What a difference a year makes.
The 2017 MTV Video Music Awards were the focal point of widespread criticism after the music awards didn’t include “Despacito” — the most-viewed video in history and the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time — in its list of nominees, nor did MTV invite Luis Fonsi or Daddy Yankee to perform at the show.
All the fuss apparently had an impact. Because although this year’s awards haven’t escaped criticism, it hasn’t been for lack of Latin power.
There was Camilla Cabello, a Cuban-American, taking home artist of the year and video of the year for “Havana,” a double Latin whammy.
There was Cardi B winning best new artist.
There was Jennifer Lopez winning the Video Vanguard award.
There was Cardi’s “I Like It,” the ultimate bilingual, bicultural Latin track, featuring J Balvin and Bad Bunny, winning song of the summer.
And then, there was Maluma performing — in Spanish! — his hit “Felices los Cuatro.”
That’s the kicker. Because the last time in recent memory that Spanish was sung on the VMA stage was, to the best of our recollection, in 2005, when Shakira performed “La Tortura” with Alejandro Sanz and reggaeton kings Daddy Yankee, Tego Claderon and Don Omar celebrated the dawn of the genre together.
Since then, there’s been some Latin touches here and there, but no Spanish.
So we have to give kudos to the VMAs for taking a step in the right direction. At a time when Spanish-language songs are dominating streaming charts at a global scale, pretending they don’t exist simply because they’re not in English is frankly anachronistic. Having Maluma as the first ambassador is fitting, given his position as a major global star who has collaborated on a handful of English-language tracks but remains firmly rooted as a Latin act who performs in Spanish. In other words, crossing over no longer requires a major English-language hit; it requires the ability to connect at a musical, emotional level.
As for the likes of Cardi B, Camila Cabello and Jennifer Lopez, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Latin culture is part of the social and cultural fabric of this country, sometimes ebbing, sometimes flowing. And today, more than ever, it’s proudly represented by many different and visible voices.