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Sanz Is a Big Winner at the Latin Grammys

The singer sweeps four key categories during the irreverent show. Not all of the program's edgy comments make it to air.

September 02, 2004|Agustin Gurza and Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writers

Spanish singer-songwriter Alejandro Sanz dominated the fifth Latin Grammy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on Wednesday in a musically diverse telecast sprinkled with edgy political commentary and several instances of language excised by CBS censors.

Sanz, who had previously won seven Latin Grammys, swept all four categories in which he was nominated, including the top three: album of the year for his critically acclaimed "No Es Lo Mismo," and record and song of the year for the title track. The evening's other winners included Brazilian newcomer Maria Rita and the late salsa queen Celia Cruz.

Some participants in the two-hour show flouted the extreme caution that's been exercised on "live" national TV since Janet Jackson's breast-baring incident in January on CBS' Super Bowl telecast.

Comedian and host George Lopez, who was widely credited with helping to boost the ratings of last year's Latin Grammy show, came onstage riding a white horse and dressed in a traditional Mexican charro suit and sombrero.

He started with a crude remark in Spanish directed at President Bush that, politely translated, essentially told the president to "Cut it out, jerk." The comment was deleted from the telecast, which used the now-customary delay of several seconds to allow questionable content to be cut. Lopez then quipped, "For those of you who don't speak Spanish, I said, 'Good luck in your future endeavors.' "

He also took a playful swipe at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his opposition to a measure that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to drive legally in California. After dismounting, he joked, "That's the way we gotta get around in Los Angeles now since Gov. Schwarzenegger took away our driver's licenses."

One member of the rap group the Black Eyed Peas also made a strident pitch urging viewers to "vote for a change."

But it was mostly a night of music.

Rita, who collected two awards, including best new artist, for her "Maria Rita" album, said backstage that she hoped the recognition would help other Brazilian performers.

"The Grammys as a ceremony and as an institution is very respected all over the world," she said. "I think this is great for Brazilian music and musicians in general."

The diversity of the music showcased during the telecast was captured in another moment backstage when Mexican pop singer Paulina Rubio, in a sequined, champagne-colored gown, demurely addressed the media while rock bands Cafe Tacuba and Incubus were onstage performing a growling, bilingual jam that was bleeped three times for television viewers.

Rubio, who aspires to win an English crossover following and performed a rap-style number with dogs let loose on the stage, lost in the female pop vocal category to Rosario, a respected but much lesser-known singer from Spain. It was one of many upsets during the evening.

The duo of Cuban pianist Bebo Valdez and Spanish Gypsy singer Diego El Cigala, considered favorites in the album of the year category, wound up with only one Grammy in a minor category, tropical album, for their "Lagrimas Negras" collaboration. Javier Limon, the album's producer, was named producer of the year.

Sanz, who was on tour and did not attend the ceremony, also won for male pop vocal album, the only category in which he competed with such pop stars as Ricky Martin, Luis Miguel and fellow Spaniard David Bisbal, last year's winner for best new artist. Sanz's album, a richly textured work that explores personal and social themes with flamenco touches, generated a Latin Grammy for engineering to the album's three engineers.

The show opened with Bisbal, winner of Spain's version of "American Idol," teaming with Top 40 princess Jessica Simpson for a bilingual duet.

Along with dozens of Latin musicians and presenters, the show looked to further broaden its audience with appearances by non-Latin actors Lindsay Lohan, Jason Ritter and Amber Tamblyn, R&B singer Tyrese and "Access Hollywood" co-host Shaun Robinson. The move was viewed by some as adventurous genre building, by others as safe network TV programming.

Julieta Venegas, former member of Mexican punk en espanol band Tijuana No, took the solo rock album category, a win that was considered a boost for Latin music's alternative camp.

Mexico's father-son act, Vicente and Alejandro Fernandez, won for ranchero album with "En Vivo Junto por Ultima Vez," while the San Jose-based Los Tigres del Norte took the norteno category for its "Pacto de Sangre" album, which includes a controversial song expressing outrage over killings of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Cruz, who died last year at 77, was a sentimental favorite with Latin Grammy voters and won the salsa album category with the final album of her half-century career, "Regalo del Alma." Her hit "Rie y Llora," written by producer Sergio George and Fernando Osorio, also won for best tropical song.

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