While big names ruled the main categories of the Grammy nominations, the Latin field went in a far more niche direction.
Gone are last year’s big-name nominees like Pitbull and Ricky Martin, who shared categories with more art-house names like Natalia LaFourcade.
There is no reggaetón, cubatón or any “ón” in the Latin rock/urban/alternative category; there is no J Balvin; there is no Juan Gabriel (who won the Latin Grammy for album of the year) in pop; and there is no Julión Alvarez or Banda Sinaloense MS in the regional Mexican categories.
There is, however, music we love that is fresh off winning a Latin Grammy.
Notable among this group is Jesse & Joy, whose Un besito más is up in the best Latin pop album category (it won the Latin Grammy for best contemporary pop vocal album); Fonseca, whose Conexion is up for best tropical album (the single “Vine a buscarte” won a Latin Grammy for best tropical song); and Banda El Recodo, whose Raíces is up for best regional Mexican music album and just won best banda album at the Latin Grammys.
Beyond that, the Latin categories seem to have almost totally bypassed what happens on the charts in favor of more niche sounds.
This is true even in the best Latin pop album category, where established names Jesse & Joy (who did have a strong chart showing), Diego Torres and Laura Pausini compete against indie darling Gaby Moreno and, in a twist, Colombian band Sanalejo, whose album Seguir Latiendo has been little heard in the U.S.
In the best Latin rock/urban or alternative category, urban music has been excised with the exception of Los Rakas, the Oakland-based alt/rap duo made up of Panamanian cousins who play a mix of hip-hop, dancehall and funk. Otherwise, it’s an alternative music category that includes Carla Morrison (whose Amor Supremo, surprisingly, also got a nomination in Premios lo Nuestro for album of the year), Ile’s Ilevitable and, fresh from two Latin Grammy wins, Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas’ L.H.O.N. Also a contender is Buenaventura by La Santa Cecilia, a group that, like Gaby Moreno, is a Grammy darling.
The best regional Mexican music album, which this year folded in Tejano music, has a little bit of everything, including stalwarts like Vicente Fernandez, Banda el Recodo and La Maquinaria Norteña, the last two also nominated last year. Cindy Shea’s Mariachi Divas represents the indie realm, while we’re happy to see first-timer Joss Favela, who comes in with his beautiful debut album Hecho a Mano.
The best tropical album category, like pop and alternative, seems to deliberately distance itself from commercial success. With the exception of Fonseca’s Conexión, every album here is a dark horse — Latin Grammy nominations and wins notwithstanding. There’s La Sonora Santanera, whose En su 60 Aniversario just won a Latin Grammy, but that was for best traditional tropical album, a very specific category. Here, they battle not just Fonseca, but also Cuba’s Los Van Van, the late José Lugo & Guasábara combo (also Latin Grammy nominees), and, in a nice twist, Grupo Niche. The latter’s 35th anniversary album hasn’t had chart traction, but the group has been touring all year in support of their celebration.