MTV made a noble attempt at Latinx inclusion at this year’s VMAs; and “Thotiana,” the hit song by Blueface, made her way to Colombia and came back “Fariana.” In case you missed it, here are some highlights from this week in Latin music.
Hispanic Artists Win Big at the VMAs
Since the time Los Lobos performed their smash Number One hit “La Bamba” at the the 1987 Video Music Awards, Latinos have made some of the most memorable appearances in the history of MTV’s annual awards show. Yet between 2014 and 2018, the VMAs had completely eliminated its lone Latin music category: “Best Latino Artist,” or as it’s now called, “Best Latin.” That would change after 2017’s “Despacito” mania — and upon the category’s resurgence in 2018, J Balvin won the Best Latin award for his for his 2017 megahit, “Mi Gente,” featuring Willy William (and later Beyoncé).
The Colombian superstar emerged victorious in the same category this year, thanks to his part in the globe-trotting reggaeton hit, “Con Altura,” which he recorded with Spanish artists Rosalía and El Guincho. The collaborators were all smiles while hopping onstage at Monday night’s VMAs to accept their shiny new Moon Person. “Wow. I wasn’t expecting this, honestly,” said a stunned Rosalía. “Thank you, because it’s such an incredible honor. I come from Barcelona. I’m so happy to be here representing where I come from and representing my culture.”
Debates ensued online, where many contested awarding a European-born artist for a reggaeton song — and under the banner of “Latin,” an English-language term for those of Latinx or Latin American heritage, which includes Brazil. It’s the first time any Spaniard has received the honor, but the second time it was shared with a European-born artist; “Mi Gente” co-star Willy William, who accepted the award in Balvin’s stead last year, hails from France. Might MTV consider a second rename in 2020? Perhaps if the entire Latin-slash-Hispanic music industry would follow suit.
Nevertheless, Rosalía charmed anglophone viewers during her VMAs debut, where she was joined onstage by Puerto Rican idol Ozuna. Like a Hispanic Gomez and Morticia Addams, the two flirtatiously circled each other as they sang the buoyant “Yo X Ti, Tu X Mi,” or “Me for you, you for me” in Spanish. Meanwhile, urbano kings J Balvin and Bad Bunny regaled viewers with a pop-art performance of “Qué Pretendes,” the lead single off their intrepid joint album, Oasis. Dressed in comically long-limbed inflatable suits, the pair channeled the pop absurdism of David Byrne with the wacky, technicolor aesthetic of old Looney Tunes cartoons. Yet the VMAs weren’t all fun and games for J Balvin: “We have to think about Amazonas,” he said during the live broadcast, in reference to the ailing Amazon rainforest. “The jungles are burning!”
‘Thotiana’ Gets the Spanglish Treatment, Courtesy of Farina
Since its 2019 re-release, “Thotiana,” the song by Los Angeles rapper Blueface, has become somewhat of an accidental boon to the hip-hop world. Weirdly off-kilter, but nevertheless memorable, his breakout hit first got a remix from Cardi B, then another from YG. When Colombian rapper Farina shared her own Spanish freestyle via Instagram — captioned “Fariana” — it tracked millions of views between the U.S. and Latin America. “He sent Thotiana to hell,” she spits in Spanish, “when he saw the bigger bitch Fariana on IG.” Farina’s verses finally grabbed the attention of Blueface and his label, Cash Money West. “People wanted it to become a song, so we made it!” says Farina. “The chemistry with Blue Face was organic.” With the help of original “Thotiana” producer Scum Beats, the two recorded their verses separately between the U.S. and Colombia — and met for the first time after Farina flew to Los Angeles to shoot the video. Filmed D.I.Y.-style in a foggy, L.A. warehouse, the new friends alternate seamlessly between English and Spanish; when Blueface says “Bust down, Fariana,” Farina offers her own, punchy translation: “Dale, Fariana!”
Draco Rosa Releases Mystical New Video for ‘En las Horas Más Tristes’
Puerto Rican rocker Draco Rosa takes to the mountains in the Daniel Garcia-directed clip for “En las Horas Más Tristes,” or “In the Saddest Hours.” Off his 2018 comeback LP, Monte Sagrado, the song follows Rosa as he embarks on a spiritual journey — which culminates in a sense of oneness with his birthplace. “Monte Sagrado is wherever you’re walking, wherever I’m at,” Rosa told Rolling Stone in 2018. “It has that spirit of the island, and I do live in a sacred mountain. There’s a ceremonial park in Utuado, Puerto Rico that’s about a hundred acres. In those lands, the land of the Taínos, there’s a river that runs through it, which is called Tanamá, meaning the butterfly river. All those lands are sacred. Monte Sagrado is Puerto Rico. It’s a metaphor for something beyond Puerto Rico as well.”
Miami Politicians Are Moving to Ban Cuban Artists, Again
Under Obama’s cultural exchange program, Cuban artists like Cimafunk could perform freely in the U.S. Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez asks Congress to think twice. Read our full feature here.
See Maluma, Ricky Martin Channel ‘Baywatch’ in Campy ‘No Se Me Quita’ Video
Colombian hitmaker Maluma released the video for “No Se Me Quita” — featuring the unsinkable Puerto Rican superstar, Ricky Martin. A memorable highlight off Maluma’s latest album 11:11, the starry-eyed dancehall number marks the duo’s second collaboration, following their 2016 single “Vente Pa’ Ca.” In “No Se Me Quita,” or “It Doesn’t Go Away,” the Latin playboys recount a memorable kiss from the night before — and the unforgettable sabor, or taste, of a new lover’s lips. “And now it has me,” sings Martin, “Mind on the moon and feet on the floor.”
Jhay Cortez, Karol G Dare to Dream of Each Other in New Song, ‘Deséame Suerte’
In “Deséame Suerte,” which means “Wish Me Luck,” Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jhay Cortez joins Colombian megastar Karol G in an indulgent act of reggaeton romántico. “I don’t want to sound very daring,” they sing coyly, “But I want to be alone with you/And before another one finds you.” Is it cuffing season already?