J Balvin’s (Many) Snubs Show Latin Grammys Are Still Wary of Reggaeton


J Balvin, the Colombian reggaeton star, was nominated for extra awards than every other artist on the Latin Grammys on Thursday. In two separate classes, Record of the Year and Best Urban Song, he was even nominated a number of occasions. He deserves the eye: Behind Ozuna, he’s the second most-watched singer on the planet (due to his mind-bogglingly giant viewers on YouTube), with an intuitive grasp of melody and an already-long checklist of eminently hummable hooks; his Vibras album was good-looking and tightly knit, but in addition sturdy sufficient on a song-by-song foundation that it’s going to probably spawn two or three extra good singles.

On prime of that, Balvin maintains an admirable curiosity in elevating different Latin musical kinds along with his personal reggaeton. That means making entice with Chris Jeday or collaborating with the Mexican singer-songwriter Carla Morrison — as he did once more on the Latin Grammys final night time — and the Spanish Flamenco singer Rosalía.

But Balvin was nearly uniformly dismissed by the Latin Recording Academy on Thursday night time. Album of the Year went to the veteran Mexican pop singer Luis Miguel, who was not even current to gather his award. Record of the Year went to one other veteran, the Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, who has already gained as soon as and been nominated two different occasions. Balvin’s “Mi Gente” was so irresistible that Beyonce added a verse to a remix, in Spanish no much less, however the Latin Recording Academy picked Rosalía because the winner within the Best Urban Fusion/Performance class. And even within the Best Urban Song class, the place Balvin actually had a 60% probability of profitable — three out of the 5 nominations have been his — the Recording Academy selected Daddy Yankee’s “Dura.”

It’s not that Drexler and Rosalía have been unworthy of their awards. (“Dura,” although, was arguably probably the most boring single nominated within the Best Urban Song class.) And Miguel’s win was in the end in character for the Latin Recording Academy. This group likes its getting older stars, often males, working in conventional kinds — earlier Album of the Year winners embrace Rubén Blades, Juan Gabriel, Juan Luis Guerra, Paco de Lucía and Draco Rosa, all of whom began their recording careers earlier than the autumn of the Berlin Wall.

But taken in opposition to the backdrop of reggaeton’s wild eruption of recognition, which has introduced Latin music to unprecedented ranges of world visibility within the final three years, and the truth that Balvin was the one artist from the “city” style nominated within the basic classes, it’s arduous to not see his blanket rejection as a pointed assertion from the Latin Recording Academy. (A consultant for Balvin didn’t reply to requests for remark.) It’s additionally straightforward for English-speaking viewers to attract connections to the American Grammys, which have proven an analogous irritating tendency to relegate stars like Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar to the Urban part and hold them away from profitable basic awards.

Speaking final month, Tomas Cookman, president of the Latin indie label Nacional Records, cautioned in opposition to evaluating the American and Latin Grammy ceremonies. “The Latin Grammys have the benefit, or maybe the drawback, of overlaying a lot of completely different markets and many completely different tales,” he defined. “The Grammys are mainly targeted on what’s occurring right here within the U.S. [instead of the entire Spanish-speaking diaspora, which spans continents and hemispheres]. The Latin Grammys have nominees that perhaps you haven’t heard of, however someplace within the Latin market they’re large as fuck and all people’s heard of them. So I give the Latin Grammys a bit extra leeway. And if there’s even an artist that I’ve by no means heard of, which means I’ve one thing to be taught.”

“That stated, what the Latin Grammys present is about on the finish of the day is getting their scores,” Cookman continued. “They need Carlos Vives to be singing with Bad Bunny to be dancing with Jennifer Lopez. They’re after eyeballs and so they don’t make any qualms about that.”

It’s that bare ambition for as giant an viewers as potential that made the Latin Recording Academy’s hypocrisy manifestly apparent on Thursday night time. They relied largely on reggaeton and entice stars to usher in stated eyeballs: J Balvin, Ozuna and Nicky Jam every carried out two songs (Balvin re-joined Jam for a 3rd) and Bad Bunny carried out 4 tracks, along with opening the present with Marc Anthony and Will Smith. These are the artists with the worldwide hits, lots of them, so their heavy presence on stage is sensible.

But cruelly, they have been barely nominated for awards, and after they have been, they didn’t win. Ozuna, the most-viewed singer on the planet, had only one alternative to take a house a trophy, and he misplaced Best Urban album to Balvin. (The Latin Recording Academy in all probability received that improper, too: Ozuna’s album is overflowing with hits, however they needed to give Balvin not less than one award.) Bad Bunny, a once-in-a-generation star, was solely nominated as a featured visitor on Balvin’s earworm “Sensualidad,” which fell to “Dura.” Jam’s destiny was additionally tied to Balvin’s — see the chic “X” — so he went dwelling empty-handed as effectively. (A consultant for Jam didn’t reply to requests for remark.)

By the time Bad Bunny took the stage late within the night to play 4 songs, greater than every other performer all night time, this dissonance was overwhelming. “Urban” music was being handled as window-dressing — used to usher in viewers, particularly younger individuals, after which summarily dismissed when it got here to handing out precise .

The last award of the night time was for Record of the Year. Balvin was nominated twice, for “Mi Gente” and “X,” that are each the type of excellent, knee-buckling hits you pray for each morning whenever you get up. The singer misplaced to Drexler, who had a reasonably entry from the Seventies George Harrison faculty, “Telefonía.”

Oddly, however to his credit score, it was Drexler, talking within the media room after the awards ceremony, who provided the night time’s kindest phrases for reggaeton and concrete music. “Reggaeton just isn’t an evil rhythm; it’s an African rhythm,” he advised reporters. “This entire world is split sufficient. Let’s [welcome it] with open arms!”

The Latin Recording Academy ought to pay attention.