Gerardo Ortiz, Espinoza Paz and Larry Hernandez, a trio of young acts with bicultural appeal and heavy online presence and following, are the lead contenders for the first annual Billboard Mexican Music Awards (Premios Billboard de la Música Mexicana), which will air on the Telemundo Network in October.
The awards, presented by State Farm, mark the first time ever that regional Mexican music-the top-selling genre of Latin music in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan-is honored in a nationally televised award show produced in this country.
Leading the charge is Ortiz (Del Records/Sony), who only debuted on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart on July, 2010, but is a finalist in 10 categories, having captured a rising fan base with his self-described "progressive" narcocorridos. Ortiz is a contender for Artist of the year, New artist of the year, Album of the year and Download artist of the year among other categories. In the Norteño album of the year category, Ortiz is competing against himself with two of his albums among the four finalists.
Following Ortiz in number of nods is Hernandez (Mendieta/Fonovisa)-who like Ortiz sings highly engaging narcocorridos in a "progressive" norteño format-and Paz (Fonovisa), a romantic banda singer who's also established himself as a leading songwriter in regional Mexican music. Both acts are up for awards in nine categories, and will be competing against each other for Artist of the year, Male artist of the year and Songs artist of the year, among other categories.
Ortiz and Paz are also competing in the Digital download artist of the year category, along with the late Selena and Banda El Recodo.
Finally, another new act, Julión Alvarez y su Norteño banda (Disa/UMLE), is up for eight awards, including New Artist of the year, and Artist of the year, duo or group.
Leading among the veterans is La Arrolladora Banda El Limón (Disa/UMLE), up for six awards followed by Intocable and Vicente Fernandez (Sony), up for five each. El Trono de Mexico, Jenni Rivera (Fonovisa/UMLE), Voz de Mando (Disa/UMLE) and Los Bukis are all vying in four categories each. Los Bukis, now dissolved, are in the running for compilations.
The list of finalists reflects a sea of change in the way regional Mexican music, or "Música Mexicana," is made and consumed.
Unlike Latin pop and tropical music, which rely largely on major, established acts, regional Mexican-as exemplified by this year's finalists-has proven to be a steady well of new talent. Of the 32 artists listed as finalists, 10 (including two featured acts) charted for the first time in either 2009 or 2010.
Several of the new acts, including Ortiz, Hernandez, Voz de Mando and Violento, perform narcocorridos, the songs that tell the stories of drug dealers and their exploits. Quite often, the line between reality and fiction is blurred. Earlier this year, for example, Ortiz survived an ambush attempt in Mexico that left his cousin and business manager dead. Two weeks later, Ortiz's sophomore set, "Morir y Existir"-whose cover features a picture of Ortiz standing in front of tombstones and funeral wreaths-debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart.
Further, underscoring the growing importance of digital distribution and promotion to the genre, for the first time in the history of the Billboard awards on Telemundo, digital track sales are being factored into the formula determining the finalists for the top artists and top songs categories.
The Billboard Mexican Music Award finalists are determined by chart performance as chronicled in Billboard magazine and on Billboard.com during the eligibility period of August 28, 2010 through August 20, 2011. Award categories are based on sales data provided by Nielsen SoundScan and radio airplay monitored by Nielsen BDS.
Awards will be given in 32 categories, including in the subgenres of Banda, Norteño, Mariachi/Ranchera and duranguense/grupero music. In addition, Billboard will also honor the top labels, publishers, producers and songwriters of the year.
The awards, presented by State Farm, will take place in Los Angeles' Orpheum Theater and will air Oct. 27 on the Telemundo Network.