Major labels and major commercial releases for the most part dominated the Latin fields for the Grammy nominations, heralding spirited competition in all four Latin categories: pop, regional Mexican, tropical and that hybrid of alternative/Urban/rock.
But that competition isn't coming from usual quarters. In a U.S. Latin market where radio is dominated by urban and uptempo sounds, not a single nominee fits that profile (indie urban labels—where where you??).
Instead the contenders in the Latin field are, for the most part, established, veteran acts, who -- in all fairness -- put out good albums this year.
In the Best Tropical Album field, Marc Anthony's "3.0" -- which includes mega-hit "Vivir Mi Vida" -- will go up against Carlos Vives' Corazón Profundo -- which contains another big hit, "Volver a nacer"—both on Sony. Those two, life-affirming hits which define these albums will meet "Sergio George Presents Salsa Giants," which just won a Latin Grammy for Best Tropical Album and is life-affirming on its own merits: most of the salsa giants are over 60 years old.
In Best Regional Mexican Album, Joan Sebastian's very fine "13 Celebrando el 13" -- that man is incapable of penning a bad song -- will duke it out against two Grammy faves -- Intocable with "En Peligro de Extinción" and Paquita La del Barrio's "Romeo y Su Nieta." Also in the running is Banda Los Recoditos, whose exuberant sound rocked the recent Billboard Mexican Music Awards, with "El Free."
It's the kind of competition that has often been absent from the Latin fields in the Grammys, often dominated by little-known, esoteric releases that have trouble gaining traction with voters. And although it may seem like a popularity contest, the truth is these albums are good stuff, making this a competition worth watching.
In the pop field, the favorite to win may be Draco Rosa, who just won the Latin Grammy for Album of the Year for "Vida," a duets album that celebrates his recovery from cancer. But Frankie J's "Faith, Hope y Amor" carries the weight of Frankie's name recognition in the general market. Also vying in that category is Ricardo Montaner's "Viajero Frecuente" (love it) and Aleks Syntek's "Syntek," both out on Sony, and both albums that had far more relevance outside the U.S. The dark horse may be Tommy Torres -- also established as a songwriter and producer -- with his charming, retro "12 Historias."
The final category is that mish-mash of urban, alternative and rock, all put together because there aren't enough submissions for each of these subgenres to have their own category. To those who may complain about the mix of genres, stop whining and start submitting material. There is no lack of Latin urban or alternative releases in the market.
But in this case, we're left with a field that's virtually all alternative and is -- more than the others -- up for grabs, given that none of these albums had major sales, but most of these acts (Café Tacuba, El Tri, Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas, La Santa Cecilia and Los Amigos Invisibles) have name recognition among Grammy voters. All represent very different types of alternative music, however, ranging from the old-school rock of El Tri to the hip-hop/dance of Illya Kuryaki to the party vibe of Los Amigos.
It may boil down simply to personal preferences -- or to who campaigns better.