Everybody knew that “Despacito” the world-conquering megahit by Luis Fonzi and Daddy Yankee, was going to be nominated. Sure enough, it’s up for four awards, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. It’s no big shock for established stars such as Residente (nine nominations), Shakira (six), and Juanes (five) being recognized for new work, or for chart-topping crowd pleasers like Maluma (seven nominations) and Alejandro Fernández (two) turning record sales into critical respect.
This year’s Latin Grammy nominations left some room for lesser-known acts, for immensely talented musicians with little radio play, but with heart and vision to spare. Cuban rapper Danay Suarez made enough noise to earn a Best New Artist nod to go along with her surprising Album of the Year Nomination. Active since 2007, the Venezuelan reggae group Rawayana received a well-earned shout out from Grammy voters, as did the Colombians Paula Arenas and Martina La Peligrosa, all of whom are up for Best New Artist.
Thanks to the award buzz, superb performers such as Puerto Rican Camila Luna and venerable Uruguayan band Cuarteto de Nos will be streamed and played by fans the world over. And two recently departed luminaries, Venezuelan guitar shaman Yordano and Mexican balladeer Juan Gabriel, received well-earned posthumous recognition for their last musical efforts.
There’s plenty of reasons to be weary and critical of the Latin Grammys. Clearly they lean towards the more accessible and commercial music to the detriment of independent artists working in obscurity. How many times will Shakira, with work that is far inferior to her groundbreaking early albums, continue to steal the thunder from newer and fresher acts? How many identical electronic-cumbia-reggaeton ballads does any one awards show need? But there’s so much good stuff on those lists of nominees, so many different voices, so many ways of inventing and reinventing sounds, that we’ll just have to be thankful and forgiving of these most venerable of music awards, at least for one more year.