This was the year that went pop around the world, and Latin music was no exception, with Enrique Iglesias and Shakira, both crossover acts with big up-tempo pop albums, leading the list of finalists for the 22nd annual Billboard Latin Music Awards.
Iglesias, whose album "Euphoria" (Universal Music Latino/Republic) has had unabated success since its release last June, was the frontrunner, up for 14 awards, including Artist of the year, Album of the year and Pop Album of the year (for "Euphoria"), Hot Latin Songs Artist of the year, Male and Hot Latin song of the year for "Cuando Me Enamoro," the single featuring Juan Luis Guerra, which was the longest running track of 2010 at No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart. Iglesias also has two tracks-"Cuando Me Enamoro" and "I Like It," featuring Pitbull-vying for Hot Latin Song of the year, vocal event.
"It's very exciting," said Iglesias when told about his finalist status. "I grew up reading Billboard and being on those charts is always important to me."
Second to Iglesias in sheer number of finalist slots -- 13 -- is Shakira, also up for Artist of the year, Latin Album of the year for "Sale el Sol" (Epic/Sony) and Hot Latin Songs Artist of the year, female.
Both Iglesias and Shakira are also finalists in the Latin Digital Album of the year category and the new Latin Social Artist of the year category. The latter is based on Billboard's newly-launched Social 50 chart.
The widespread appeal of danceable pop was further highlighted by the inclusion of Lady Gaga as a finalist in the Hot Latin Songs Artist of the year, female, underscoring Latin radio's increasing willingness to play Top 40 mainstream acts as part of their mix.
But as attractive as crossover appeal and danceable moves proved to be across the board, the Billboard finalists also illustrate the endurance of romance for the Latin music fan, with Mexican pop trio Camila and Dominican bachata star Juan Luis Guerra tying as finalists in 10 categories each.
Camila came through with their widely-expected sophomore album, "Dejarte de Amar" (Sony), which consolidated them as a force to be reckoned with in the Latin music space. The group is up for Artist of the year, Album of the year and Pop Airplay song of the year, where they have two tracks-"Aléjate de Mí" and "Mientes"-vying for the award.
In turn, Juan Luis Guerra's collaboration with Iglesias leaves him a finalist in four categories, including Hot Latin Song of the Year. But his Latin-Grammy winning album, "A Son de Guerra" (Capitol Latin) and the single "Bachata en Fukuoka" are also up for Tropical Album of the year and Tropical Airplay song of the year respectively.
Other multiple finalists include newcomers Chino y Nacho -- up for nine awards, including New Latin Artist of the Year -- where they compete with Prince Royce, up for six awards, Banda Los Recoditos, up for four awards, and Voz de Mando.
It was one of the most fertile years in memory for new artists, with break-out stories that went beyond presence on the airplay charts. Chino y Nacho, for example, are also finalists for Latin Digital Download of the year, while Prince Royce's eponymous debut on Top Stop Music is up for Tropical Album of the year.
And, in an example of the broad range of music that continues to cover the Latin spectrum, the finalists for Songwriter of the year went from Anthony "Romeo" Santos of Aventura and Daddy Yankee, to Horacio Palencia Cisneros -- who writes for many of regional Mexican music's top bands -- to Mexican singer/songwriter Espinoza Paz.
But the clout of regional Mexican as the dominant force in U.S. Latin radio was felt on the Producer of the year category, with Joel and Alfonso Lizárraga of Banda el Recodo as finalists along with regional Mexican producer Fernando Camacho Tirado and Carlos Paucar, who produced Enrique Iglesias' album.
The Billboard Latin Music Awards, presented by State Farm, will air live from the BankUnited Center at the University of Miami on the Telemundo network. They honor the most popular albums, songs and performers in Latin music, as determined by the actual sales, radio airplay and social media activity that informs Billboard's weekly charts during a one-year period from the issue dated February 6, 2010 through this year's January 29, 2011 issue.
Finalists, and the eventual winners, reflect performance of new recordings on Billboard's sales charts, including Top Latin Albums, and radio charts, including Hot Latin Songs and the Social 50 chart, with album categories confined to titles that did not appear on the charts prior to November 2009 and excluding finalists from the prior-year's Billboard Latin Music Awards. For a full list of finalists, please visit http://www.billboardevents.com/billboardevents/latin/latin-music-awards/index.jsp.
The awards will air live April 28 on the Telemundo Network and in over 35 countries around the world. (For more info, see the Billboard Latin Music Awards site at Telemundo.com.) They are the culmination of the Billboard Latin Music Conference, taking place April 26-28 at the Eden Roc Resort in Miami Beach. For more information on the conference, please visit www.billboardlatinconference.com.