The biggest news coming out of the 2020 American Music Awards nominations on Monday wasn’t who led the nominations — for the record, Roddy Ricch and The Weeknd tied for the lead — but that the show added three Latin categories, bringing Latin’s total from one to four categories. This gives Latin parity with soul/R&B and rap/hip-hop (which gained one category this year).
The AMAs, which went on the air in 1974, didn’t have any Latin categories until 1998, when they added one category, favorite artist—Latin. (Julio Iglesias was the first winner.) Latin music had just that one category in the AMAs every year since then, until this year, when the number quadrupled.
The only genres with more categories in the AMAs are pop/rock and country, with five categories each.
The expansion of coverage for Latin music in the AMAs is a clear signal of the genre’s increasing popularity and crossover appeal. The AMAs are a ratings-driven show. If they do something, it’s because they think it’s what the audience wants and demands.
A quick history lesson: Dick Clark created the AMAs in 1973 as a more viewer-friendly, populist answer to the Grammy Awards. Clark, a canny showman, seemed to be saying, “Let the Grammys honor classical and jazz and all the other specialized music forms. We’ll zero in on the genres that most people care about.”
For the first five years of the show, 1974-78, there were just 15 awards — five each in the three genres with the broadest appeal at the time — pop/rock, soul/R&B and country.
In 1979, disco was red-hot. The show responded by adding five disco categories. They all disappeared the following year, after disco suffered a backlash. (The Grammys also jettisoned their best disco recording category after just that one year.)
The AMAs reverted to their three original core genres until 1989, when they added two categories each for rap/hip-hop and heavy metal/hard rock. They have since added genres as needed: dance in 1990 (though the dance categories were dropped after just three years), adult contemporary in 1992, alternative rock in 1995, soundtrack in 1996, Latin in 1998, contemporary inspirational in 2002 and electronic dance music (EDM) in 2012.
Of these genres that were added to the slate after the show was up and running, only rap/hip-hop and Latin have as many as four categories today. There is just one category today for EDM, adult contemporary, alternative rock and contemporary inspirational. The show no longer has a dedicated category for heavy metal/hard rock. Such acts compete in the pop/rock categories.
The most vivid sign that the AMAs react to the marketplace is that for three years, from 1985-87, they presented a whopping 12 video awards each year — four in each of their core genres, pop/rock, soul/R&B and country. The number was cut to three in 1988. Video awards disappeared in 1989 as music videos, while still an important marketing tool, no longer drove the music business.
Latin’s four awards are favorite male artist, favorite female artist, favorite album and favorite song. There is no award for favorite group/duo, but there aren’t group/duo categories in R&B/soul or rap-hip-hop either (which is why those genres have four categories rather than five).
Bad Bunny is this year’s top Latin nominee, with four nods. J Balvin (who won favorite artist—Latin last year) and Karol G each have two nods. Ozuna, Becky G, Rosalía and Anuel AA each have one nod — as do two pop artists who collaborated with Latin stars on specific songs: The Black Eyed Peas and Nicki Minaj.
So who are the top winners in the AMAs’ top Latin artist category? Enrique Iglesias (Julio’s son) is the leader with eight wins, followed by Shakira (five), Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez (two each), and Julio Iglesias, Aventura, Daddy Yankee and J Balvin (one each).
In addition to the genre-specific categories referenced above, the AMAs also has six categories that aren’t genre-specific: artist of the year, new artist of the year, collaboration of the year, favorite social artist, favorite music video and favorite soundtrack.
Clark received a trustees award (the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award for non-performers) from the Recording Academy in 1990. He was inducted in to the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1992. He died in 2012 at age 82.
The 2020 American Music Awards is produced by dick clark productions, which is owned by MRC Entertainment, the parent company of Billboard. Amy Thurlow, Barry Adelman, Mark Bracco and Linda Gierahn are executive producers. Larry Klein is producer.