Reggaeton stars aiming high at socially distanced Latin Grammys

Miami (AFP) –


Reggaeton superstar J Balvin led the Latin Grammys pack Thursday with a record 13 nominations, scoring an early prize for his song "Rojo" in a year the booming genre hoped to get its due.

But though Balvin along with Bad Bunny and Ozuna dominated the general field nominations, it was Spaniard Alejandro Sanz who snagged the coveted Best Record for "Contigo."

The other top awards Album of the Year and Song of the Year, which honors songwriting, remained up for grabs.

The 21st edition of the awards normally held in Las Vegas were instead anchored in Miami, with a slew of virtual performances, including from Anitta in Rio de Janeiro and Bad Bunny from San Juan.

Balvin, decked out in a white suit with a heart image bleeding from his chest, was the telecast's first winner, taking home Best Urban Album for "Colores."

"What the world needs right now is color," said a masked Balvin in accepting the award, noting in particular the Latin American countries hard hit by Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

After years of protest that reggaeton -- a massively popular Puerto Rican-born amalgam of Caribbean beats and hip-hop influences -- was getting snubbed by the Latin American Recording Academy, this year the institution gave the genre its own category.

Latin trap king Bad Bunny took home that prize for "Yo Perreo Sola."

- Reggaeton demands a seat -

Oscar-nominated Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio -- famous for her role in Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" -- hosted the event, flanked by singers Carlos Rivera and Ana Brenda.

Miami's own Pitbull paid tribute to frontline workers fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, with special guests including nurses and firefighters joining the act.

Most of the 53 awards were handed out prior to broadcast, with acts including the norteno act Los Tigres del Norte and Colombian crooner Carlos Vives taking home trophies.

Residente, formerly of the iconic band Calle 13, won the gramophone in another new category, Best Rap/Hip-Hop song, for "Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe" -- a track about love in the pandemic.

Ricky Martin won Best Pop vocal Album for "Pausa" as Ozuna and Spanish flamenco experimentalist Rosalia won two prizes in the "urban" category for "Yo x ti, tu x me."

Rosalia, who was 2019's big Latin Grammy winner, also won for Best Short Form Music Video for "TKN," a clip featuring rapper Travis Scott.

Reggaeton's big night comes after years of controversy that came to a head in the award show's previous edition, with superstars including Balvin, Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Maluma, Daddy Yankee, Karol G and Nicky Jam snubbed in the general categories including Song and Record of the Year along with the coveted Album of the Year.

"Without reggaeton, there's no Latin Grammys" read a slogan in Spanish that mushroomed across social media, along with an image of the Grammy logo crossed out with a large red "X."

Balvin went so far as to skip the show, as Bad Bunny, who won the 2019 Best Urban Music Album, decried "people who still have trouble accepting that reggaeton is a genre established for more than two decades."