remakes, including bachata master Juan Luis Guerra's "Quisiera" and original songs, but all with their touch of violins, trumpets and other traditional mariachi instruments. The band brings together spectacular duets, among them John Legend and Miguel, and reimagines mariachi music in a creative light that has left people wanting more. 

In a similar vein, Spanish singer Rosalia is pushing uncharted territory with her flamenco-influenced album El Mal Querer and has won many hearts and ears on the journey to her first GRAMMY nomination. Fusing R&B and pop with southern Spain's folkloric music and dance (which she has brought on tour with her), the album has taken the singer global and caught the attention of artists like Travis Scott, J Balvin and James Blake, all who have collabed with the "Malamente" singer. 

And we can't forget about ile, one of Puerto Rico's strongest voices who has created thoughtful, powerful music with GRAMMY winners Calle 13 and reigned victorious in the category at the 59th GRAMMY Awards with iLevitable. In Almadura. The singer's voice serves as a call to action on songs like "Contra Todo," while the album's title is a play on words of "armadura" and honors Puerto Rico's resilient culture and spirit, as well as women's. 

So, who would it be if you could vote? Show us above. 

2020 GRAMMY Awards: Complete Nominees List

Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya pose for a photo together at the 2024 Met Gala
Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya attend The 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

list

2024 Met Gala Red Carpet: Music Icons & Celebrities Charm In The "Garden of Time" Including Bad Bunny, Zendaya, Doja Cat & More

From groundbreaking florals to silhouettes in black and piles of tulle, discover all of the spell-binding looks worn by music icons on the Met Gala red carpet in celebration of "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion."

GRAMMYs/May 6, 2024 - 10:52 pm

This year's Met Gala invited guests to step into the enchanting "Garden of Time" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where fashion meets fantasy. Celebrating the Met's exhibit "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion," the first Monday in May saw stars transform the red carpet into a vibrant display of sartorial storytelling. The theme showcased a collection too delicate to wear but alive with the stories of fashion's past.

From co-chairs Zendaya and Bad Bunny to Tyla and Jennifer Lopez, see how music icons and film stars embodied this year's theme with spectacular flair. The gala not only highlighted the sensory and emotional richness of fashion but also set the stage for a night of memorable styles — groundbreaking florals, tiered tulle and all. 

Explore the full spectrum of this year's enchanting looks from fashion's grandest night in the showcase below.

Bad Bunny

Bad Bunny at the 2024 Met Gala

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez at the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Zendaya

Zendaya at the 2024 Met Gala

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Tyla

Tyla at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Glover

Donald Glover at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Stray Kids

K-pop group Stray Kids at the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah at the 2024 Met Gala

John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Christian Cowan and Sam Smith

Christian Cowan and Sam Smith at the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Jack Harlow

Jack Harlow at the 2024 Met Gala

Marleen Moise/Getty Images

Teyana Taylor

Teyana Taylor at the 2024 Met Gala

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande at the 2024 Met Gala

Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Rosalía

Rosalia attends the 2024 Met Gala

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Laufey

Laufey at the 2024 Met Gala

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Shakira

Shakira at the 2024 Met Gala

John Shearer/WireImage

Doja Cat

Doja Cat attends the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

FKA Twigs, Stella McCartney, Ed Sheeran & Cara Delevingne

FKA Twigs and Ed Sheeran on the 2024 Met Gala red carpet

John Shearer/WireImage

Lana Del Ray

Lana Del Ray at the 2024 Met Gala

Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Karol G

Karol G at the 2024 Met Gala

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X at the 2024 Met Gala

John Shearer/WireImage

Charli XCX

Charli XCX at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Cardi B

Cardi B at the 2024 Met Gala

Gotham/Getty Images

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa at the 2024 Met Gala

Gotham/Getty Images

Lizzo

Lizzo at the 2024 Met Gala

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Eryka Badu

Eryka Badu at the 2024 Met Gala
Karol G
Karol G

Photo: Patricia J. Garcinuno / WireImage / Getty Images

feature

Mañana Y Siempre: How Karol G Has Made The World Mas Bonito

'Mañana Será Bonito' may have been the vehicle for Karol G's massive year, but the 2024 GRAMMY nominee for Best Música Urbana Album has been making strides in reggaeton, urbano and the music industry at large for a long time.

