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Latin Grammys 2018: The 11 Best, Worst and Most WTF Moments

Annual ceremony in Las Vegas anoints new stars, recognizes popular groups and proves the power of Latin Music in the United States and beyond

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Bad Bunny, J Balvin and Rosalia at 2018 Latin Grammys in Las Vegas.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX Shutterstock, 2; Mike Nelson/EPA-EFE/REX Shutterstock

Unlike last year’s ceremony, the 19th Annual Latin Grammys lacked a powerhouse like uber-hit “Despacito” or deliberate rebukes of the Trump administration. Instead, the ceremony took on a celebratory tone — one focused on the depth of quality within its diverse genres. Latin trap got its moment in the sun alongside iconic salsa stars of yesteryear; the new blood of traditional Mexican pop proved their worth; and Spanish “It Girl” Rosalía turned her showcase into a coronation. These (and more) make up the best, worst and most WTF moments of this year’s Latin Grammys.

Rosalia performs during the 19th Annual Latin Grammy Awards ceremony at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 15 November 2018. The Latin Grammy Awards recognize artistic and/or technical achievement, not sales figures or chart positions, and the winners are determined by the votes of their peers, the qualified voting members of the academy.Ceremony - 2018 Latin Grammy Awards, Las Vegas, USA - 15 Nov 2018

Rosalia performs during the 19th Annual Latin Grammy Awards ceremony at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mike Nelson/EPA-EFE/REX Shutterstock

Good Pop Star Coronation: Rosalía Receives Her Due in Front of the World

The stars were aligned for Spanish songstress Rosalía Vila Tobella on Thursday night. After the English and Spanish-speaking media world taking note, the entire Latin Grammys was ready to bow down before their new queen. After winning the award for Best Urban Fusion early in the night — locking down her indie bonafides by shouting out Kate Bush and Björk — the stage was set for her coronation. Her performance of “Malamente” began with a tight shot of her profile, her face staring daggers at a camera begging for a reaction. As lights and pyro slowly engulfed the stage, Rosalía kept her cool — flashing her Cardi B nails while large Versace-esque chains rotated behind her. That’s some advanced, Mariah Carey-like flex. In an evening packed with emerging superstars, Rosalía showed that she’s already arrived.

Nicky Jam, Steve Aoki. Nicky Jam, left, and Steve Aoki perform at the Latin Grammy Awards, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas2018 Latin Grammy Awards - Show, Las Vegas, USA - 15 Nov 2018

Nicky Jam, left, and Steve Aoki perform at the Latin Grammy Awards, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX Shutterstock

WTF Fail: Nicky Jam Goes Through the Motions

That Nicky Jam is one of our most reliable hitmakers is WTF enough. But his performances of his two biggest hits were a testament to literal interpretation unseen since the days of Bone Thugs -n- Harmony. For example, when it was time to perform “X,” Nicky Jam — rocking his finest board shorts — performed…in front of a giant X. J Balvin souped it up with an outfit best described as “Jesse Pinkman with a Supreme store credit card,” but otherwise they just…kinda stood there? Transitioning to club track “Jaleo,” accompanied by superstar DJ Steve Aoki performing inside of a repurposed submarine, they just — again — stood there before being joined by the a group of male dancers from the Steve ZissouDance Academy. Even then, the crowd ate up that big dumb banger. Many others just stared at the screen like Krusty the Klown.

Alex Gonzalez, Fher Olvera, Juan Calleros, Sergio Vallin. Alex Gonzalez, from left, Fher Olvera, Juan Calleros and Sergio Vallin, of Mana, pose in the press room with the award for Person of the Year at the Latin Grammy Awards, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas2018 Latin Grammy Awards - Press Room, Las Vegas, USA - 15 Nov 2018

Alex Gonzalez, from left, Fher Olvera, Juan Calleros and Sergio Vallin, of Mana, pose in the press room with the award for Person of the Year at the Latin Grammy Awards

Eric Jamison/Invision/AP/REX Shutterstock

Good Person(s) of the Year: Maná Proves to be Greatest Crowdpleaser

Maná is one of the most endearingly popular bands in Latin pop. As such, they’ve taken a few jabs over the years. Whether it’s being called “the Police with better chest hair,” or “the first artist whose Walk of Fame star was made entirely out of pleather and Corona bottle caps,” or “the musical fusion of U2’s earnestness and Bon Jovi’s secondhand clothing.” But jokes aside, they’ve been noteworthy humanitarians over the past thirty years, and were deserved winners of the Latin Grammy’s “Person of the Year award.” Their brief three-song set of mega-hits “En El Muelle de San Blas,” “Labios Compartidos”, and “Me Vale” rightly brought the house down — the type of big ticket artist that buoy the Grammy telecast. That the Latin Grammys were able to honor them without impeding the momentum of the telecast or pandering to younger audiences is something from which the U.S.-based Grammys could learn a thing or two.

Bad Bunny performs at the Latin Grammy Awards, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas2018 Latin Grammy Awards - Show, Las Vegas, USA - 15 Nov 2018

After racking up a string of major global hits, Bad Bunny released his debut album, 'X100PRE.'

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX Shutterstock

WTF Unexpected Medley: Bad Bunny Makes His Case for Artist of His Generation

My Lord, that Bad Bunny medley was good. But it was also completely unexpected. First of all, this was Bad Bunny’s second performance on the telecast (after the disappointing Marc Anthony/Will Smith opener). Second, he was given a five-minute medley even though he only one nomination for the night! So you’d probably forgive him for keeping his performance straightforward a la Ozuna earlier in the program. Except, Bad Bunny didn’t use his time on the pulpit to perform shortened, glitzy versions of his radio hits. Instead, this was Bad Bunny proving his versatility, and indeed the versatility of Latin trap in general. Backed by a four-piece rock band, Bad Bunny transformed Latin trap anthems “Soy Peor” and “Chambea” into nü-metal headbangers, while “Estamos Bien” became an 80s hair metal rave — even down to the bikini-clad models. This wasn’t to prove that Latin trap is the new rock & roll — why would it want to be? — instead, it’s to prove that it’s the latest in the lineage of music built on the exuberance of youth. And as the youth of America becomes increasingly Latinx, it’s appropriate that this was the night that Bad Bunny staked his claim as one of its most important mainstream voices.