J Balvin Tops Latin Grammy Nominations, Romantic Singer-Songwriters Edge Out Reggaeton and Trap

Orli Arias
J Balvin

Its an urban, urban, urban world. But songwriting and global sounds prevailed in the nominations for the 2018 Latin Grammy Awards. The leading nominee, with eight nods, is J Balvin. He's an urban artist, yes, but one who’s infused his reggaeton with global beats and who invited unlikely collaborators — from Carla Morrison to Rosalía — to his album Vibras.

The set is up for best urban music album and for album of the year, the only urban album competing in the category. Balvin’s mega-hit “Mi gente” with Willy William is up for record of the year where it competes with another Balvin track, “X” with Nicky Jam. Meantime, the “Mi gente” version featuring Beyonce is also nominated for best urban fusion performance, and in the best urban song category, Balvin has three out of five nominations. 

But beyond Balvin (and the aforementioned “X” with Nicky Jam), reggaeton, the top-selling and top-streaming genre in the market today, was completely excluded from the general categories. So was regional Mexican music, although we’ve come to expect that at the Latin Grammys. 

Instead, album, record and song of the year nods went to more alternative and pop fare and to singer/songwriters who perform deeply personal material that is often non-commercial. 

Following Balvin in number of nods was Spanish urban/flamenco fusionista Rosalía, whose lovely single “Malamente” is up for five awards, including song and record of year. 

Producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres (of “Despacito” fame) are up for four awards each, including producer of the year. 

Four singer/songwriters — Puerto Rico’s Kany Garcia, Mexico’s Natalia LaFourcade, Uruguay’s Jorge Drexler and the relatively unknown El David Aguilar — also have four nominations each, including album of the year. Also vying for album of the year is Spain’s Pablo Alborán, who writes lush, romantic songs, as well as Brazil’s Chico Buarque and Colombia’s versatile trio (and former best new artist winners) Monsieur Periné. Rounding up the list of 10 nominees for album of the year is crooner Luis Miguel’s “Mexico por Siempre!” 

The nominations may well indicate that the Latin Grammy voters, at least, are ready to hear something other than reggaeton or trap, offering a sliver of hope for more lyrical, acoustic music that’s been lost in the fray for the past couple of years.

“I was surprised at the number of singer/songwriters,” said Gabriel Abaroa, President/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy, noting there was some 13,000 works submitted and 250 nominees. “I realized the membership voted for lyrical music. So instead of getting frustrated by what didn’t make in, I am happy for what did make it in. And among that, I was struck by the strong presence of singer/songwriters and a lot of new product.” 

There are noticeable absences, as is always the case with an awards show. Ozuna, the top-selling Latin artist today, is up for a single award: best urban album for last year’s Odisea. And Bad Bunny is only acknowledged once, in the best urban song category for “Sensualidad,” his collaboration with Prince Royce and J Balvin. CNCO are not nominated. 

Not all was lost for current hitmakers, though. Karol G and Christian Nodal are both in the running for best new artist, representing urban and regional Mexican worlds. 

The 2018 Latin Grammys will take place Nov. 15 at the MGM Grand Arena and will air live on the Univision Network. The Latin Grammy Awards are voted on by the Latin Recording Academy's international membership body of music makers, and takes into account 14,000 submissions across 48 categories during the June 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018 eligibility period. For a full list go to LatinGrammy.com

Key Latin Grammy nominations below: 

Álbum del Año  
Prometo – Pablo Alborán 
Vibras – J Balvin 
Caravanas – Chico Buarque 
Salvavidas De Hielo – Jorge Drexler 
Siguiente – El David Aguilar 
Soy Yo – Kany García 
Musas (Un Homenaje Al Folclore Latinoamericano En Manos De Los Macorinos), Vol. 2 – Natalia Lafourcade 
México Por Siempre – Luis Miguel 
Encanto Tropical – Monsieur Periné 
Cuando El Río Suena... – Rozalén 
 
Grabación del Año  
No Vaya A Ser – Pablo Alborán 
É Fake (Homem Barato) – Anaadi 
Mi Gente – J Balvin con Willy William 
Internacionales – Bomba Estéreo 
Telefonía – Jorge Drexler
Para Siempre – Kany García 
X – Nicky Jam y J Balvin 
Danza De Gardenias – Natalia Lafourcade junto con Los Macorinos 
Bailar Contigo – Monsieur Periné 
Malamente – Rosalía 
  
Canción del Año - Premio al Compositor(es)
Antes De Ti – Manú Jalil y Mon Laferte, compositores (Mon Laferte) 
Bailar Contigo – Monsieur Periné, compositor (Monsieur Periné) 
Danza De Gardenias – David Aguilar Dorantes y Natalia Lafourcade, compositores (Natalia Lafourcade junto con Los Macorinos) 
Embrujo – El David Aguilar, compositor (El David Aguilar) 
La Puerta Violeta – Rozalén, compositora (Rozalén) 
Malamente – Antón Alvarez Alfaro, Pablo Diaz-Reixa y Rosalía, compositores (Rosalía) 
Para Siempre – Kany García, compositora (Kany García) 
Robarte Un Beso – Mauricio Rengifo, Andrés Torres, Carlos Vives y Sebastián Yatra, compositores (Carlos Vives y Sebastián Yatra) 
Telefonía – Jorge Drexler, compositor (Jorge Drexler) 
Tu Vida Mi Vida – Fito Páez, compositor (Fito Páez) 
 
Mejor Nuevo Artista 
Ángela Aguilar 
Anaadi 
El David Aguilar 
Alex Ferreira 
Karol G 
Los Petitfellas 
Nana Mendoza 
Christian Nodal 
Claudia Prieto 
Benjamín Walker 
 
Mejor Álbum Vocal Pop Contemporáneo  
Ser – Axel 
Camino Fuego Y Libertad – Pablo López 
Cuerpo Y Alma – Beatriz Luengo
F.A.M.E. – Maluma ​
Miradas – Nana Mendoza 

Mejor Fusión/Interpretación 
Urbana Mi Gente – J Balvin con Willy William junto con Beyoncé 
Internacionales – Bomba Estéreo 
Yo Contra Ti – Daddy Yankee junto con la Orquesta Sinfónica De Puerto Rico 
Sua Cara – Major Lazer junto con Anitta y Pabllo Vittar 
Malamente – Rosalía 
 
Mejor Álbum de Música Alternativa 
Claroscura – Aterciopelados 
Puñal – Dante Spinetta 
Fuerza Arará – Telmary 
Mismo Sitio, Distinto Lugar – Vetusta Morla 
Aztlan – Zoé 
 
Mejor Canción Regional Mexicana - Premio al Compositor(es) 
Arránquense Muchachos – Domingo Leiva Delgado, compositor (Pedro Fernández) 
Ayúdame A Olvidarte – Gabriel Flores y Yoel Henríquez, compositores (La Explosiva Banda De Maza) 
Corrido De Juanito – Edén Muñoz, compositor (Calibre 50) 
El Sueño Americano – Salvador Hurtado, compositor (La Energía Norteña) 
Probablemente – Christian Nodal, compositor (Christian Nodal) 
 
Mejor Álbum Música Popular Brasileña 
Mano Que Zuera – João Bosco 
Caravanas – Chico Buarque 
Edu, Dori E Marcos – Edu Lobo, Dori Caymmi y Marcos Valle 
Campos Neutrais – Vitor Ramil 
Deus É Mulher – Elza Soares