GRAMMYs/Feb 1, 2024 - 04:16 pm

For Karol G, 2023 was a watershed year. Her fourth album, Mañana Será Bonito, peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and took home the golden gramophone for Album Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs. Her many milestones also included a Rolling Stone cover, and signing with Interscope. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Mañana Será Bonito is nominated for Best Música Urbana Album. 

The Colombian singer and songwriter was suddenly everywhere in 2023, but this moment is the culmination of a long, steady rise. Karol G has been on the scene for some time, and changing it for the better just by being who she is: an extremely talented woman making waves in a genre still dominated by men.  

Karol G has been a pivotal figure in the world of urbano since 2017, when she collaborated with Bad Bunny on the Latin trap single "Ahora Me Llama." It was a transformative moment for both artists, whose careers took off precipitously after its release. The track led Ms. G’s aptly titled debut album, Unstoppable, which went multi-platinum and peaked at No. 2 on both the U.S. Top Latin Albums and U.S. Latin Rhythm Albums charts. At the 2018 Latin GRAMMYs, Karol was awarded Best New Artist

2024 GRAMMYs: Explore More & Meet The Nominees

Although she came out of the gate in an unstoppable fashion, Karol G's chart-topping debut was the result of years of touring and recording. The artist born Carolina Giraldo Navarro was no overnight success.

She started singing as a teenager growing up in Medellín and, after signing to Colombia's Flamingo Records, chose the name Karol G and began releasing music. Early on, she flew to Miami for a meeting with Universal Records, but they chose not to sign her on the basis that a woman would not be successful making reggaeton — a severe miscalculation, that belies female pioneers and a blossoming roster of contemporary acts

Thankfully, she ignored them. A year after "Ahora Me Llama" and Unstoppable, Karol G won her first Latin GRAMMY. 

The star’s determination makes her a role model, but Karol G's career has also been defined by an inspiring integrity around her principles and artistic vision. By now, it is a well-known anecdote that she turned down the song "Sin Pijama" because it references marijuana use. Karol does not smoke, so the lyrics would not have been authentic to her as a person, or as an artist. 

This authenticity has doubtless been key to Karol G's success. Rather than try to fit an established mold, she brings a uniquely sunny swagger and sporty style to reggaeton. She projects a powerful and feminine energy, and her music often expresses a healthy sense of sexual independence and self-empowerment. This is an intentional part of her message, especially to her female fans.

"They teach us it’s wrong to celebrate ourselves for something we have," she told Rolling Stone of her musical messaging. "And it’s not. We have to be the first ones to give ourselves credit."

Like early collaborator Bad Bunny, Karol G is able to reach a global audience without having to change the language she sings in, her genre of choice, or her messages. Case in point: One of her 2023 accomplishments was becoming the first Latina to headline a global stadium tour, and the highest-grossing Latin touring artist of the year.

She also became the first Latina to headline Lollapalooza and, in between record-breaking tour dates, saw her song "WATATI" featured on Barbie The Album. (The soundtrack is nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media at the 66th GRAMMY Awards.)

In November, she closed out her big year with a sweep of the Latin GRAMMYs: Mañana Será Bonito received the award for Best Música Urbana Album and Album Of The Year; her Shakira collab "TQG" took home the golden gramophone for Best Urban Fusion/Performance. When she accepted her award for Best Música Urbana Album, Karol exclaimed, "How cool is it for a woman to win this?" 

Karol G’s wins made up a large part of an awards ceremony where women won big:  Shakira won Song Of The Year for her collaboration with Bizzarap, while Natalia Lafourcade won Record Of The Year and Joaquina took home Best New Artist. This was the first year that women won in all the general categories — something that suggests progress for the Latin music industry. The last time a woman won the Latin GRAMMY for Best Música Urbana Album was in 2013, when Spanish rapper Mala Rodríguez took home the award for Bruja. 

Watching the Latin GRAMMYs this year, it was easy to forget that women still have a long way to go to achieve parity with their male counterparts in the music industry. If you lost sight of that, the year-end Latin charts would bring you back to reality: Of the top 50 tracks on the Hot Latin Songs chart, 11 primarily featured women, but six of those tracks belonged to Karol G. Karol’s presence matters and she knows it. 

