On a night dominated by pop and reggaeton, a young Mexican singer continued his astonishing rise from obscurity to stardom, capturing four awards at Thursday's Billboard Latin Music Awards.
The champion of the starry night at the University of Miami's Bank
United Center in Coral Gables was Mariano Barba, who won in all but one of five categories in which he was nominated.
"I don't have words -- this is more than a surprise for someone who is just starting out," Barba, 26, said after beating out established stars Shakira and Joan Sebastian for the Hot Latin Song of the Year prize, Aliado del Tiempo (Time Is My Ally). Barba also collected awards for Regional Mexican Album of the Year -- New Artist,
and Regional Mexican Air- play Song of the Year, Male Solo Artist and New Artist.
Sporting a sleek black suit, his jet black hair slicked back, Barba gave a moving rendition of Aliado del Tiempo, the song that shot him to fame, then moved to a Mexican-tropical mix for the uptempo Es Virgen Tu Corazon (Your Heart Is Vir- gin). Pop music may be in his future.
The awards honor the best-selling Latin music recordings and most-played songs on radio according to the Billboard charts, during the period from Feb. 11, 2006, through Feb. 3 of this year.
Teen pop group RBD, who did not attend, demon- strated their continuing sales power by winning three awards, for Latin Pop Album of the Year, Duo or Group; Top Latin Albums Artist of the Year, and Latin Tour of the Year. Leggy Mexican pop singer and awards-show favorite Pau- lina Rubio picked up prizes for Latin Pop Album of the Year, Female for her latest CD, Ananda, and Latin Pop Airplay Song of the Year, Female. Heartthrob male quartet Aventura and new- comer Toby Love, both of whom combine Dominican bachata and merengue with hiphop and R&B, also won two awards each.
Salsa may have been largely shouldered aside in the nominations by reggae- ton and hiphop-tropical hybrids. But it was 45-year veterans El Gran Combo, joined by their successors, salsa stars Gilberto Santa Rosa and Victor Manuelle, who provided one of the most electric moments of the night. Their lead singer may be white-haired, but their music is as tight and swinging as an 18-year old.
Duranguense, the hyped-up, bouncy style that's been one of the hottest things in regional Mexican music, was highlighted in a three-stage performance (glitter bras and sequined jeans figured heavily) by three of its most popular exponents, including Los Horóscopos de Durango, led by two powerful, soulful female singers.
Reggaeton duo Rakim y Ken-Y were finalists in seven categories but went home with only one award, for Reggaeton Song of the Year. And their perfor- mance was marked by nasal, off-key singing from Rakim. Don Omar may have entered on a white horse with acro- batic dancers, but his rendi- tion of Salio el Sol (to a half- empty house at the start of the show) also felt flat.
Although they took home no awards, Calle 13, the duo turning reggaeton upside down with fusion and lewdly brilliant lyrics, pro-
vided a welcome dose of irreverence and energy in Tango del Pecado (Tango of Sin). Rapper Residente, in a powder blue suit, accompa- nied by electronic-tango outfit Bajofondo Tango Club and composer Visitante on a grand piano, pranced with eight wiggling brides and proclaimed himself "the maximum exponent of sin."
Colombian rock star Juanes presented the Life- time Achievement Award to revered Spanish singer Miguel Bosé. "The ones who are most at fault for my still being here are all of you," said Bosé, a charismatic singer-actor who's kind of a cross between David Bowie and Julio Iglesias. Bosé later joined Rubio in Nena, a song from Papito, his recent album of duets. Strutting and swaying, the sly Bosé was as much a diva as his prancing blond partner.
Reggaeton duo Wisin & Yandel beat Gasolina star Daddy Yankee to win for Hot Latin Songs Artist of the Year, as well as Latin Ring- tone of the Year. The duo later joined Spanish pop singer David Bisbal in the night's finale, which fea- tured a lineup of gyrating child dancers.
Longtime pop singer Ricardo Montaner received the Spirit of Hope award from his son Hector Monta- ner, in recognition of his humanitarian work with children.