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Latin Grammys 2017: 10 Best, Worst and Most WTF Moments

Rising stars and old favorites come together in the 18th annual Latin Grammy Awards

Latin Grammys 2017: 10 Best, Worst and Most WTF Moments


With the astronomical success of “Despacito” and reggaeton’s ferocious, pop-friendlier comeback, Latin music is no longer a niche market, but a global force to be reckoned with. Singer-songwriter Natalia Lafourcade proved that vintage Mexican folk thrives through the filtered lens of pop; and Puerto Rican MC Residente showed that unflinching ideology still wins awards. Salsa mastermind Rubén Blades confirmed that traditional genres will continue to celebrated across generations; and in an unprecedented move, Latinxs wholeheartedly welcomed a handful of non-Latinxs stars into the mix. “It’s amazing to be accepted by the Latin culture,” said Steve Aoki during a red carpet interview. “The translation doesn’t matter. You can feel the rhythm universally.” Behold the best, worst and most WTF moments of this year’s ceremony.

Gustavo Caballero/Getty

Best: Rubén Blades wins Album of the Year – to everybody’s surprise, including him

What caused Rubén Blades to gasp as he received
Album of the Year for La Flor de Canela? What’s so surprising about a
salsa dura pioneer, a rare and revered Fania legend, scoring the most prestigious
award of the evening? Perhaps “Despacito” is messing with the psyche
of what “good” Latin music should sound like, particularly for
non-Latinx people; or maybe the market has determined that music is only new
and exciting when chopped, screwed, remixed, sampled and fused. Keeping the sanctity
of genre regionalism (e.g. salsa, boleros, mariachi, banda, sones, rumbas) was once
thought to be a dying art form, but Blades’ win is a reassuring sign.

Michael Tran/Getty

Best: Residente has fighting words for reggaetoneros, nods to “real emcees”

Hands down, the ballsiest
moment at this year’s telecast goes to Residente when he basically called out
the horde of baby-faced reggaetoneros a bunch of “posers of rhyme.” The
moment occurred when the Puerto Rican MC righteously snagged the award for Best
Urban Song for cacophony banger “Somos Anormales.” 

“I’m going to
say a few abnormal words,” he said, before calling out fellow “scenesters” at prestigious award ceremonies. “Let’s
be real. Let’s talk about music and not the number of views! Let’s talk about
real lyricism because it lacks! Art doesn’t have to do with rhyming, it has to
do with speaking truth!” As the camera cut to the audience, viewers
witnessed the bewildered, borderline mad-dog gazes abounding urban pretty boys like Bad Bunny and J balvin. Simply priceless. 

Kevin Winter/Getty

Worst: Bomba Estéreo bombs “Despacito”

The crown jewel of this year’s Latin Grammys was unquestionably Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s crossover hit, “Despacito.” The song won all four of its nominations – and how could it not? The record-breaking smash hit has reached 4 billion views on YouTube, and remained Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 consecutive weeks. While anglophone media has struggled to decipher the hit’s unprecedented level of global popularity, myriad outlets have credited Justin Bieber’s remix of the song. Whether it helped or not, Biebz got no shouts from “Despacito” crew – not even when the remix won Best Urban Fusion/Performance. (Not that he would understand them, anyway.) 

As for the ceremony’s finale, Luis Fonsi enlisted Diplo, psychedelic cumbia duo Bomba Estereo, and salsa veteran Victor Manuelle to season the smash hit with unique stylistic variations, one at a time. Unfortunately, this may have been a touch ambitious: when Bomba Estéreo’s Li Saumet wailed through no-show Daddy Yankee’s rap verses, her delivery was off-key and borderline cringeworthy. No need to change a good thing!

Gustavo Caballero/Getty

Best: J Balvin brings global starpower to the stage

It was predicted that “Despacito”
would snag most, if not all four awards. Yet in spite of its monolithic popularity – even a Beyoncé feature – J Balvin’s viral jam “Mi Gente” did not make the cut for a
single award. Still, Balvin strived to make a lasting impression – rocking freshly dyed neon blond hair and fuchsia hip-hop windbreakers,
the Colombian megastar channeled a Latin raver Eminem. Appearing alongside
Bad Bunny for hit single “Si Tu Novio Te Deja Sola,” the glowing trap
tune slyly transitioned into a heavily stylized, more hyped-up “Mi Gente,”
in the good hands of Steve Aoki. Bronx rapper French Montana also
joined the party, presenting their rap ditty duet, “Unforgettable.” The dizzying performance was indeed so hard to forget, it should have come with an epilepsy warning.

Kevin Winter/Getty

WTF: Maluma Gets Censored

Self-proclaimed “Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy” Maluma brought steam and slickness to the stage. But while performing the tantalizing tropical pop of “Felices Los 4,” he pulled off a Jim-Morrison-on-the-Ed-Sullivan-Show move, and got censored by Univisión. The effects may have differed in the late Sixties – though no artist back then wanted to risk being banned from a widely popular TV show, but Morrison only amplified his bad boy persona. Although the Colombian reggaetonero kept his original steamy lyrics about foursomes intact, the annoying beeping censors killed his naughty vibe and our listening experience.

Lester Cohen/Getty

Best: Introducing CNCO, the K-pop idols of Latin music

With their dashing looks, impeccable dance moves and earworm-ready hits, Latin American upstarts CNCO are like the K-pop of Latin urban – and their show during the telecast was well worth screaming about. The thing is, CNCO was the only band of their kind at the ceremony: a commercially-manufactured boy band who first garnered fame in 2015 for winning the competitive TV show La Banda. Their prize included a worldwide tour with Ricky Martin and a five-year recording contract with Sony Music Latin. Whether or not they actually possess the compositional genius, their highly-charged performance of smash hit “Reggaetón Lento” was pure flames. 

Kevin Winter/Getty

Best: Alejandro Sanz dedicates his Person of the Year Award to Dreamers

As opposed to the shocking disregard for politics at the 2016 Latin Grammys, this year’s ceremony compensated tenfold. Spanish crooner Alejandro Sanz, who’s been churning out timeless pop hits since the Nineties, dedicated his prestigious Person of the Year award to Dreamers and DACA recipients. Although he’s not quite known for the same political candor as, say, Residente, Sanz delivered an impassioned speech that shed a light on disenfranchised populations of America. During the slow-burning “Cuando Nadie Me Ve,” he interjected to say, “There are those who spend a lifetime building walls, and those others spend breaking them. And for each thrown rock there’s a dreamer.” Cue the surprise troupe of actual Dreamers, who would join him onstage for a massive, tearjerking singalong.

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