Many Latin music executives are fuming over the Latin nominations for the 2019 Grammys because of an unlikely disconnect: not a single reggaetón album is nominated in a year in which reggaetón has dominated global music charts.
“We have never made better music as an industry, music that is played everywhere in the world. And for the Academy to not recognize that is absolutely tragic,” says Rebecca Leon, who is on the Academy’s diversity and inclusion task force and also manages J Balvin, Rosalia and two-time Grammy winner Juanes.
Leon isn’t alone in her disconcert. Several executives, from different sectors of the industry, contacted Billboard to lament Latin category nominations that one voting member called “lacking in import” overall. While he was referring to all the categories, which in all instances include some albums that have never charted on Billboard, the disconnect is particularly obvious when it comes to reggaetón. That’s because “I Like It” by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin is a contender in the ercord of the year category, but Balvin’s critically acclaimed album Vibras is not nominated in the Latin categories. Neither is Ozuna, who finished 2018 as Billboard’s Latin artist of the year and who was the most viewed artist on YouTube globally; Maluma, who won best Latin pop album at the Latin Grammys for F.A.M.E.; or Nicky Jam, who performed at the World Cup closing ceremony.
“I’m f—ing pissed over this. I can think of at least eight excellent reggaetón albums that should have been nominated,” said one exec in an impassioned call.
Many of reggaetón’s problems stem from the mishmash category of best Latin rock, urban or alternative album, created several years ago to address the fact that not enough submissions were received in either urban, rock or alternative to merit their own categories (the same rationale applies to Tejano music, which was folded into the regional Mexican category).
That, says one publicist, “was the end of reggaetón in the Grammys. The nominations are always alternative or rock. No one in the committees votes for reggaetón.”
Part of the issue, many say, is that the reggaetón community is disconnected from the Grammys, and many key albums are not submitted. In that context, says this publicist, responsibility falls first and foremost on the labels and creators. It is their responsibility to become voting members of the Academy and make their voices heard.
But, many say, the Academy too has to do its part and make a conscious effort to reach out to a rising new constituency that clearly is not familiar with their rules and parameters, particularly at a time when the entire world is talking Latin music.
At press time, the Recording Academy was responding to Billboard‘s request for comment. This article will be updated to reflect that comment.
For the time being, reggaetón, thanks to its presence in “I Like It,” will have a place in the Grammys — but not in the Latin categories.