It’s been a full two weeks since the 19th annual Latin Grammy Awards hit Las Vegas, but the conversation on the ceremony and its winners is still surging. After Colombian pop star J Balvin was unexpectedly snubbed in the Record of the Year and Album of the Year categories – the former of which was awarded to Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler for “Telefonía”– the well-worn conversation on the Recording Academy’s preference for pop and more traditional genres over urbano sounds has re-emerged.
Since the November 15 ceremony, detractors of reggaeton have hailed Drexler’s win as a victory – one that symbolizes the triumph of “respectable” music and poses a challenge to reggaeton’s domination in the Spanish-language music industry. The Latin Grammys have a long history of awarding statues to more pop-leaning and acoustic artists, which many see as a neglect for urbano and a mark of prejudice among voting members in the Recording Academy.
In several interviews, Drexler has asserted that his successes should not be used to uphold elitism or prejudice against the genre. As he told Rolling Stone in a recent interview, “I’ve witnessed prejudice against many genres. When I was a teen, it was disco. It was rock. I like reggaeton — I like to dance to reggaeton. There’s a sensuality to it that I like. It makes me sad that anyone thinks that I am an example of intellectual superiority [over reggaeton].” In a conversation on Spanish radio program La Ventana, he echoed this statement: “Reggaeton is not my enemy.”
Drexler has also asserted that reggaeton is part of a larger cultural contribution to Latin American music. In an interview with La Tercera he said, “Qué viva el reggaetón, la cumbia, Pessoa, Borges, Carmen Miranda…let’s enjoy what we have. We just started to take notice. Latin America has a very promising future,” he said, going on to highlight the genre’s afro-diasporic origins. According to him, reggaeton isn’t “J Balvin’s or Maluma’s, it’s a rhythm from Africa, from the North, and it’s wonderful. If we don’t like a certain kind of a song, let’s write better songs, but let’s not blame the genres [themselves].”