Karol G brings a powerful feminine energy to reggaeton and Latin trap, but also an unapologetic feminism. While this is explicit in her music, it's also clear in the creative partnerships she makes. She’s had many high profile collaborations with male artists, but just as many with a diverse roster of female artists from reggaeton OG Ivy Queen ("Leyendas") to Latin fusion pop singer Kali Uchis ("Me Tengo Que Ir," "Labios Mordidos"). In an arena so dominated by male artists, each collaboration with another woman is meaningful, but her collaborations with rising artists, such as Young Miko — who appears on the song "Dispo" from Karol’s Bichota Season — truly make a difference. 

Artists like Karol G increase the range of possibilities for artists in their wake, and for anyone in the music industry who flouts narrow expectations. Karol G knows that her victories have larger implications, and this eye toward the future has helped her reach unprecedented heights. "I understand how hard it is [for women to break through] because of how hard it was for me,"she recently told Billboard.

It wasn't easy for Karol G to get where she is today, but she has been opening doors for others — women, artists in reggaeton, artists in urbano and others —  every step of the way. From here on, the title of her album is ringing more and more prescient, and that’s mas bonito.  

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

Female musicia mexicana nominee 2024 GRAMMYs
(From left) Flor De Toloache, Lupita Infante, Ana Bárbara, Lila Downs

Photos: Courtesy of the artist, HECTOR MOLINA; courtesy of Sony Music

interview

The Women of Música Mexicana: GRAMMY Nominees Talk Inspiration, Genre Representation & Making History

Women lead the nominations for Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano) Category. GRAMMY.com spoke with Lupita Infante, Lila Downs, Ana Bárbara and Flor de Toloache about their nominations, women that inspired them, and representation in the genre.

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2024 - 02:15 pm

For decades, women have been the muse behind some of the most iconic songs in música Mexicana. The genre's greatest singers have sung about them, and women have often been the protagonists of stories that go from heartbreak to revenge. 

Despite being an inspiration, the música Mexicana genre has historically benefited male singers and bands, awarding them with media attention, placing them at the top of the charts, and centering them in headlining slots at festivals and concerts.

Even though representation is yet to be equal, female artists have fought hard to conquer these same spaces, breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations. Singers such as Selena Quintanilla, Jenni Rivera, Rocío Dúrcal, Paquita la del Barrio, Chavela Vargas, and Graciela Beltrán are mavericks and trailblazers in música Mexicana.

Mexican music underwent a renaissance in 2023, leading the charts and expanding its sound to a global stage. And even though female artists are still absent from the top lists, a new generation of singers is leading the way in the música Mexicana genre, and their achievements are inspiring. 

Angela Aguilar is one of the seven women to lead Billboard's Regional Mexican Airplay Chart; Yahritza Martínez, the frontwoman of Yahritza y Su Esencia, received the first Breakthrough Songwriter Of The Year at the 2023 SESAC Latina Music Awards. The Sierreño girl band Conexión Divina received its first Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist in 2023.

Women have had a healthy representation in Mexican music categories at the GRAMMYs over the years, with Sheena Easton, Vikki Carr, Linda Ronstadt, and Selena taking home golden gramophones in various Mexican music category variations. In 2024, four out of five works nominated in the Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano) are from female artists. Peso Pluma is the only male act who received a nod for his album GÉNESIS.

GRAMMY.com spoke with Lupita Infante, Lila Downs, Ana Bárbara, and Flor de Toloache about their nominations, the women in música Mexicana that have inspired them, and the representation in the música Mexicana industry. 

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Which woman in the música Mexicana has inspired you in your career?

Lupita Infante: [During] my formative years, I listened a lot to Lola Beltrán, Linda Ronstadt, all the classic women of the time, and Amalia Mendoza, who are more traditional. Selena, too, was like the ultimate. I think we have all had Selena's karaoke albums; we learned a lot and practiced a lot. Also, Jenni Rivera, I remember going to her concert, and maybe I didn't realize that she was breaking barriers as a woman. And I remember that concert opened by Sheila Dúrcal, a woman I admire greatly.

Ana Barbara: María de Lourdes, Lucha Villa, Lola Beltrán, and Amalia Mendoza "La Tariácuri" are some of the singers that I have listened to since I was a child, and in some way, they opened up this panorama of Mexican music — ranchera music performed by women — to me. I loved them, and I still like them. Later on, a singer of Mexican music and Juan Gabriel's music was Rocío Dúrcal, who also greatly impacted me with her way of interpreting Mexican music.

