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UP FRONT: LATIN GRAMMYS

It's the year of the comeback

Latin Grammys show a return to form for Juan Luis Guerra, Ricky Martin and Miguel Bosé, who top the list.

August 30, 2007|Agustin Gurza | Times Staff Writer

Marking a year of career revivals, three veteran performers -- the Dominican Republic's Juan Luis Guerra, Puerto Rico's Ricky Martin and Spain's Miguel Bosé -- dominated the top categories in nominations for the eighth Latin Grammy Awards announced today in Miami Beach.

Guerra, a singer-songwriter who pioneered a sound in the 1980s that might be called the thinking-man's merengue, was the only artist to show up in the three top categories -- record, album and song of the year -- for "La Llave de Mi Corazón" (The Key to My Heart), the title of his latest album and single. He emerged with the most nominations, five, including merengue album and tropical song.

The victory for Guerra is especially meaningful since he had been largely written off by the industry after a religious conversion several years ago that prompted him to emphasize Christian messages in his music. Although the new album is considered a return to form with primarily secular, romantic songs, Guerra doesn't downplay his faith.

"I continue to commit my life to Jesus, and I made this album as a testimony of his grace," Guerra said in a phone interview Wednesday from Miami, where he was among the presenters at a news conference announcing the nominations. "Even when I write romantic songs, I still do it with faith in God. So the first thanks go to him."

Martin and Bosé, who are experiencing comebacks of their own in the Latin music market, each received nominations for record and album of the year.

The moment is also particularly rewarding for Martin, who plunged from the pinnacle of global superstardom after leading the crossover surge of the late 1990s with English-language hits such as "Livin' la Vida Loca." After releasing a couple of Spanish pop albums that faltered, Martin reconnected with his fan base this year with "MTV Unplugged," an album consisting mostly of his Spanish-language hits that is nominated for album of the year.

In a departure from nostalgia, Martin's album featured a stand-out new number, "Tu Recuerdo" (Your Memory), a tender torch song that became a hit and earned a nod for record of the year.

Martin was joined on the tune by Mari, a relatively unknown Spanish singer from the flamenco/chill group Chambao, and by the album's Puerto Rican producer, guitarist Tommy Torres, who share the nomination.

"I'm like floating," Martin said Wednesday. "I'm especially excited about this album, which was all about going back to the beginning to find the purity and the simplicity I felt when I started, when it was about listening and learning and being open to my emotions and laying it out there. This was very healthy and very healing for me."

Martin earned four nominations, with nods for male pop vocal and long-form music video.

Calle 13, the subversive Puerto Rican duo named last year's best new artist, is the only other act with four nominations, including album of the year for the provocative, sometimes shockingly profane "Residente o Visitante."

Spanish singer and actor Bosé, the son of a famed bullfighter, started his pop music career in the 1970s and Wednesday garnered three nominations, including album of the year for "Papito," his most commercial work in years.

Following a series of albums that took esoteric, sometimes artsy directions, Bosé returned to the top of the charts with the help of Mexican pop singer Paulina Rubio, who performs on "Nena," a duet nominated for record of the year.

Notable this year was the total shut-out of reggaeton from the top categories, despite a major release by the genre's biggest star, Daddy Yankee. The omission reflects the recent commercial decline of the once-hot dance/hip-hop genre that roared out of Puerto Rico three years ago with Yankee's breakthrough album, "Barrio Fino."

The rapper's follow-up studio CD, "El Cartel -- The Big Boss," yielded just two nominations in minor categories, one for urban music album and another for Yankee (born Ramon Ayala) as co-writer of "Impacto Remix," featuring Fergie, in the urban song category.

Spanish artist Alejandro Sanz, a recurrent winner of multiple awards, also made a weak showing in this year's competition. The singer-songwriter's only nomination came in the album-of-the-year category for "El Tren de Los Momentos."

Colombian superstar Shakira, who won last year's record of the year for her duet with Sanz titled "La Tortura," was nominated again Wednesday in the same category for a collaboration, this time with Beyoncé for "Bello Embustero," the Spanish version of "Beautiful Liar" from the R&B singer's "B'Day" release. It was the only nomination for Shakira, who did not release a new album during the eligibility period of July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007.

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