Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards Preview: Daddy Yankee, Don Omar and More Finalists and Honorees

Don Omar
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Don Omar performs onstage during the Mega 96.3 Calibash held at Staples Center on Jan. 24, 2015 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Last year's show drew record views and Romeo Santos' star power. This year? Hola Shakira!

Broadcast on the Telemundo network for the 18th year, the 2016 Billboard Latin Music Awards follows a 2015 show that drew 2.9 million average viewers, according to Nielsen, and a cumulative audience of 6.4 million, the most-watched edition yet. This year, fans can expect every performance to feature a unique duet. This comes at a time when collaborations are more prevalent than ever in Latin music. With 66 categories, these are the award finalists in four top fields.

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The Latin Award Finalists Are...

Artist of the Year
Enrique Iglesias
Juan Gabriel
Nicky Jam
Romeo Santos

New Artist of the Year
Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho
Banda Clave Nueva de Max Pereza
La Septima Banda

Billboard's Latin Honorees

The Hall Of Fame Award
Presented at the Billboard Latin Music Awards to the artist whose contributions and influence extend well beyond the Latin music industry

Alejandro FernándezAlfonso Manzano/Clasos/LatinContent/Getty Images

Alejandro Fernández
As the youngest son of mariachi king Vicente Fernández, an icon of Latin music, Alejandro Fernández, 44, always has carried the burden of stratospheric expectations. With his 1992 self-titled debut album, he began to meet those high hopes. He has done so since, not only as a mariachi star in his own right but also by acting, touring and collaborating with the likes of Beyoncé and Christina Aguilera. Fernández has had five No. 1s on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart and eight No. 1s on the Hot Latin Songs tally. "Alejandro has earned the highest award any artist dreams of: the constant applause of millions of Latinos," says Jesús López, chairman/CEO of Universal Music Latin America and Iberian Peninsula.

In His Own Words
"Mariachi is something I'll always do," says Fernández. "It's my origin, my roots."

The Star Award
Given to the musical artist whose achievements have crossed over to other mediums, such as film and TV

Juan Gabriel
After 45 years of hits, Juan Gabriel, 66, continued to dominate in 2015 by returning to the Top Latin Albums chart. His collection of duets, Los Duo, was the top-selling Latin album of the past year and has sold 120,000 units total, according to Nielsen Music. In January, the Mexican singer-songwriter commanded all three leading spots on Top Latin Albums with Los Duo 2 (at No. 1), Los Duo (No. 2) and Mis Numero 1 ... 40 Aniversario (No. 3). (Previously it was a feat achieved only posthumously by Joan Sebastian, Jenni Rivera, Celia Cruz and Selena.) Gabriel's storied life will be the subject of Hasta Que Te Conocí, a new series produced with Disney Media Distribution that will begin airing on Telemundo this spring.

On The Road
Gabriel is the highest-grossing Latin touring act of 2015, selling $37.2 million in tickets, according to Billboard Boxscore.

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The Leadership Award
Presented to a continually evolving artist who has pushed past musical boundaries and revolutionized the Latin industry

Daddy Yankee and Don Omar
The reggaetón genre started in Puerto Rico in the 1980s as an underground musical movement, built on a thumping dembow beat, a rhythm with its roots in older Caribbean sounds like dancehall and soca.

But reggaetón was something fresh, with its gritty lyrics and stripped-down production, playing in the island's toughest neighborhoods. Songs were released on mixtapes and sold out of car trunks.

Then two artists figured out how to bring reggaetón from the barrio to the masses.

Don Omar's The Last Don and Daddy Yankee's Barrio Fino arrived within months of each other in late 2003 and early 2004, respectively. Together, they started a Latin music revolution.

Yankee's Spanish-language single "Gasolina" rose to No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100, and his Barrio Fino became the top-selling Latin album of the decade, according to Nielsen Music. The Last Don wasn't far behind, selling nearly 400,000 copies in the United States, while Omar's later single "Danza Kuduro" (featuring Lucenzo) is one of YouTube's top 50 most-watched music videos.

The success of Yankee (real name: Raymond Ayala, 39) and Omar (real name: William Landrón, 38) paved the way for many reggaetón acts that have scaled Billboard's Latin charts since, including Nicky Jam, Pitbull and J Balvin. Unlike the Latin pop artists dominating the charts in the era of their breakout, Yankee and Omar also shared their acclaim with less-established acts. Yankee collaborated with such up-and-comers as Jam and Prince Royce. Omar launched his own Orfanato Music Group, showcasing artists including Natti Natasha and Syko "El Terror."

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What's more, the two reggaetón pioneers have helped reshape the broader Latin music scene in recent years. The popularity of reggaetón forced many Latin U.S. radio stations to switch to Latin urban formats. Today, Latin urban music is the new Latin pop with artists like Jam, Balvin, Yandel and Maluma in the top 10 of the Hot Latin Songs chart.

Now Yankee and Omar are touring together for the first time. After four sold-out preview dates in Puerto Rico in December 2015, The Kingdom Tour opens May 6 in Las Vegas. It's the reggaetón equivalent of Rihanna and Beyoncé sharing a stage.

At The Conference
Yankee and Omar will speak during "Clash of Titans" on April 27.

In Their Own Words
"Raymond and I are both thinking big, and we know the power we both have," says Omar. "We've both worked with major brands, we've both worked with movies, we know our individual potential, and we're discovering the gigantic impact this can have."

This story originally appeared in the April 30 issue of Billboard.

Billboard Latin Music Awards 2016


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