Click the audio link to hear Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd discuss the Latin Grammy Awards with Tell Me More's Michel Martin.
The 13th Annual Latin Grammy Awards were held in Las Vegas last night, and like the Grammys, the music and the prizes reflected a mixed bag of art and commerce.
The big winner of the night was the sibling duo Jesse & Joy, whose four awards included song of the year and record of the year for the song "¡Corre!" The duo's big selling album, ¿Con Quien Se Queda El Perro? chronicles the internal turmoil of a romantic break up.
Juanes picked up two statues, for best long-form video and album of the year, for MTV Unplugged. The two awards bring the lifetime total for the Colombian superstar to 19, which ties him with Puerto Rican rap duo Calle 13, which swept last year's awards. The work of both Calle 13 and Juanes reflects commitments to social change coupled with music that can move people onto a dance floor.
Latin Alternative artist Carla Morrison, who is not signed with a major record company, claimed the alternative song award for "Dejenme Llorar" and the alternative album award for the album of the same name. But her nominations in the broader categories of song of the year and album of the year reflected a growing influence of independent artists and labels in the Latin music industry, a trend that is also noticeable with English-language counterparts.
The Latin Grammys seem to have found a permanent home in Las Vegas, far from the music industry hubs of Los Angeles and New York, which adds a certain amount of Vegas showgirl glitz to the telecast — sometimes at the expense of tastefulness. Scantily clad, gyrating dancers often appeared out of place, especially during the performance of a traditional Mexican ranchera sung by Pedro Fernandez.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Finally today, we are going to end with some music, as we often do. The biggest stars in Latin music gathered in Las Vegas last night to celebrate the 13th Annual Latin Grammys. Some musicians tasted sweet victory, others not so much.
Here for a post-Grammy session are Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd. They are the co-hosts of NPR's ALT.LATINO podcast; that's a program about Latin alternative music. Welcome back. Thanks for coming, both of you.
JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi.
FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Thanks for having us.
MARTIN: So before we talk about who won and who lost, I have to ask each of you about a recent ALT.LATINO episode where both of you were kind of down on Latin Grammys.
MARTIN: Jasmine, what's up with that?
MARTIN: What's your problem?
GARSD: I'm trying to be nice. No, let me just put it this way. Once a week for about an hour, we talk about spectacular, new, exciting Latin music that really pushes the envelope, not just musically but with lyrical content, with message. And we even have to leave so much on the cutting board because we can't fit everything in, and then you watch this award show and it's the same people over and over and over again making the same music, that as soon as you finish listening to you forgot about.
GARSD: And it's just, it's...
MARTIN: So this is you being nice?
GARSD: Yeah. This is me being nice.
MARTIN: OK. I got it. OK. I see. All right.
MARTIN: I understand. So, OK, Felix.
CONTRERAS: No. The same thing.
MARTIN: Same thing?
CONTRERAS: Same thing. Absolutely.
MARTIN: So did anything exceed your ho-hum expectations?
CONTRERAS: Well, you know, it is in Vegas. And I think they - and it has been in Vegas for a long time. And I think - this it's the 13th annual and I think they've absorbed some of that Vegas attitude because everything has a dancing girl segment...
GARSD: You think? The Blue Man Group was on stage with Pitt Bull.
CONTRERAS: It was hardly ho-hum from my eyes. It was kind of schlocky in a lot of ways, you know, in the way that Vegas can be. You know, and I think a lot of it - that element kind of brings the emphasis away from the music and more towards the presentation. And I think with the variety and of styles and genres - Mexican music, Afro Caribbean music, music from South America, there's a rich amount of music, there's a rich variety of music that you can spotlight, but you're distracted by all the glitter.
MARTIN: All the glitter. All the glitter.
CONTRERAS: All the girls.
MARTIN: All the girls. Yes. So distract - OK.
MARTIN: We'll just stick with glitter. We'll just stick with glitter. All right, so let's get to the music. Felix, the brother and sister duo Jesse and Joy took home the award for song of the year for "Corre." Here's a clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CORRE")
JESSE AND JOY: (Singing in Spanish)
MARTIN: You know, I always ask you to translate and tell us a little bit about the songs for people for people who don't speak Spanish. So what's the song about and did you feel that they deserved to win?
CONTRERAS: I still, I'm listening to the lyrics, you know, because it's just - to me it's part of a bigger picture of the music being so bland. And they won four awards and they seem like really nice people and they won the best new artist of the year in 2007. But what Jasmine was talking about it, like it's, it could be anything.
CONTRERAS: And it could, you switch those lyrics to French or English and there's nothing distinct about it that sticks in my mind. So you know, the lyrics, I think they were talking about love.
GARSD: It's a whole breakup concept.
MARTIN: Oh, there you go. OK.
CONTRERAS: Yeah. There you go.
GARSD: The album is called "Con Quien Se Queda El Perro," "Who Gets to Keep the Dog?"
CONTRERAS: And it's just...
MARTIN: That's, that's kind of fresh, "Who Gets to Keep the Dog?" You're right. OK. I see your point.
CONTRERAS: You know what I'm saying?
