On a night when the world’s biggest pop star was conspicuous by his absence, cutting-edge flamenco-pop singer Rosalía stole the spotlight Thursday by walking off with the coveted album of the year award at the 23rd Latin Grammys.
Rosalía became the first woman to twice win for album of the year. Before Thursday’s victory for her acclaimed “Motomami” LP, the 30-year-old Barcelona native claimed the prize in 2019 for her sophomore album, “El Mal Querer.”
The specter of Bad Bunny, who skipped Thursday night’s ceremony to perform in Medellín, Colombia, haunted the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. As the most nominated artist of the night, the Puerto Rican singer and rapper won in four out of 10 categories, all in the field of música urbána: urban song and urban fusion/performance for “Titi Me Preguntó,” rap/hip-hop song for “De Museo” and reggaeton performance for “Lo Siento Bb:/,” with Tainy and Julieta Venegas.
Jorge Drexler, an Uruguayan doctor who went rogue as a singer-songwriter in the ‘90s, took home six awards, upping his lifetime Latin Grammy count to 13.
“Are you sure?” Drexler asked the presenters on Thursday, upon receiving the honors for both record and song of the year for “Tocarte,” his percussive collaboration with Spanish rapper C. Tangana.
Much like his acceptance speech in 2018, when his song “Telefonía” captured the same two honors, Drexler appeared bewildered at his fortune, having shut out his chart-topping competitors Bad Bunny and Rosalía. “I want to dedicate this award to those who make urban music,” he declared. “You have taken the language, the Spanish language, to places on the planet that we had never reached before.”
The show itself carried on with the same convivial spirit, permeating the broadcast with so much peace, love and good vibes that one could almost forget that Latin Grammys are a competition. This was largely thanks to the cheerleading of the hosts, a United Nations of pop superstars: Anitta, from Brazil; Thalía, from Mexico; Luis Fonsi, from Puerto Rico; and Latin America’s most beloved Italian, Laura Pausini.
The latter three kicked off the festivities with an operatic rendition of “Si No Te Hubieras Ido,” originally performed by Mexican balladeer Marco Antonio Solís, the 2022 Person of the Year. Seated with his wife and daughters, Solís was also honored with performances by Mexican artists Sin Bandera and Carin León, who belted “¿A Dónde Vamos A Parar?” followed by Goyo, Aymée Nuviola and Gente De Zona, who fashioned a tropicalized version of “Más Que Tu Amigo.”
Solís took the stage to perform his own songs, with the homegrown touches of Mariachi Sol de México de José Hernández — and of course, with the band that started it all, his beloved adoptive brothers Los Bukis. As Solís accepted the lifetime achievement award, he imparted a slice of wisdom for younger artists who dream to be in his shoes one day. “I never gave up what I love to do. I think it is a message for the youth who see us, that they do not give up what they love to do.”
Cuban singer-songwriter Angela Álvarez shared similar sentiments; at 95 years old, she became the oldest Latin Grammy winner of all time on Thursday, sharing the best new artist award with 25-year-old Mexican indie singer Silvana Estrada. Álvarez immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1960s, and worked as a cleaner for decades as she secretly tinkered with boleros at home. It was her grandson who finally encouraged her to record the collection of songs that brought her to the Latin Grammys.
“To those who have not fulfilled their dream, although life is difficult, there is always a way out, and with faith and love you can achieve it,” said Álvarez. “I promise you, it’s never too late.”
Twenty-one years after her 2000 album “Mi Reflejo” won the Latin Grammy for female pop vocal album, Ecuadorian American diva Christina Aguilera won the honors for pop vocal album (traditional) on Thursday for her 2022 Spanish-language album, “Aguilera.” Elitists may begrudge the pop vocalist’s prodigal return to Latin music — as they have other U.S.-born Latinas, such as Selena Gomez and Becky G — yet Aguilera’s performance on Thursday night proved a resounding victory. Although she accepted her award in English — a taboo at these awards, established as an alternative to the anglophone-dominant Grammys — Aguilera sang circles around regional Mexican singer Christian Nodal during their joint mariachi number, “Cuando Me Dé la Gana.”
It wouldn’t be an awards show worth watching without some juicy fodder for the pop stans watching at home: Rosalía, clad in red leather and black vinyl, opted to perform a glitchy rendition of her salacious piano ballad, “Hentai” — and giggled as she heard her own F-bomb audibly bleeped out for the telecast. She then marched up and down the aisle looking for her blue-haired beau, Rauw Alejandro, as they danced close to her merengue-pop single “Despechá”; Alejandro wielded some impressive dance moves of his own earlier in the night, when he performed songs from his techno-fueled new album, “Saturno” — and enlisted the masked American hip-hop troupe Jabbawockeez as his backup dancers.
Yet for Rosalía, her prestigious win would beckon her back to business as usual. Concluding a triumphant night during which she won four Latin Grammys in total, she clutched her album of the year trophy and issued a somewhat menacing message to her producers: “See you tomorrow in the studio!”