Lila Downs: Lucha Reyes was definitely the first. 

Mireya Ramos (Flor de Toloache): Aida Cuevas, Lila Downs, and Toña La Negra are some of the women who have inspired and influenced me in my musical career.

Shae Fiol (Flor de Toloache): Mireya Ramos. Although she wasn't widely known when we started the band, she was already a professional singer with roots in mariachi. She was making a living singing the songs she grew up listening to her father sing in his mariachi and at their family's restaurant. It's easy to focus on legends, but the people around us often impact us and our careers and influence us the most. 

After Mireya is Linda Ronstadt, whose album Canciones de mi Padre I remembered consuming as a young child without realizing the genre she was singing was mariachi, but I remembered the album cover. Lola Beltrán, in particular, her rendition of "La Chancla," I clung to that song for its empowering sentiment and her incredible vocal expression. 

What is a go-to album or song by a female artist in your favorite genre that brings inspiration or comfort?

Infante: It's been a lot of Lila Downs lately. I also like the song "Todo Todo" by Camila Fernández. There are many songs and songwriters I have seen who are recording them and coming out with beautiful songs as well.

Bárbara: There are several albums. There is one by Lola Beltrán (Joyas) where she sings "El Crucifijo de Piedra." I really liked that Linda Ronstadt recorded an incredible mariachi album [Canciones de mi Padre]. I also loved the Lucha Villa album that Juan Gabriel made.

Downs: I always have to listen to Mercedes Sosa again in her first recordings. 

Ramos: It really depends on the mood and the moment, but it can be from Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Jill Scott to Natalia La Fourcade, Mon Laferte, and Rosa Passos. They are women who master their instruments, whether with the voice or another instrument; the compositions and performances are memorable.

Fiol: If I want comfort, artists I may listen to are Erykah Badu, Sade, Amel Larrieux, Feist, Janelle Monáe, Sheryl Crow, Patsy Cline. For inspiration, I'll listen to any of those artists, plus Jazmine Sullivan, Brandy, Concha Buika, Little Simz, and Cleo Sol.

Women dominate the Best Música Mexicana Album nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs. How do you feel about the increasing representation of women in the Mexican music industry?

Infante: The Recording Academy is reflecting the part that women are excelling [in the genre]. At the same time, I feel that each one has something very different to offer. I still see men dominating the Billboard Charts and the concerts, but I like that even here in [Recording Academy voting] membership, the members say this woman deserves this recognition.

Bárbara: I feel great, total, and absolute pride to see so many women in this category. It has taken us a lot of work to be there, but it is worth the effort. 

Downs: It gives me great pleasure to see that women have developed in an area that has been difficult for us historically because there has been a lot of prejudice about our ability to produce and compose and, of course, to lead in music.

Ramos: It fills us with pride and excitement to know that this is the direction we are going, that our work has contributed to this and that the next generation has the space to create freely without so many challenges. I am grateful to all the women who came before us who hand-carved their path, opening the doors for the next generations to celebrate this change, recognition, and celebration. What an honor to be able to be in this category representing.

What have you learned from the artists nominated with you in this category?

Infante: Each one has a very different essence. Ana Bárbara has a super long career; she is a power of femininity. I love her outfits, how she presents herself, how she sings. Her album has a song that fascinates me a lot [like the one] she did with Vicente Fernández [La Jugada]; I feel that it is the duet of the year. Lila Downs, I loved the album La Sánchez; it has inspired me a lot in my future productions because she takes its essence, takes Mexican music, and puts her twist and flavor on it. Flor de Toloache's Motherflower,  I love that album because I feel they are pushing the boundaries. They have incredible voices; some rancheras just blew me away. 

Peso Pluma has taken everything and has revolutionized the entire industry at a global level. We also owe him a particular way: a thank you for breaking those barriers and letting the others who come after him help us all.

Bárbara: From my colleagues, I have learned or admired that they are firm in their concept, and that is very important; no matter how the trends, it is the music of Mexico, the music of mariachi, it is our music. I love to see them firm with that conviction that we have to continue in what we love, in what we like, and for me, that is admirable.

