Three out of the four categories in the Latin field were a toss-up. Best Latin Pop Album? Jesse & Joy won for Un Besito Más, but it could have easily gone to Academy fave Gaby Moreno or the iconic international singer Laura Pausini.
Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album? Newcomer Ile won for Ilevitable, but Carla Morrison was a serious contender (not to mention the fact that she performed in the pre-Grammy show) with Amor Supremo. And while the Best regional Mexican music album went to Vicente Fernandez for Un Azteca en el Azteca, no one would have been surprised if the also venerable Banda El Recodo had one for Raíces.
The one category that wasn’t a toss-up, was Best tropical album. In a field redolent of nostalgia, where most of the nominees (Los Van Van, Grupo Niche and La Sonora Santanera) were veterans and one was recently diseased (José Lugo), Fonseca, fresh from winning a Latin Grammy (for Best tropical song), seemed a shoe-in with his adventuresome Conexión.
Instead, the award went posthumously to Lugo and his Guasábara Combo for Dónde Están?, his last album before he succumbed to cancer in June 2016.
Lugo, a pianist, producer and bandleader, was no stranger to the Grammys; in 2006, Gilberto Santa Rosa’s Directo al corazón, produced by Lugo, won Best salsa album. And Lugo himself was nominated for his album Guasábara in 2010.
But death is powerful when it comes to awards. Already respected as a musician, Lugo was suddenly front and center after battling cancer, and losing, at only 56 years old.
Had he not received nominations before, and had he not worked with so many prominent Puerto Rican artists in his career, maybe his new album wouldn’t have garnered as much attention.
But when the Grammy nominations were decided, barely two months after Lugo’s death, he was top of mind. He didn’t win in November, but his album Dónde están? was quickly nominated for a mainstream Grammy.
This time, Lugo won.