What Rosalia's Best New Artist Grammy Nomination Means to Latin Music

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for LARAS

Rosalía accepts her award for Best Urban Song onstage during the 20th annual Latin Grammy Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Nov. 14, 2019 in Las Vegas.

This is the first time an artist who records almost solely in Spanish is nominated for the award.

If Rosalía were to win the best new artist award at the Grammys next year, it would be historic, marking the first time ever that an artist who records almost solely in Spanish is nominated for the award. Not only is Rosalía nominated in a general category, but her album El Mal Querer is up for best Latin rock/urban/alternative album.

To be clear, there have been Latin names in the best new artist category before, but all have gotten there by garnering success with English-language recordings. Even then, the appearance of a Latin surname is an anomaly, like a comet that enters earth's vicinity once every few decades. 

The last time an artist with any Latin roots at all was nominated in this category was Los Lonely Boys – the trio made up of Jojo, Ringo and Henry Garza, whose music is predominantly in English, was nominated back in 2005. The last time anyone with Latin roots won was Christina Aguilera (whose father is from Ecuador) in 1999. Prior to Aguilera, the last Latin winner in the best new artist category was José Feliciano in 1968. (Note: we are considering Rosalía an artist who falls into the “Latin” category because she performs in Spanish or Portuguese). 

Beyond that, the only other Latin nominees in this category have been Astrud Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim in 1965 (spurred by “The Girl From Ipanema”), and Jon Secada in 1993, in the wake of his self-titled English-language debut. 

Through its history, the Grammys have not been overly inclusive when it comes to Latin artists in its general categories. Shakira and Marc Anthony, for example, have never been nominated outside of the Latin categories, and Jennifer Lopez has only been nominated in dance categories. 

Does Rosalía's accomplishment mark a new era in recognizing Latin music in the mainstream? Unfortunately, it's doubtful. Rosalía has received unprecedented accolades for her music in the mainstream, performing at festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza, performing and winning at the MTV Video Music Awards, and gracing the covers of publications like Billboard and The New York Times Magazine . 

She is such an anomaly, “There’s no one I can remember who has come out like this, this fast, in any language,” her agent Sam Kirby, head of WME’s East Coast Music department, told Billboard in September. “I don’t think anyone has the attention she has gotten in terms of credibility in so many different genres of music and mediums.”

What Rosalía’s nomination suggests is that success in the Latin world alone does not translate to immediate mainstream recognition; in other words, the presumption of music as a universal language is a thesis that still has a long, long way to go. 

Back in 1958, at the first-ever Grammys, "Nel blu, dipinto di blu,” the Italian song popularly known as “Volare,” won record of the year and song of the year. Maybe 60 years later, Rosalía will re-break the language barrier. 

2020 Grammy Awards