Downs: Ana Bárbara is doing some exciting and good duets. [From] Lupita Infante I have loved her way of singing; it is very soft, and she also has that legendary timbre of her grandfather, Don Pedro Infante. The Flor de Toloache has always had my great admiration because they have been independent women and applied themselves to the mariachi tradition, the traditional music of Mexico, and, of course, Peso Pluma, which has been an influence and a reference for everyone, which comes from this musical movement of Sonora. It is a joy that it inspires Mexican music for the youth.

Ramos: I remember buying Lila Downs' album La Sandunga. These are the fusions that I love, and I remember dreaming of one day being able to create my arrangements with that intention. I still can't believe that I have had the pleasure of playing and singing with her. What a gift. 

Fiol: Lila Downs is a great inspiration for us, having witnessed her career over decades; she created her lane so vibrantly and was a great example for Flor de Toloache as we started out, inspiring us to do the same in creating our unique style. 

Why is it significant that your album has received a GRAMMY nomination?

Infante: I worked with several producers on the album that deserve this recognition. One is Carlos Álvarez, my mentor and a great teacher. Also, maestro José Hernández, the founder and director of Mariachi Sol de México, is one of the best mariachis in the world. Having three songs produced by him is very important to me. And there is also Carlos Junior Cabral, who also made Ana Bárbara's album. Luciano Luna was also a big part of this album; I feel he is also a phenomenon in Mexican music. I tried to grab that talent from everywhere for this album. 

I co-authored several of the songs. I worked with great songwriters, and they deserve that recognition. I learned a lot through this album, both in the songwriting, the productions, and the recordings. We made a whole visual art concept; I wanted to be inspired by my grandfather, Pedro Infante's era. I wanted [to have] something that moved us that recognized him. 

Bárbara: [Bordado a Mano] is an album in which all the songs are part of me, my life, my experiences, my shortcomings, and everything I have felt. It channels my emotions. It makes me very happy to have thought about the production of this album, to carry it out, to look for each of my arrangers, of my colleagues who did me the favor of capturing his talent in songs, and because it was born from the bottom of my heart. Seeing that it has come so far, having planned so many duets that it is not easy, each duet made was very complicated. So, seeing it nominated for a GRAMMY is an indescribable satisfaction, and I am very grateful.

Downs: La Sánchez is an album we made with the band that has been with me for a long time, my colleagues, and my musician brothers. We did a workshop here in Oaxaca, so it was conceived in the south [of Mexico]. This path began together with my husband, whom we lost last year. Being nominated for a GRAMMY after so much heartache and having cried a lot this year is a great honor. I am deeply grateful to my fellow musicians and professionals of the Recording Academy and this path of music.

Ramos: [Motherflower] is the most progressive and mariachi fusion album we have made, and all the songs are based on actual experiences. As an independent band and among many incredible artists who have chosen this album, it fills our hearts with pride. The nomination was a pleasant surprise, even more so that we are with so many beautiful queens and the great Peso Pluma, breaking it in his genre. 

We proudly use mariachi instruments in ways no other mariachi has dared to experiment with for fear of breaking from tradition. To have the creativity and vision of Flor de Toloache recognized is a beautiful accomplishment. It fills us with hope that space is opening up for expression, especially for women within the mariachi genre. We had to create something for ourselves since that platform or the support of the mariachi community did not exist. 

Additionally, this album's songs are written from a woman's perspective for women, something not very common in mariachi. Celebrating our "quinceañera" with this nomination is the best gift we could have received.

Fiol: Motherflower is the first album we have released in our 15 years as a band of all original music, composed primarily between Mireya and myself with beautiful contributions from Manu Jalil Soto, Victor Bodilla, Claudia Brandt, Julie Acosta, and Andres Ramos. Our vision was to share our stories with our fans and the world at large, painting a picture of us coming up as an all-women, mariachi-inspired indie band in New York City. These four elements are pillars of our creative expression, and for this album to be recognized by our peers in the academy is a huge honor because it is the most vulnerable we have been in our careers. It's a fusion of genres with mariachi at its core.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

Edgar Barrera
Edgar Barrera

Photo: Courtesy Edgar Barrera

interview

Edgar Barrera, The Songwriter Behind 2023's Top Latin Hits, Shares How He Remains Grounded Amidst Success

Edgar Barrera is known for building musical bridges, blending unexpected genres and enabling fruitful collaborations. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, the prolific songwriter and producer is the only Latino nominated for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical.

