Certain words bring certain images to mind. In music, when you think of “Grammy” you probably think of the February awards show at the Staples Center in L.A., where artists like Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran share the spotlight.
But what about the Latin Grammys? The show is in its 16th year and takes place in Las Vegas on November 19, 2015. The Latin Grammys recently hit my radar when I was asked to write technical reviews of the 10 nominees for Record of the Year for the show’s printed program book.
Where “Latin” music excels is the sheer variety. In Mexico alone there’s norteño, ranchero, corrido, mariachi, banda, zacatecano, duranguense, grupera, bolero, cumbia, pop, ska, rock and more. And that’s not even talking about what Brazil, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Central America bring to the list. This year’s nominees for Record of the Year are engineered and mastered by a varied group of pros, some you may recognize.
“Ese Camino” by Julieta Venegas was mixed by Héctor Castillo and mastered at Sterling Sound in New York. The artist grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, speaks English, Portuguese and Spanish, plays guitar and keys, and has won five Latin Grammys and one Grammy Award. “Ese Camino” is straight-ahead pop and has a hook that you can’t get out of your head.
“Un Zombie a la Intemperie” by Alejandro Sanz was mixed by Sebastian Krys and Rafa Sardina and mastered by Sterling Sound’s Tom Coyne. Sanz is from Spain and has won 15 Latin Grammy Awards and three Grammy Awards, including three times for Latin Album of the Year. The driving mid-tempo ballad is a great platform for Sanz’s voice, which has a deep fundamental tone and a misty top note that makes him instantly recognizable.
“Disparo al Corazón” by Ricky Martin (yup, that Ricky Martin) was engineered by Enrique Larreal, Lee Levin, Carlos Fernando López, Ricardo López Lalinde, Julio Reyes Copello, Guillermo Vadalá, and Dan Warner and mastered by Antonio Baglio. This sweet ballad has some great-sounding tracks that conveys all the slickness you’d expect from a crossover artist of Ricky’s caliber.
“Hasta la Raíz” by Natalia Lafourcade was mixed by Cesar Sogbe and mastered by José Blanco. Lafourcade comes from a talented family—her father is French-Chilean musician Gastón Lafourcade and her uncle is writer Enrique Lafourcade. Her voice has an incredible quality that centers the simple arrangement right off the bat and keeps you entranced from intro to fade.
“Tus Besos” by Juan Luis Guerra was mixed by Allan Leschhorn and Ronnie Torres and mastered by Adam Ayan. Guerra has won 15 Latin Grammy Awards, two Grammy Awards, two Latin Billboard Music Awards and has sold more than 30 million records. “Tus Besos” is styled after American 1950s doo-wop and features tightly harmonized and expertly arranged wall-to-wall vocals.
“Ella Es” by Leonel García was mixed by Curt Schneider and mastered by Gavin Lurssen. Born in Mexico City, García was part of the successful duo Sin Bandera until he broke off to be a solo artist. The sparse and beautifully arranged “Ella Es” is sweetly sung by Garcia and guest musician/actor Jorge Drexler, the first Uruguayan to ever win an Oscar.
“La Vida Entera” by the band Camila features Marco Antonio Solís, was mixed by Peter Mokran and mastered by Bernie Grundman. Camila has won three Latin Grammys, three Billboard Awards and has sold more than 2 million albums worldwide. This track features a world-class orchestral recording as the foundation for their dramatically charged vocals.
“Será” by Café Quijano was mixed by Luis Villa and mastered by Miguel Ángel González. The group consists of three singing brothers: Manuel, Óscar and Raúl Quijano. The arrangement and performance on this track is among the best in the group of 10 nominees. The three brothers’ vocals blend as only siblings can, adding just the right vocal performance over a perfect track.
“Encanto” by Miguel Bosé was mixed by Dan Frampton and mastered by Antonio Baglio. Musician/actor Bosé was born in Panama and was a teen idol in Europe in the ’70s with seven Top 10 disco hits. He was given the Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year in 2013. The slickly produced track is all constructed inside the box with no live players—a great bed for Bosé’s deep vocal styling.
“Fiesta” by Bomba Estereo was mixed by Manny Marroquin and mastered by Ft. Lauderdale’s Mike Fuller. The Colombian band features Simón Mejía, Liliana Saumet and Julián Salazar. This song is in-your-face, high-voltage music that gets my top vote. Saumet’s vocal is perfectly treated, pushing it right to the top of the driving song, which is expertly arranged and mixed. The hook is brilliant.
No matter who wins the statue in 2015, the Latin Grammy nominees will from now on be on my list of things to add to my playlist. Even if my Spanish skills are wanting and I’m not sure exactly what they’re saying, I don’t want to miss out on the great music, styles, and artists I have missed in the past by not broadening my focus.