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LATIN GRAMMY AWARDS

Playing to a Familiar Audience

Rocker Juanes is big winner in an all-Spanish-language broadcast.

November 04, 2005|Agustin Gurza, Matea Gold and Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writers

In shifting to an all-Spanish-language ceremony for the first time, the Latin Grammy Awards took a decidedly conservative turn in its sixth year, saluting tried-and-true artists during Thursday's three-hour telecast at the expense of boundary-pushing musical upstarts.

Colombian rocker Juanes was the big winner of the night, nabbing three awards for rock song, music video and rock solo vocal album, bringing his lifetime Grammy total to a dozen. Spanish singer-songwriter Alejandro Sanz's "Tu no Tienes Alma" won song and record of the year awards, while Brazilian Ivan Lins took the best album trophy for "Cantando Historias."

Meanwhile, Spanish alternative singer-songwriter Bebe -- who led the nominations going into the ceremony with five -- took home one Grammy, for new artist.

Having been bumped from CBS after ratings dwindled, the Latin Grammys -- which instead aired nationally on Univision, the country's top Spanish-language network -- shed the sometimes awkward pairings in years past of Latin stars with non-Latin celebrities.

Instead, the entire three-hour broadcast was devoted to showcasing the wide range of Latin music -- from salsa and banda to reggaeton and norteno.

"The Latin Grammys have come home," said Mexican actor Eduardo Santamarina, who joined Mexican TV personality Rebecca de Alba as co-host of the program at the Shrine Auditorium.

Still, the Univision telecast was noticeably more formal and conservative than its CBS predecessor and other U.S. entertainment awards shows. The banter between presenters was restrained and appeared tightly scripted, and most winners offered pat acceptance speeches thanking their families.

One exception was Bebe. After being named best new artist, the 27-year-old singer apologized for chewing gum and then let loose with a salty expletive -- drawing laughter from the audience -- before a final, rapid-fire sprint of Spanish that left even many native speakers hard pressed to understand. Viewers didn't have a chance to, as the network bleeped much what she said.

Bebe, the daughter of Spanish folk singers, has sold more than 300,000 copies of her debut album in Spain, with its mix of styles, from flamenco to electronica, and personal reflections mixed with social messages.

She was the only artist nominated in the top four categories -- record, album, song and new artist -- but despite her lead going into the night, voters ultimately backed more traditional artists. Italian vocalist Laura Pausini beat Bebe out for female pop vocal album with her album "Escucha," an upset that surprised even the winner.

"I haven't prepared anything," Pausini told the audience, "because I thought Bebe was going to win."

Another big upset came in the much-watched rock categories, where L.A. group Ozomatli trumped acclaimed international stars from Mexico (Ely Guerra) and Venezuela (Los Amigos Invisibles), among others, in taking the prize for alternative-music album.

Lins gave one of the few politically tinged acceptance speeches, offering a condemnation of war in Portuguese-accented Spanish and adding, "I hope that music can contribute to the unity of people and nations."

In winning for song of the year, Sanz beat both Bebe and Uruguayan Jorge Drexler, who was considered a strong challenger with his Oscar-winning song "Al Otro Lado del Rio," from the movie "The Motorcycle Diaries."

In another upset, Obie Bermudez, the 28-year-old Puerto Rican from New Jersey, beat heavyweights Marc Anthony, Alejandro Fernandez and Marco Antonio Solis in the male pop vocal album category.

The evening marked a comeback of sorts for Dominican merengue star Juan Luis Guerra, who had dropped from sight in recent years while pursuing a spiritual path.

The acclaimed singer-songwriter, who performed a medley of his hits during the show, won two awards: for tropical song ("Las Avispas"), and Spanish-language Christian album ("Para Ti"). In his acceptance speech, Guerra thanked God "for the privilege of allowing me to sing for him."

Among of the night's 14 musical performances was a reggaeton segment featuring Los 12 Discipulos, a conglomeration including reggaeton stars Vico C and Tego Calderon, who traded vocals as they borrowed an old salsa theme, "Quitate Tu" (Step Aside), a Fania All-Stars anthem often used in the 1970s to highlighted great salsa singers of that period.

Noticeably absent from the show was reggaeton's biggest star, Daddy Yankee, who won the urban album award for his acclaimed "Barrio Fino" album.

One of the strongest ovations of the night went to two Cuban veterans -- bassist Cachao, who won the traditional tropical album category, and pianist Bebo Valdes, the Latin jazz album winner -- as they led an all-star salsa band that included Arturo Sandoval, Orestes Vilato, Danilo Lozano, Generoso Jimenez and Johnny Pacheco in a performance of "¬°Ahora Si!"

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