The Latin Grammy nominations are out, and voting is in full swing.
It’s time for Billboard’s Latin editors — Leila Cobo, Griselda Flores, Jessica Roiz, Ingrid Fajardo and chart director Pamela Bustios — to weigh in on this year’s nominees, including what hit the mark and what was missing.
How would you describe this year’s list of nominees?
Jessica Roiz: I would say diverse. I noticed that in the “Big Four” there’s not only a variety of genres but also of generations. We have artists such as Caetano Veloso, Juan Luis Guerra, and Ricardo Montaner who have led long, prolific careers — and we also have Rauw Alejandro, C. Tangana, and Paula Arenas, who are paving the way for the new wave of music artists.
Pamela Bustios: The list is varied, but overall, predictable. It lacks presence of world sounds and the amalgam of fusions that have bloomed in the last year such as electronic with Andean rhythms, electronica with Latin American folklore, psychedelic and electro-cumbia and indigenous sounds.
Leila Cobo: Diverse, and yes, multi-generational and multi-cultural. That’s important because there are many layers of Latin music that are not seen or recognized here in the U.S. But yes, there was also some predictability, and I felt the fields were dominated by traditional pop. Many names can always count on being here, regardless of their output.
What was right about this year’s list of nominees?
Griselda Flores: Camilo is one of those rare artists who has received commercial success and critical praise. As one of the most exciting artists in recent memory — someone who is uninterested in sticking to one genre and has placed all bets on innocent and poetic lyrics — I was happy to see him leading the list of nominees. Another one that is so deserving of all his nominations is C. Tangana.
Jessica Roiz: I feel that in every category there’s a balance between established artists and newer ones. I think that type of recognition from the Latin Recording Academy is very important, because it shows they not only analyzed Vicente Fernandez’s work, but also what a Grupo Firme released, as an example.
Leila Cobo: Camilo, C. Tangana and Juan Luis Guerra are a great trio of top nominees. And I actually feel urban music was adequately represented in the main categories. How can you quibble with Rauw Alejandro and Bad Bunny?
What was missing from the main categories?
Griselda Flores: Even after the regional Mexican community demanded more inclusion at the Latin Grammys last year, the genre continues to be shunned from the all-important Big Four categories. A genre that I dare say is going through one of its best moments as it continues its reach new ears internationally thanks to young acts such as Eslabon Armado and Grupo Firme, is once again overlooked by the committees. If there was any right time to give the genre its long overdue spotlight, this was the year. But it’s never too late. Maybe next year?
Ingrid Fajardo: Definitely regional Mexican was missing.
Leila Cobo: Agree on regional Mexican. This is a year in which the genre has seen huge growth both from a commercial and artistic standpoint. There are many young, exciting acts that should have had some representation in the best new artist category, which is 10 names deep. And I will say, precisely because the Latin Grammys pride themselves on being inclusive of all genres, it is so important that they include regional Mexican music. I would have also liked to see Karol G in album of the year.
The Latin Grammys added two new urban categories last year: best reggaetón performance and best rap/hip hop Song. Do you think it’s made a difference?
Griselda Flores: I think the industry appreciates the acknowledgement — but it’s still not enough when it comes to recognizing a genre that’s ushered the second Latin explosion. If the intention was to give them their own category so they don’t feel “left out,” but on the other hand urban artists are excluded from the main categories, there’s no win-win situation here.
Jessica Roiz: Between this and last year’s new urban category additions, it definitely shows that the Academy is paying attention. Since I’m not in the shoes of the artist, I’m not one to say if it makes a difference or not but — I believe the Latin Grammys are headed in a good direction by recognizing the subgenres of Latin urban music.
Pamela Bustios: None at all. The criticisms from certain artists have continued.
Leila Cobo: I think it does make a difference, because it recognizes that there are many genres within urban music and it’s a nod of respect to those creators. Reggaetón should be its own category, distinct from rap and hip-hop, even if the two do meet often.
Why do you think that regional Mexican — and for that matter, urban music — doesn’t have a bigger presence in the Big Four categories?
Jessica Roiz: I’m not entirely sure why but if there aren’t enough voices in the voting committee to vouch for these genres, maybe it should begin there.
Pamela Bustios: More ears are needed. The ever-evolving boundaries of the regional Mexican genre are something to pay attention to. It’s no longer just “regional;” contemporary artists are changing the flow of the genre with their musical influences, where hip-hop, trap and electro-cumbia have gained a space in songs that are heart-tugging confessionals of relationships and street hassles.
Ingrid Fajardo: Probably [voters] have not fully understood the genres, their sounds and the power of both.