As is our tradition, here are our yearly predictions for the Latin Grammy Awards, airing live Nov. 15, in key categories. This year presents a challenge, as for the first time, there are 10 contenders in each of the main categories (which we think is akin to giving 10th place medals, but that’s another story), but we will try to make our guesses as educated as ever. As always, remember predictions are not based on personal taste but on past voting behavior and observation of market and trends.
Album of the Year: Our vote is with Ricardo Arjona’s “Independiente” for a plethora of reasons: A collection of great songs; independently produced, marketed and distributed and still reached everyone; and Arjona has only won once before (for Best Male Pop Vocal Album). He is way past due. He may, however, get shoved aside by perennial favorite Juanes or-in a year in which Caetano Veloso is being honoroed as Person of the year-by Especial Ivete, Gil & Caetano, an album by Veloso with Ivete Sangalo and Gilberto Gil.
Song of the Year: Ten slots to fill, and still no major hits here. Our vote goes to Jesse & Joy’s “Corre,” a genuine, natural hit-fresh, heartfelt and sincere-which was a lasting, and region-wide presence on the charts and on television.
Record of the Year: This is an award for recording quality. It should go to Alejandro Sanz’s exquisitely crafted “No me Compares,” produced by Sanz with Julio Reyes-Copello. It helps that the track was a region-wide hit.
Best New Artist: DJ collective 3BallMTY and DJ Juan Magán are the best known here but we seriously doubt Latin Grammy voters are going to give this award to a DJ. Ana Victoria, the daughter of two venerable stars-Amanda Miguel and Diego Verdaguer-has clout and pedigree. Not to mention vocals and good songwriting chops as well.
Producer of the Year: Really, this list of nominees needs to be freshened up. Although I’m going with another Latin Grammy perennial, he’s never been up for this award: Juan Luis Guerra for his work widely touted work on the Juanes MTV Unplugged. Never has a producer received so much press.
Best Urban Song: This is the most exciting category here, and should be a tight contest between two big hits which happen to be two great songs: Daddy Yankee’s “Lovumba” vs. Don Omar’s “Hasta que Salta El Sol” (penned with Ramón Enrique Casillas Ríos).
Best Urban Album: Another interesting category. Don Omar’s “MTO2” is one of the best curated albums in recent memory and digital success has been enormous. But our alternative leaning body of voters may well sway toward Ana Tijoux’s “La Bala.”
Best Tropical Fusion Album: The category that so well fits many U.S. Latin formats today also features one of the top albums of the year, “Phase II” by Prince Royce, inexplicably absent from any other category. Royce would be the clear winner were he not contending with Fonseca, a Latin Grammy fave who boasts the beautiful “Ilusión +.”
Best Regional Mexican Song: We so wish bigger songs had made the finalist list. But, judging from the list of nominees, Manuel Eduardo Toscano’s “Vivo Contenta,” tailor-made for the juicy Paquita La Del Barrio, will win. The runner-up-and far bigger hit-will be “El Mejor Perfume,” by Luis Carlos Monroy and Adrian Pieragostino (double nominees in this category!), performed by La Original Banda El Limón.
Best Norteño Album: Tough call. Los Tucanes de Tijuana are Latin Grammy faves, but this is Gerardo Ortiz’s year. I’ll go with Ortiz’s “Entre Dios Y el Diablo.”
Best Singer/Songwriter Album: Nice category. Ricardo Arjona’s “Independiente” marries artistry and commercial success at a region-wide level. That’s what we’d like to see win more often. BUT!! Chico Buarque does have the Brazilian vote and José Luis Perales is a legend. Still, I’d be surprised if Arjona doesn’t pull this one off.