GRAMMYs/Jan 16, 2024 - 02:56 pm

The life of producer and songwriter Edgar Barrera was shaped by cultural dichotomy. Born in McAllen, Texas, and raised between the Lone Star state and the Mexican border town of Miguel Alemán, Barrera spent his days connecting cultures and languages, making a space for himself.

"I was born on the border. I'm always trying to adapt to Mexican or American culture, growing up in the middle of those two worlds," Barrera tells GRAMMY.com. "This is what I always end up doing in the songs and with the artists I work with, I adapt to them, I adapt to their world, I learn [from them]."

This duality and his innate code-switching ability defined his essence as a musician. In the music industry, Barrera is known among artists as a great bridge-builder between stars. He forges unexpected collaborations and blends genres in effortless ways.

For example, "Un x100to", the smasher collaboration between Grupo Frontera and Bad Bunny, became one of the biggest Latin songs of 2023. It won the Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Regional Mexican Song, climbed to the top of Spotify's global chart, and made its way to Billboard’s Hot 100’s Top 10.

The single is one of nine songs that has earned Barrera a nomination for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical at the 2024 GRAMMYs. He is the only Latino in this group and has been nominated for all Spanish-language songs. "It means that Latinos are breaking those barriers and that Latin music is important to the industry," Barrera says of the nomination. "To be considered in that category is already a victory. I feel I am paving the way for a Latin songwriter to be in future nominations."

The nod came days before he received the inaugural Latin GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year. At the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, Barrera received 13 nominations and won three awards, including Producer Of The Year, and was featured in a collaborative performance with Camilo, Manuel Carrasco, and IZA.

Ahead of the 66th GRAMMY Awards, Barrera discusses how his upbringing shaped his career and creative process, as well as the importance of recognition for Latinos in the music industry. 

 This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

2023 has been an excellent year for you. What are you the most grateful for?

It has been a great year in my career. I have to be thankful for life and to God. I’m grateful to say that I make a living from this.

 This is the only thing I know how to do; I am not good at anything other than making music. It is a blessing that people connect with the songs you create. What gives me the most satisfaction is knowing that people are enjoying, connecting, and experiencing the songs [I've worked on].

What did it mean to win the inaugural Songwriter Of The Year award at the Latin GRAMMYs?

I didn't think much about whether I was going to win or not. I was feeling happier and more excited because the Latin GRAMMYs were creating a category for those behind [the songs].

I said it that day they gave me the award; sometimes, the songwriter is the one who suffers the most in the entire music pyramid of how the industry is structured. The songwriter is the last one who gets paid and often doesn't get as much credit. For me, everything starts with a song. Without a good song, the artist is unknown; without a good song, the producer is unknown.

Music starts with a good song you can sing with just a guitar. That's what I like to do. I write the song, have it on guitar and vocals, and see what genre fits the best. That's why I always switch genres; I don't like to limit myself by saying that I only make urban, pop, or Mexican music. I'm not following trends but doing what feels right for the song.

What was your reaction upon discovering that you are the only nominee for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical one competing with Spanish songs at the 2024 GRAMMYs?

I was in Madrid, and even though I knew the GRAMMY nominations were coming up, I wasn’t on top of it because it is usually tough to be nominated for those categories. I didn't expect it.

We had a Zoom with all the composers nominated in that category to get to know each other, and I kept thinking, what am I doing in this Zoom with all these people who write songs in English, country songs, rap songs, or pop songs? Here I am with my songs in Spanish.

I am happy with [the nomination] because it means that Latinos are breaking those barriers and that Latin music is important to the industry. It has become the elephant in the room that you can no longer ignore.

To be considered in that category is already a victory. I feel I am paving the way for a Latin songwriter to be in future nominations. I feel I have some responsibility; I am representing Latinos at an important moment in the industry.

Coming from Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas, a town with 20,000 residents with no songwriters or producers, the fact that I can make music and dedicate myself to it is already a victory. Everything is a blessing and feels surreal.

You have been nominated for your work in nine songs. Is there a specific song that has brought you the most satisfaction?

They have all fulfilled something specific. For example, Karol G is a Selena [Quintanilla] fan, and she wanted to make a song in cumbia ["Mi Ex Tenía Razón"], a genre I grew up with. [The song] is like that tribute to my roots. Having an artist as big as Karol G on that song is very special.

