In a year in which Latin music went global, winners at the Latin Grammys represented a kaleidoscope of cultures, with trophies spread evenly across seemingly every corner of the world and Latin fusions, of every stripe, emerging as the big winner of the night.
As if to drive home the point, the top winners of the evening hailed from three different points in the globe: Natalia LaFourcade from Mexico, Carlos Vives from Colombia and Rosalía from Spain took home three awards each.
LaFourcade, a Grammy and Latin Grammy favorite, was nevertheless a surprise winner in the important album of the year category with her Un Canto Por México, Vol. 1, a collection of songs dedicated to Mexico and arranged in traditional style. LaFourcade also won best regional song for “Mi Religión” and best alternative song for “En Cantos,” alongside Ile and co-written with Ismael Cancel.
Spanish star Rosalía took home three awards thanks to two collaborations. “Yo x Ti Tu x Mi,” with Puerto Rican star Ozuna, won best urban fusion performance and best urban song, leading also to two Latin Grammy wins for Ozuna and one for Rosalía’s collaborator, El Guincho. And “TKN,” her collaboration with Travis Scott, won best short form video (directed by Nicolás Méndez, aka CANADA).
Vives’ “Canción para Rubén,” alongside Ruben Blades, won best tropical song while his album Cumbiana won best contemporary/tropical fusion album and the documentary El Mundo Perdido de Cumbiana won best long form video.
J Balvin, the top nominee of the evening, won the very competitive best urban album category for Colores, while Bad Bunny’s provocative “Yo Perreo Sola” won best reggaeton performance. The new category was one of the nods the Latin Recording Academy made this year toward appeasing a contingent of urban artists who felt neglected by the Latin Grammys.
But when it came to the main categories, Academy voters were less willing to cede ground to reggaetón. The coveted record of the year award went to Alejandro Sanz’s “Contigo,” besting hit tracks like Anuel’s “China,” J Balvin’s “Rojo,” Karol G’s “Tusa” and Camilo’s “Tutu”,” which won best pop song (which Camilo co-wrote with Jon Leone & Richi López).
The aforementioned album of the year went to another Latin Grammy fave, LaFourcade, who won over favorites Bad Bunny with his YHLQMDLG and Balvin’s Colores. Even host Victor Manuelle looked surprised when he opened the envelope.
Song of the year did go to an ostensibly “urban” artist, but one who happens to be a Latin Grammy favorite. Residente won for his biographical beauty “René,” punctuating his win with a speech that was highly critical of the state of the industry.
“Art isn’t meant to make history or break records,” he said, speaking remotely from Puerto Rico. “Instagram followers don’t define art […] As artists, we have to be willing to feel uncomfortable. I see people who are afraid. Afraid of not being on a playlist. That’s business, not art.”
Another shocker of the evening was Mike Bahía’s win as best new artist, not because he was underserving, but because he was up against heavy competition, including Anuel, Nicky Nicole, Rauw Alejandro and Nathy Peluso.
“No, I didn’t expect this award,” he said backstage. “I’ve had beautiful career moments where awards, let’s say, haven’t really been with me. I didn’t think this would be the exception. But things happen for a reason, and I want to thank my colleagues for validating my work.”
In a year marked by pandemic and strife, the Latin Grammys sought to strike a note of unity and conciliation under the theme “Music Makes Us Human,” a motif echoed in Balvin’s notable performance of “Rojo” underneath two gigantic praying hands and black and white videos of global calls to action.
That international spirit of cooperation was a theme of the night, with performances taking place live in Miami, and also livestreamed from Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Brazil.
In fact, the best performances of the evening were remote.
Of particular note were Alejandro Fernandez, Calibre 50 and Christian Nodal delivering a stunning performance from a gorgeous plaza in Mexico; Nathy Peluso and Fito Paez’s forceful delivery from Buenos Aires (Peluso a strong singer as well as dancer); and as ever, Bad Bunny, this time performing from a car in a freeway, and then, going acoustic in a colorful pretaped version of “Si llama tu mama.” The spectacular setting and performances make a strong case for more of these remote presentations in the future.
In Miami, another highlight of the evening belonged Anuel, singing “El Manual” to close the show. Although the Puerto Rican rapper didn’t win an award, his performance made it clear that he is most definitely Grammy material, regardless of genre.
The full list of Latin Grammy winners can be found here.