The fifth anniversary of the Latin American Music Awards was a true joy at times, though consistently lackluster throughout. Symptoms persistent in award shows throughout the last five to ten years were particularly glaring, while a roster that checked off all the boxes still felt bereft of excitement, with a few anticlimactic pairings, and a rather predictable queue of urbano acts – a symptom of a greater problem.
“Daddy Yankee es el mejor,” Arcelia Chavarria, critic and mother to me, texted after the Puerto Rican Barrio Fino singer debuted “Que Tire Pa’ Lante” in an ever-flawless performance that felt like both an ode to old-school reggaeton, and celebration of the new. The echoes and voices of people like Bad Bunny, Anuel AA, Natti Natasha and Zion y Lennox are sprinkled in the single, each for a blinks-worth length. He and other veterans in the industry like Marc Anthony and Pitbull, who each live as outliers of genres we’ve come to love, were the standouts of the night.
In a chill-inducing tribute to José José, Anthony poured his heart into the beloved late singer’s “Almohada,” finishing off with a simple, appropriate mic drop beside el Príncipe de la Canción’s name in lights.
By 9:56 EST, similarly to what happens at just about two hours into any award show in the existence of all premios, everyone at the watch party I attended was ready to clock out. Award shows of all languages and themes, I believe, can and should be condensed. Repeat performers like Sofia Reyes and Becky G, who won Evolución Extraordinaria and Artista Favorita Feminina, made that particularly clear.
In a set appropriately labeled Bar 305, Neyo intro’ed a Miami favorite and added much needed flare to the night with his Spanish-language debut on stage. “I practiced for two weeks,” he later told Telemundo, nervously admitting he wanted to make sure he got it right. I could not tell you what he say saying throughout the performance, but several trusted tough critics, including Chavarria, were into it. If there was a seemingly perfect English-language, innocuous, and charming addition to make that night, this was it. He and El Micha laid the groundwork for Pitbull to come out and do his thing on “Me Quedaré Contigo” from his new album Libertad 548.
Much like the industry itself, the night was lacking sufficient experimental moments and features – like that of Christian Nodal and Piso 21’s “Pa’ Olvidarme de Ella.” Instead, it risked being predictable by mimicking what has worked time and time again, until now. Ten years ago, or even 12 months ago, the most-awaited moments of Latin award shows were the ubrano acts that existed few and far between. Think ChocQuibTown or Ozuna. Now, in an over-saturated industry where urbano’s ubiquitous influence is felt by the entire industry, it’s essentially the safe route. In an odd turn of events, the loudest moments of the nights have become the easiest to ignore.
Several big nominees – namely Karol G, J Balvin, Maluma and Jennifer Lopez – didn’t show face as they surely had prior engagements like tours and movie sets to attend to. Yet, in another consistent symptom of illness at premios (including those that are “fan-voted”) of this nature, only those who had the decency to show up received awards. Similarly to the Premios Tu Música Urbano Awards 2018 and many award shows I’ve slated three hours of my life to watch in the past, it was the talent quien dijo presente who took home engraved honors, even if that meant leaving out undeniably talented artists who shone this past year.
A flatline with a few flutters of hope and creativity, the 2019 Latin AMAs did its best, working with what was available to them, ultimately reflective of this moment in Latin music.
You can head to Telemundo for the full list of winners. Below are a few notables.
Most ¿Que? Award:
“Canción Favorita Tropical”
Centavito,” Romeo Santos
“Aullando,” Wisin & Yandel & Romeo Santos
“Adicto,” Prince Royce + Marc Anthony (Winner)
“Vivir Bailando,” Silvestre Dangond & Maluma
Most “Bueno… Si, Por Supuesto” Award:
“Canción favorita regional mexicano”
“Nunca Es Suficiente,” Los Ángeles Azules featuring Natalia LaFourcade
“A Través del Vaso,” Banda Los Sebastianes
“Aerolínea Carrillo,” T3r Elemento featuring Gerardo Ortiz
“Mejor Me Alejo,” Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga
“No Te Contaron Mal,” Christian Nodal
Most “Esperate… Did They Just Make Up That Song/Video/Album/Tour for This Award” Award:
Camila – “Te Confieso”
Becky G & Maluma – “La Respuesta”
Daddy Yankee & Wisin y Yandel – “Si Supieras”
Sofia Reyes Ft. Rita Ora & Anitta -“R.I.P.”
Sebastian Yatra & Camilo – “En Guerra”
Most “Jajaj OK” Award:
“Artist of the Year”
Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga
Most “Overdue y Bien Merecido” Award:
“International Artist Award of Excellence”