In preparation for the 20th Annual Latin Grammys in November, the Latin Recording Academy released its list of nominees on Tuesday morning. Although Academy President/CEO Gabriel Abaroa Jr. boasted a “talented and diverse” representation of acts from across Latin America and the Iberian peninsula, the actual shortlist stated otherwise: the most nominated acts this year include two Spaniards — Alejandro Sanz and Rosalía — followed by a series of legacy acts, like Juanes, Rubén Blades and Juan Luis Guerra. Not a single urbano artist was nominated in major categories such as Record of the Year, Song of the Year, nor Album of the Year.
According to a report on the Grammys’ official website, urbano dominated streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora in 2018. Yet the exclusion of extremely popular urban artists, such as J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Ozuna, reaffirms the institution’s longstanding bias against urban music. As Rolling Stone’s Elias Leight wrote of the 2018 Latin Grammys: “Urban stars raked in the viewers, but barely garnered awards.” Nearly a year after he lost the Latin Grammy for Album of the Year — and to absentee winner Luis Miguel — J Balvin shared an Instagram post on Tuesday showing a crossed-out gramophone and the caption: “Sin reggaeton, hay no Latin Grammy.” (“Without reggaeton, there are no Latin Grammys.”)
Many urbano artists followed suit on their own pages, including Daddy Yankee, Maluma, and Karol G — who was notably crowned the Latin Grammys’ New Artist of the Year in 2018. “Despite being nominated, I don’t agree with the way they treated the genre and a lot of my colleagues,” wrote Daddy Yankee. “Remember one very important thing: Their platform was not the one that created this movement. This goes beyond a prize. This is culture, credibility, relevance, and RESPECT.”
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In response to the social media onslaught, the Latin Grammys released the following statement on Wednesday:
We respect and admire all the genres that compose the world of Latin music. In 2004, The Latin Recording Academy® led the charge for recognizing reggaeton (urban) in several categories, adapting to the evolution of music. The Latin Recording Academy has followed a strict voting process for the past 20 years. The members, through their votes, select what they believe merits a nomination.
The Academy has never influenced their decisions, have always honored, and respected their elections, even if there are people who do not agree with the results. Nevertheless, we hear the frustration and discontent. We invite the leaders of the urban community to get involved with the Academy, to get involved with the process, and to get involved with discussions that improve the Academy. At its core, The Latin Recording Academy belongs to its members, from all genres, and our doors are always open. Together we can all make it work. Let’s do it!
Is an invitation to “get involved” with the Academy and its process — or more explicitly, we assume, to apply for official Academy membership — a sufficient act of justice for today’s most popular Spanish-language artists? We will find out in November.