Rivera's influence and sales rose in the wake of her tragic death last December in a plane crash. Tonight she won six awards, including Regional Mexican Album of the Year for "La Gran Señora" (UMLE), coincidentally released the week after her death, and Artist of the Year.
Actor Edward James Olmos introduced a tribute segment to Rivera, pointing out that just a year before, she had herself performed live on the awards stage. "We want to remember her a little bit differently -- as the woman, the friend, the mother, the daughter," he said, before a video montage focusing mainly on Rivera's family life and humanitarian work. Her parents, Pedro Rivera and Rosa Saavedra, and eldest two daughters, Janney "Chiquis" Marín and Jacqueline Marín, accepted her posthumous awards.
Don Omar's "Zumba" performance, meanwhile, wasn't the evening's only tie-in to Zumba Fitness. Daddy Yankee appeared for the show's opener, surrounded by performers pounding skyscraper-size drums, performing his hit "Limbo." That track, too, was written specifically for Zumba, and Yankee's and Omar's bookending performances clearly demonstrated the dance fitness' company's now-towering presence in the Latin music industry.
Prince Royce, the young urban/bachata singer who has dominated the charts since his debut in 2011, won four awards, including Albums Artist of the Year, Male.
Romeo Santos, Shakira and La Arrolladora Banda el Limón de René Camacho won three awards each, as did Natty Natasha, who is featured in Don Omar's "Dutty Love." Teary-eyed, she dedicated her last win to "all Latinos -- those who leave their homelands to pursue their dreams."
This year’s awards featured a series of premiere performances, including Carlos Vives with Michel Teló (who won Song of the Year for his global hit "Ai Se Eu Te Pego"). This segment showed a real merging of cultures. Vives, for his part, drew from the vallenato sounds of his native Colombia, complete with an accordion player, before Telo entered with his own Brazilian squeezebox. The ensuing pulsing, syncopated duet proved one of the night's most festive, with audience members rising to their feet and dancers in white loincloth-style costumes swirling onstage.
Megastar Marc Anthony, meanwhile, also premiered his new single, "Vivir Mi Vida," a stadium-filling slab of salsa that seemed written specifically for group sing-alongs. Santos and Juan Luis Guerra also dueted, performing the song "Frío Frío" and joining a king of bachata with its heartthrob heir to the throne. (Indeed, MCs could barely utter Santos' name throughout the night without an eruption of shrieks.)
The awards themselves reflected a more diverse musical environment than in recent years. While uptempo dance fare and bachata still dominate the Latin landscape, there were increasing glimpses of new artists and different genres among the finalists. Paulina Rubio, for example, provided a rare moment of pure rock and roll. The Mexican dynamo donned a maroon bustier and belting out "Yo No Soy Esa Mujer," backed by a cranking all-female, leather-clad band and occasional pyrotechnics.
Another more serious musical moment came courtesy of classical crossover trio Il Volo, who performed an homage to José José. The Mexican crooner accepted Billboard's Lifetime Achievement Award with viisble emotion. "God has given me a gift," he said," of enjoying this 50-year career." He watched Il Volo, rapt, as the baby-faced Italian threesome harmonized on "El Triste."
Mexican rockers Maná, who won Albums Artist of the Year, duo or Group and Latin Pop Albums Artist of the Year, Duo or Group, also received the Billboard Spirit of Hope Award for the philanthropic work of their Selva Negra Foundation, which has worked in environmental causes for nearly 20 years.
Label and publisher awards were given during the Billboard Bash, which took place April 23 at the Cameo Theatre. Universal Music Latin Entertainment swept with seven awards, including Latin Airplay Label of the Year and Top Latin Albums Label of the Year. In addition, UMLE imprint Machete won Latin Rhythm Airplay and Latin Rhythm Albums Label of the year, while regional Mexican imprint Disa won Latin Airplay Imprint of the year and Regional Mexican Airplay Imprint of the year and Fonovisa won Regional Mexican Albums and Top Latin Albums Imprint of the year.
For its part, Sony Music Latin took home five awards, including Latin Pop Airplay Album and Imprint of the Year, while indie Top Stop Music won for Tropical Songs Airplay Imprint of the Year.
Arpa Musical (BMI) won Publisher of the Year Award while Emi Music won Publishing Corporation of the year. Once again, Fernando Camacho Tirado won Porducer of the Year while Espinoza Paz took home Songwriter of the Year.
The Billboard Latin Music Awards honors the most popular albums, songs, and performers in Latin music, as determined by the actual sales, radio airplay, streaming and social data that informs Billboard's weekly charts.