Miami rapper Pitbull, Dominican singer-composer Juan Luis Guerra, Colombian rocker Juanes, Spanish flamenco-pop singer Alejandro Sanz, bachata-pop heartthrob Prince Royce and other familiar faces will perform on Univision’s live Latin Grammy Awards telecast at 8 p.m. Thursday from Las Vegas, but so will a few newcomers.
Among them are pop duo Jesse & Joy with five nominations, including coveted nods for Record, Song and Album of the Year; Kany Garcia, a soulful Puerto Rican singer-songwriter; 3Ball MTY, a driving Mexican dance-rock trio up for Best New Artist; and Brazilian Michel Telo, whose Ai Se Eu Te Pego was a global, viral phenomenon.
One reason: The Latin Recording Academy, like its American counterpart, this year expanded from five to 10 the number of nominations in its major categories. That means acts like gritty Colombian hip-hop trio Choc Quib Town and Mexican singer-songwriter Carla Morrison, who’ve never had a hit or filled an arena, are competing for Record, Album and Song of the Year.
It’s a refreshing break after several years in which the nominations — which once offered surprises and occasionally launched stars — rotated among the industry’s most established acts.
“For a few years, we started to fall into honoring the same nominees, the same big artists,” Latin Recording Academy president Gabriel Abaroa acknowledged to Miami Spanish TV channel America Teve. “There’s nothing bad in what they brought to the Latin Grammys. What’s bad is that it took away opportunities from new people.”
The new people are grateful.
“Opening up the major categories definitely opens space for more new artists and new talent,” says Luis Sanabria, in Las Vegas to push Venezuelan singer-songwriter Ulises Hadjis on Sanabria’s tiny Shock Music label. The eclectic artist, whose influences include James Joyce, has a startling three nominations, for Best New Artist, Best Rock Song and Best Alternative Music Album.
While Hadjis (who won’t appear on TV) was elated, if puzzled, by the attention, he says that for artists like himself, the Grammys — and the music industry in general — are mostly irrelevant.
“Big labels don’t make any sense to me,” he says. “Most of the Latin American artists who are different, especially the young ones, don’t even send albums to the Latin Grammys.”
They should. If the likes of Hadjis, Morrison and Choc Quib Town can expand the Latin Grammys, and the Latin music scene, that’s a good thing.