The Latin GRAMMYs celebrated 15 years of excellence by doing what it does best: showcasing Latin music as a beautiful and expansive garden, brimming with flowers of all colors and catering to all tastes. The flowers, in this case, were the songs culled from the genres of salsa, tango, pop, urban music, banda sinaloense and many others that musicians of all ages and nationalities performed during what will probably be remembered as the best Latin GRAMMY ceremony to date.
The evening’s winners represented the Latin GRAMMYs democratic sensibility, where commercial works are accepted with the same enthusiastic spirit as the most exquisite instrumental skill or a highly experimental recording. All songs are welcome especially those which carry a message.
In that spirit of inclusiveness, the coveted Latin GRAMMY award for Album Of The Year was presented to the late guitar master Paco de Lucía for Canción Andaluza, a record of Spanish coplas influenced by the music of his childhood, and recorded just before he passed away. Whereas “Bailando,” the global dancefloor hit by Enrique Iglesias with Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona, won in the Song Of The Year category. Venezuela’s Mariana Vega was named Best New Artist, and Uruguayan singer/songwriter Jorge Drexler – in collaboration with charismatic Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux – won the award of Record of the Year for “Universos Paralelos,” a collaboration tinged with a lyrical, deeply atmospheric vibe.
Emphasizing the unique nature of this anniversary – the Latin GRAMMYs quinceañera – the musical performances brimmed with energy, enlisting many past winners to showcase their latest creations. Puerto Rican collective Calle 13 began the show with an adrenaline-fueled performance of “El Aguante,” demonstrating once again that it has evolved from the reggaetón stylings of its beginnings into a group as progressive as it is innovative. Carlos Vives reiterated the contagious vitality of his music delivering fiery duets with Colombian group Chocquibtown (“El Mar De Tus Ojos”) and salsa star Marc Anthony (“Cuando Nos Volvamos A Encontrar”).
There was also a space reserved for pioneers, those visionary creators who decades ago changed the name of the game with their rebellious songs. Like Rubén Blades, who revolutionized salsa in the ‘70s with the anthemic “Pedro Navaja.” The Panamanian sonero transformed the Latin GRAMMY stage into a Buenos Aires alley, delivering “Pedro Navaja” as a bitter, traditional tango. And The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year 2014, Catalan troubadour Joan Manuel Serrat, delighted the audience with the tenderness of “Mediterráneo,” a sweet hymn of Iberoamerican popular song. Receiving the award, Serrat thanked “the anonymous listener,” the devoted fan, the real reason for an artist’s existence.
The musical conversations and unexpected meetings continued throughout the evening. Veteran guitarist Carlos Santana with rapper Pitbull, merging electronica with rock and tropical sounds. Spanish crooner Pablo Alborán with the pop sweetness of Mexico’s Jesse & Joy. The reigning king of ranchera, Pepe Aguilar, dueting with enigmatic pop legend Miguel Bosé from Spain. Later on, Colombian pop-rocker Juanes, a perennial Latin GRAMMY favorite, reminded us of the beauty of his melodies with a medley of hits including “Me Enamoro” and “La Camisa Negra,” backed by two percussionists and an impressive band.
The Latin GRAMMYs turned 15. It already holds in its archives a wondrous collection of musical memories. Times may change, but the power of a good song continues to inspire. The anticipation begins right now, as we wait for the next installment.