A powerful trio of urbano artists – Bad Bunny, Sech and now Ozuna (who was just confirmed to perform at the gala honoring Juanes, this year’s Person Of The Year) – are amongst the few who have confirmed they’ll be in Vegas for this year’s Latin Grammys award show. Sech is a first-time caller, long-time listener and Bad Bunny will take the stage for his second-consecutive year (he performed a riveting medley of X100PRE tracks in 2018, and opened the night alongside Marc Anthony plus *checks notes* Will Smith). Though it’s safe to bet on each of these talents putting on a show to remember, it is (I imagine) a bittersweet endeavor and one that – as with all “urban” award acceptance speeches of the night – will come with an asterisk.
Amidst the re-upped conversation of the Latin Grammys’ long history of snubbing reggaeton in the form of a social media protest and potential boycott this year, is the reality that there are artists – particularly those on the rise – who will not pass up on the opportunity to perform on that stage. On the flip side is the very real reality that the award show needs the top-charting artists to stay relevant. If that feels comparable to a toxic relationship, it’s because it is.
“What the Latin Grammys show is about at the end of the day is getting their ratings,” Tomas Cookman, president of the Latin indie label Nacional Records, told Rolling Stone last year. “They want Carlos Vives to be singing with Bad Bunny to be dancing with Jennifer Lopez. They’re after eyeballs and they don’t make any qualms about that.”
At the end of the day – at least for this year’s today – the Latin Grammys is still the biggest night in Latin music. Equally true is the idea that being present for roll call doesn’t signify full support of all of the Academy’s decisions. A retweet doesn’t equate to an endorsement if you will. Artists who show up may decide to make use of the face time – whether that be in interviews, acceptance speeches, performances, and conversations with those in attendance who live outside their world’s perspective – to defend the validity and excellence (if they believe it to be so) of the genre.
Last year, J Balvin was infamously nominated in eight categories and awarded only one. During his acceptance speech for Best Urban Music Album, he gave a special shout out to Ozuna and his other colleagues. “This genre has been a bit discriminated,” he said. “But we’re still here fighting and proving that there are people here with a lot of talent.”
The asterisk for those who will proudly take up space at MGM Grand Garden Arena in the year of nuestro Diosito lindo 2019 is this – choosing to say nothing is saying something.
If a noticeable amount of urbano artists decide to opt out entirely this year, now is a good time for everyone else to remember that solidarity is a beautiful thing. “This whole world is divided enough,” the Uruguayan artist told reporters last year. “I’ve witnessed prejudice against many genres… I like reggaeton — I like to dance to reggaeton. There’s a sensuality to it that I like,” he admitted to RS. “It makes me sad that anyone thinks that I am an example of intellectual superiority [over that genre].”