In songs like "Un x100to," [a collaboration between] Bad Bunny, and a band like Grupo Frontera from my hometown, [it feels special because] we have many friends and grew up with the same cultural background. Returning to McAllen, Tamaulipas, to support a local group and having one of the biggest songs of the year with one of the biggest artists of the moment is also very special to me. It shows the newcomers that it is possible to reach those places — even coming from the same place we did. I would never have thought that the song would be No. 1 worldwide.

When did you first realize that you had a talent for songwriting?

It has always been my plan. I didn't go to school; I've never had a plan B. I've always been very stubborn in what I do. 

I discovered I could write songs and liked writing songs when I was 15. I moved to Miami and started working from the bottom, lifting cables in a studio. I had to serve coffee. I went through the entire process to enjoy what is happening now. It didn't happen overnight. 

I've never let it get to my head. I have no recognition, paintings, or awards if you go to my studio. I mean nothing; there is none of that. I don't like to think about that. I'm in my house right now, and you don't see anything on the walls; they're blank. I want to work as I have since day 1.

You have won 21 Latin GRAMMYs. Where do you keep the awards?

Those awards are at my parents' house. I send everything there. I don't have any awards at my house. My wife also tells me that our home is a place to disconnect, not to continue thinking about work. That helps me to stay rooted.

To know that the day before, I could have been with the biggest artist in the world, I could be with Shakira, Karol G or Benito, whoever I am currently working with, but when I come home, I feel that I am an ordinary person who has the blessing of working with the greatest artists of the moment. Realizing that also resets you, it keeps me grounded.

Did maintaining a lower profile help you in your career as a songwriter?

I am very quiet and shy. I express myself better by writing than by speaking. I like that people gradually discover who is behind the songs. I like that some people find that I wrote a song, and they make the connection, like the movie's endings, when you start connecting all the dots. I don't like telling people I did this or that.

When working with an artist, I am very clear that I am an instrument; I work for them. I don't have any ego. When working with artists, I listen to them and help them translate what they want to say in the songs. That is my job, and I try to be a tool for them; I don't want to be the protagonist.

You are known for your ability to make unexpected connections between artists and topliners; where did this talent come from?

It comes very naturally to me; I do it unconsciously. For example, in the collaboration between Carin León and Maluma, ["Según Quién"], I ended up being the person who connected them. In their case, I sent the song to Carin's team and introduced them about a week later. We organized a meal, and I made them get to know each other before recording the song.

In ["De Vuelta Pa' La Vuelta"] by Daddy Yankee with Marc Anthony, I was with Yankee in the studio. Yankee told me he wanted to do something different, and I showed him this salsa song. He likes it and tells me he wants to record it and do it in salsa. I connected Yankee with Marc — two legends who know each other, but I will gladly make that [musical] connection if I can.

That is part of why I created my record label, Border Kid Records, which is like a border that connects [two places], like the bridge between the United States and Mexico; I am a bridge between the artists.

You are a big fan of the Swedish producer and songwriter Max Martin. What have you learned from his career?

I am Max Martin's No. 1 fan. To me, he is the greatest of all time, and what I like about him is that he is not bragging about his achievements.

It felt like such a great discovery when I found out how he was. I told my friends you like this song because this songwriter made it, so you are not a fan of the artist; you are a fan of the songwriter.

I dreamed that one day, my songs would have a similar effect in Latin music and the way people would discover me. He has always kept a shallow profile. I'm not comparing myself to him at all, but something that he has and that I also do unconsciously is constantly collaborating with people; we are always nourishing ourselves with new songwriters and producers.

I always check Max Martin's credits and see him working with new people. And that's all about not believing that you know everything but learning and always listening to new people that has something new to say.

What advice can you give to songwriters or singers starting their careers?

Always be authentic and do not follow trends. I differentiated myself from the songwriters and producers when I started because I didn't use many bad words [in my songs]. I always wanted to avoid jumping on that bandwagon, following a trend.

It is about doing things differently and creating your own trends. I am one of those who make a bachata or a merengue; when a merengue is not even trending, you make it a trend by [picking] the right artist and song.

What is Edgar Barrera's mark in music?

My lyrics are simple, honest, straightforward, and up-to-date; that's my trademark. Production-wise, if you hear a real instrument or a musician playing live, guitars, or things like that, that's always my mark.

 2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List