A mix of well-known acts and total outliers ruled the Latin nominees for the 2015 Grammy Awards. While many big names hailing from many countries — most armed with critically acclaimed recordings — dominated the Pop and Urban/Alternative/Rock categories, indies and barely known newcomers led the Regional Mexican and Tropical categories. And, in a weird déjà vu, the nominees in several of the Latin categories were heavily influenced by, or reflective of, winners of this year’s Latin Grammys.
The Best Latin Pop Album category, typically representing the best-known names in Latin music, includes four acts who just won Latin Grammys for their recordings: Ruben Blades with Tangos, Mexican pop duo Camila with Elypse, Colombia’s Juanes with Loco de Amor and the conceptual trio of Mexico’s Lila Downs, Spain’s Niña Pastori and Argentina’s Soledad for pop/folk album Raíz.
They join superstar singer/songwriter Marco Antonio Solís’ Gracias Por Estar Aquí, an album of beautifully crafted songs, vying in what will be a highly contested category.
The same can be said for that maddeningly broad Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album category, where acts who have little in common end up competing against each other. This year, however, that glitch can be overlooked by the fine list of contestants. There’s Calle 13’s Multiviral, Behind the Machine (Detrás de la Máquina) by Colombian folk fusion band Choquibtown, Jorge Drexler’s Bailar En La Cueva, Mexican rockers Molotov’s Agua Maldita and rapper Ana Tijoux’s Vengo.
As with the pop category, several of these acts come from winning Latin Grammys. Drexler won Record of the year with a track with Ana Tijoux and Calle 13 and Molotov both won Album of the year awards in urban and rock categories.
A major departure is to be found in the Best Regional Mexican Music Album category. Here, another Latin Grammy winner — Pepe Aguilar — competes with Lástima que Sean Ajenas, going against a formidable opponent in Vicente Fernandez’s Mano a Mano-Tangos a la manera de Vicente Fernandez. Otherwise, the category is made up of outliers.
Ixya Herrera (with Voz y Guitarra) and Mariachi los Arrieros del Valle with a self-titled album, have never been nominated and are signed to indie labels. Another indie act is Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea, who have been nominated before and compete here with 15 Aniversario.
An also surprising category was for Best Tropical Album. Here, again, we find a Latin Grammy winner — Carlos Vives — competing with his fine Más + Corazón Profundo. He’s up against two veterans and two newcomers. El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico is up with an anniversary album, 50 Aniversario, while Colombia’s folk treasure, Totó La Momposina gets her first nomination with El Asunto.
On the new and indie side, Cuba’s Aymee Nuviola, who evokes comparisons with Celia Cruz, is up for Live, while fusion band Palo! competes with El Asunto.
Absent from the running is top-selling Latin act Romeo Santos, who got shut out of the Latin Grammy nominations and fared no better here. It’s a major omission. Indeed, Vives is the one commercially successful release represented in the tropical category. The same can be said of Regional Mexican, where none of the acts who ruled the chart in the past year are present