The Latin Recording Academy’s celebration of Juanes as the 2019 Person of the Year was a wildly eclectic affair that saw vivid reimaginations of the veteran artist’s music in the hands of his musician friends.
Held Nov. 13 at the MGM in Las Vegas, and produced by Greg Fera (with Latin Academy president/chairman Gabriel Abaroa as executive producer), the evening held special significance, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Academy and with the very first Person of the Year — Emilio Estefan — in attendance. It was one of the most beautifully executed Person of the Year celebrations in memory, with performances taking original and unexpected turns. From an evening of all standouts, here are five we particularly liked.
Rosalía, “Es por tí:” The Spanish singer bends boundaries in ways no one else would ever dare. Dressed in a yellow/orange Balmain hooded pantsuit, she sang a melancholy-infused atmospheric version of the mid-tempo love ode “Es por tí,” accompanied only by suspended keyboard chords. It was a vocal and emotional tour de force.
Fito Páez, “Fijate Bien:” Seated at the piano, Páez transformed Juanes’ urgent call to caution into an intensely personal musical rollercoaster that traversed initial introspection, balladry, blues and rock. But overwhelmingly, this performance was sheer joy.
Juan Luis Guerra, “A Dios le pido:” It was fitting that Juanes’ irresistible prayer to God would go to his good friend and devout Christian Juan Luis Guerra. And in vintage Guerra style, he managed to give this anthem a bachata beat. Priceless.
Ozuna, “La camisa negra:” The last guest performance of the evening was Juanes’ biggest international hit, performed by a global star. If anyone still harbored doubts about Ozuna’s singing abilities, they were dispelled in this truly beautiful yet boisterous version of “La Camisa Negra,” with the added “humph” of a slight reggaeton beat.
Juanes, “No creo en el jamás:” Before picking up his own guitar, Juanes thanked the crowd and his country: “Colombia, Colombia, Colombia. Colombia is the beginning and end of my life,” said the singer/songwriter as his wife and three children watched. Juanes then paid homage to his Colombian roots and to his metal roots, a soulful songwriter with a rocker’s heart.