In 2017, Latin urban heavyweights Luis Fonsi, Residente, and Maluma held the honor of being the show’s most nominated artists. This year, however, sees a more eclectic cast of musicians taking the lead, boasting wide-ranging musical styles and calibers of status. “The members of the Latin Recording Academy elected a lot of profound and risk-taking music, not only music that follows commercial patterns, but music that has meaning,” Gabriel Abaroa, President and CEO of the Latin Recording Academy, tells Rolling Stone. “The members are trying to really recognize excellence based on freshness, lyrics, and orchestration, and that is what gives you a very complete balance of names — whether they are urban superstars like J Balvin, legendary singer-songwriters like Jorge Drexler, or up-and-coming artists such as Rosalía.”
Leading the nominations is Colombian superstar J Balvin, who’s been fiercely globalizing pop-flavored reggaeton. He is up for eight Latin Grammy awards, including songs “Mi Gente” (with Willy William) and “X” (feat. Nicky Jam) for Record of the Year, his 2018 full-length Vibras for Album of the Year, among many others. His 2015 megahit “Ginza” earned him a Guinness World Record for the longest stay at Number One on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs charts. The Latin pop ambassador has continued to be one of the most streamed artists across Spotify and YouTube platforms, with numerous back-to-back Number One singles such as “I Like It” and “No Es Justo.”
J Balvin is followed by one of his collaborators on Vibras, Spanish upstart and five-time nominee Rosalía, whose viral flamenco-urban track “Malamente” made the cut in top and disparate categories. Among several runner ups with four nominations is Natalia Lafourcade — who charmed new fans with Coco theme, “Remember Me” — and won over longtime fans with her banner 2018 LP, Musas Vol. 2. Lafourcade is also joined by Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, who earned a formidable cult following since the release of his Academy Award-winning song, “Al Otro Lado del Río,” which appeared in the 2004 Che Guevara biopic The Motorcycle Diaries. Drexler is also the first Uruguayan star to hold such an honor.
Regional Mexican music also makes an unlikely strong presence as icon Luis Miguel snags an Album of the Year nomination for 2017’s ¡México Por Siempre! “This may symbolize that either regional Mexican music is investing more in developing bolder arrangements and nicer orchestrations,” Abaroa suggests, “or that people are just starting to recognize that.”
Another unprecedented development in this year’s Latin Grammy Awards is the increasing representation of women. This year an equal number of female and male acts are represented in the category of Best New Artists, as well as in both Record and Song of the Year. “If this reflects the future of music,” says Abaroa, “the presence of women is now stronger and more significant than ever.”
“Many [nominated] singer-songwriters throughout the many categories — Pablo Alborán, Kany Garcia, Natalia Lafourcade, Rozalén, Rosalía, among others — write not only their songs, but also songs that possess lots of profound and social commentary,” he continues. “It’s a very well-balanced menu of recordings and albums from very interesting performers.”
The full list of nominees is now available on the Latin Grammy Awards’ official website.