As widely expected, Puerto Rican rapper Residente, Colombian star Shakira and salsa icon Ruben Blades won early Grammys for best Latin rock, urban or alternative album (Residente), best Latin pop album (El Dorado) and best tropical album (for Salsa Big Band, featuring Roberto Delgado & Orquesta). All three artists, leaders in their respective genres, were overwhelmingly expected to take their categories within the Grammys’ Latin field.
Residente, who picked up his award (Shakira and Ruben Blades weren’t present), seized the moment to share unapologetic views on the state of the music industry.
“What happens in the music industry sucks a lot,” said the rapper, never one to shun controversy, speaking with journalists backstage. “Everyone is paying attention to numbers, numbers, numbers. And anyone can be relevant if they show their butts on Instagram. And I hate numbers, I hate math and that’s why I became an artist. So I think that I dedicate this Grammy to all the people who do true art. The people who perform in small places, because they don’t care about the money, they don’t care about the sales, they only care about art.”
Residente’s self-titled solo debut, which came after years of releasing music as one-half of avant-garde and socially conscious duo Calle 13, is a musical and visual exploration into the origins of his DNA that includes tracks recorded in far-flung places, from Siberia to China. And even though Residente decried numbers, the critically acclaimed set bowed at No. 1 on Billboard’s World Albums and Latin Albums charts.
The big surprise in the Latin categories was mariachi singer Aida Cuevas, who won in the best regional Mexican music album category for her Arriero Somos Versiones Acústicas, besting favorites Banda El Recodo de Cruz Lizárraga and Julion Alvarez y su Norteño Banda.
The win was all the more notable, considering Cuevas, a well-known and respected singer, is now independent and released the album, a collection of covers performed with only guitar accompaniment, on her own label.
“I’m very proud to be Mexican and to be here with my charrera outfit,” said Cuevas, who wore the traditional embroidered charro garb to pick up her first-ever Grammy.
Other early Latin wins included Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose “How Far I’ll Go,” written for Disney film Moana, won best song written For visual media.