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The 2nd Latin Grammy Nominations : Commentary

At Last, the Best and Brightest Outshine the Mediocre Bestsellers

July 18, 2001|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the good-news department, the Latin recording academy finally got it right. In the even-better-news department, it took only two years to do it.

The nominations in the second annual Latin Grammys manage what seemed pretty much impossible last year: They actually make you feel good about the awards and their mission to honor the best Latin music of the year.

Most important, the list of nominees reflects the current healthy state of Latin music. As much as the field is still flooded with mediocre bestsellers, the nominations demonstrate that there are plenty of gems to be found, even if you have to look a little harder for them.

Take the record of the year category. Sure, there's the expected fluff, courtesy of cooing Christina Aguilera and the plastic poetry of Alejandro Sanz. Those two, however, are joined by a still-vital legend from Brazil (Gilberto Gil), a superb rock-con-electronica combo from Colombia (Aterciopelados) and a stylish bohemian singer-songwriter, also from Colombia (Juanes.)

Not a perfect group of candidates, but a perfectly respectable one.

Juanes and Gil also bring much-needed credibility to the album of the year race, competing with well-made but superficial collections by Sanz and Mexico's Paulina Rubio, along with the more traditional Vicente Amigo from Spain.

Considering that rock en espanol is a burgeoning genre right now, it's no surprise that the three rock-related categories offer the most exhilarating picture of Latin music, with richly layered, highly rewarding collections by the likes of Julieta Venegas, Aterciopelados, Los Amigos Invisibles and Jarabe de Palo.

A similar situation takes place in the tropical categories. The academy was perceptive enough to nominate relatively low-profile albums such as Oscar D'Leon's nostalgia-tinged "Doble Play" and Issac Delgado's mature, experimental "La Formula," together with expected (and deserving) favorites such as Omara Portuondo's velvety solo album and Los Super Seven's outstanding "Canto."

Even the pop-related categories, which have been a constant source of embarrassment in the Latin and regular Grammys, are sprinkled with noteworthy records.

The absence of high-profile releases during the eligibility period by the big names in the field--Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Santana, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira et al--made it easier for edgier pop stars such as Italy's Laura Pausini and Uruguay's Natalia Oreiro to garner nominations.

This is particularly evident in the duo or group pop album race, where the tender melodies of Armando Manzanero coexist with the bittersweet pop of an Ana Torroja-Miguel Bose live recording and a smooth, sophisticated session of boleros seamlessly performed by Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes.

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