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New Names Rule At Latin Grammys

Rising artists are saluted while several major stars are shortchanged in nominations. Cuban music takes a back seat.

August 24, 2005|Agustin Gurza | Times Staff Writer

Bebe, a Spanish singer-songwriter who's relatively unknown in the U.S., made a surprise showing Tuesday with five nominations in the sixth annual Latin Grammy Awards, making her the only performer to be recognized in all the major categories.

No other artist received more than three nominations in the awards, which were announced Tuesday at a star-filled news conference at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood that was attended by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Bebe garnered nominations for album of the year for her quietly forceful debut collection, "Pafuera Telaranas," or "Out With the Cobwebs," as well as song and record of the year for "Malo," an understated but devastating critique of abusive men. She also was nominated in the female pop vocal and best new artist categories.

Bebe's showing continues the Latin Grammy tradition of eschewing familiar candidates in favor of talented new discoveries. Bebe, the daughter of Spanish folk singers, now has a chance to follow in the footsteps of fellow singer-songwriter Juanes, who was unknown outside his native Colombia four years ago when he was catapulted to stardom with seven nominations in the awards.

Juanes continued his own Latin Grammy streak Tuesday with three nominations for his hit album "Mi Sangre." That collection was also cited among the eclectic work of Los Angeles-based producer Gustavo Santaolalla in his nomination for producer of the year. The Argentine-born Santaolalla also wrote the soundtrack to "The Motorcycle Diairies," an adventure film about the young Che Guevara. The film also yielded a song-of the-year nod for Jorge Drexler's Oscar-winning original song, "Al Otro Lado del Rio."

Other artists with three nominations each were pop-salsa singer Marc Anthony, Miami-based teenage rocker JD Natasha, New York-based singer-songwriter Obie Bermudez and Mexican pop-rock singer Aleks Syntek.

The disappointment for U.S. Latin music fans may be the relatively weak showing by reggaeton star Daddy Yankee, the biggest name in the hybrid Latin hip-hop genre that represents the hottest domestic trend in Latin music since Ricky Martin and the Latin explosion of 1999.

Yankee was nominated in only one major category, record of the year, for his catchy dance hit "Gasolina," a nomination shared by the crack reggaeton producing duo Luny Tunes. "Barrio Fino," Yankee's critically acclaimed album, received only a single nomination, in the urban music category.

The slight to reggaeton underscores the fact that the Latin Grammys, though U.S.-based, are not an American franchise. In the last five years, the Latin Recording Academy has conducted a concerted membership drive in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world. Today the organization's international makeup is reflected in the diverse array of nominated artists from many genres and many nations.

"I always find that democracy is very unpredictable," said Gabriel Abaroa, president of the Latin Recording Academy. "What is clear is that members vote very much not on trends but on whatever they feel is worthy, without any external influence."

This year, academy members are also more likely to get an awards show that reflects their musical values, not those of the U.S.

For the first time, the ceremony will not be televised by CBS. The network was frequently criticized for its attempt to promote primarily Spanish music to a mainstream English-speaking audience, a strategy that yielded duets with Anglo performers who were recruited for ratings rather than artistry.

The 2005 awards show is scheduled to air Nov. 3 from Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium on the Spanish-language Univision network. The move frees the producers from the need to seek hosts and presenters who speak English and who may be familiar to U.S. television viewers. It also allows the show to grow from two to three hours, making more time for performances.

When the awards debuted at Staples Center five years ago, the lineup of performers consciously included names well known to the non-Latino public, such as Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan and Tito Puente, all from the East Coast.

At the time, Mexican artists popular on the West Coast complained that they were not fairly represented in the show, even though they account for a majority of Latin record sales in the U.S.

This year for the first time, says Abaroa, a Mexican music act has won a nomination in a major category. Intocable, a group from Texas, is nominated for album of the year for "Diez" ("Ten"), which is also up for best norteno album.

Other Mexican music acts getting two nominations each are ranchero crooner Pepe Aguilar, Long Beach rabble-rouser Lupillo Rivera and Mexico's mariachi king Vicente Fernandez and his son Alejandro Fernandez.

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