MARTIN: I see what you're saying. I think you don't really need to know what the lyrics are because you kind of get it, it's like 14-year-olds being sad, kind of. Like I got it.
MARTIN: All right. So as Felix said, and Jasmine, Jesse and Joy took home best new artist in 2007. But this time the electronic group known as Tribal Monterrey took home that prize. Here's a track called "Intentalo."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INTENTALO")
3BALLMTY: (Singing in Spanish)
MARTIN: OK, I'm bracing myself. Jasmine, what's your response to this track and to this awardee?
GARSD: I actually like Tribal Monterrey. I mean I do want to clarify that Felix and I come from really different backgrounds into music. Felix is a musician and I started getting into music as a dancer. So I do really appreciate good pop and really danceable music. And some, my issues with some of the music that got awarded last night, that it's not even good danceable pop. This I do think is really good pop. And it's an interesting story too. Tribal Monterrey is the type of music that is incredibly new, called tribal huarechero, which combines pre-Columbian Mexican music, folk Mexican music and these electronic beats, and it's really catching on like wildfire.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INTENTALO")
TRIBAL MONTERREY: (Singing in Spanish)
GARSD: All of a sudden, this very young group has been, I'm hearing them everywhere.
CONTRERAS: You know, and what's interesting about them is that this was an organic movement that started in the bars and clubs in northern Mexico. And it's certainly, it's an outlet for a lot of the social and political things that are going on in northern Mexico, as well as the violence. And so it was this great organic expression. But then it got absorbed a major record label, Universal Latin, and I think that what happens is, I'm wondering is like how long will it stay? Will it, you know, will it become commercialized and will it lose its message or its intent - which was to provide an outlet away from what was going on there? So I'm watching in the long run in this one.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin and I'm visiting with NPR's ALT.LATINO podcast hosts, Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras. They're talking about last night's Grammy Awards.
So Felix, what were some of the other big winners?
CONTRERAS: You know, another band that we feature on the show is a band called Molotov, and they're kind of a rock, rap band - sort of along the lines of Rage against the Machine - that kind of thing. They're very political. They're very socially conscious. And they won the best rock album last night. So we were happy - I was happy to see that. Because they're...
GARSD: I was so happy.
CONTRERAS: Yeah. They're very nice guys and they're - I believe in their message, I like what they're doing. Also, Lila Downs is a performer that we've featured on our show and a lot of people are big fans of hers. She won for best traditional album. And she also had an amazing performance, where the over the top sensibilities of Vegas was shown to this fusion of Mexican Day of the Dead imagery and folk traditions. It was, that was fun to watch. It was way over the top. There was a lot of great costumes. She was performing with a Colombian folk icon named Toto La Momposina, and then also a Mexican accordionist name Celso Pina. So that I really enjoyed.
MARTIN: And Jasmine, you've been a big fan of Carla Morrison this year. Can you tell us a little bit about her and how she did at the awards?
GARSD: Wow. If nothing else, treading through all those hours of Latin Grammy, just to see Carla Morrison win was absolutely worth it. Carla Morrison is an independent artist who does a lot of, she does a lot of ballads. She composes and she sings and she plays guitar. She's fantastic. I am a huge fan of hers and it was just so exciting to see her win best Latin alternative album. She was nominated for best album overall. One of the reasons I love her so much, beyond the fact that she's a fantastic lyricists and a truly gifted singer, is that she's an independent artist, which in Spanish-language music is actually a lot more difficult to achieve success with than in English-language music.
MARTIN: I think we have a clip and we can play that so that people can get a sense of what you're talking about. Here it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CARLA MORRISON: (Singing in Spanish)
MARTIN: I hear what you're saying. Musically complex, textured, adult.
CONTRERAS: Yeah. No.
MARTIN: I hear it. I hear you. All right, well, before we let you go - and thank you for this update, you both seemed to have survived the experience - is there anything, Felix, that's making you excited about next year's Latin Grammys?
CONTRERAS: Hard to say. You know, I always hold out that there will be more artists like the Puerto Rican rap duo Calle 13, who mixes politics, you know, and great music. They're good for your mind and your body. You know, and so I always hold out that somewhere around the lines somebody is going to come along and just re-create that again. We'll see.
MARTIN: Jasmine, anything?
GARSD: I heard Pitt Bull is going to make himself disappear on stage.
MARTIN: Oh my goodness. OK. Well...
MARTIN: That was Jasmine Garsd being nice, and Felix Contreras enabling her. They are the co-hosts of NPR's music's ALT.LATINO podcast, and they were kind enough to join us in our Washington, D.C. studio.
Once again, thank you both.
CONTRERAS: Thank you.
GARSD: Thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: We're going to go out with some music by superstar Juanes. He won the Latin Grammy for album of the year for his "MTV Unplugged" session. Here's the song "La Senal."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA SENAL")
JUANES: (Singing in Spanish)
MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm away next week, so my colleague Celeste Headlee will be sitting in. Before I go, I would just like to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Please tune in for more talk on Monday.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA SENAL")
JUANES: (Singing in Spanish) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.