Moons over my Grammy 

Lady Binx is not the first artist to raise the issue. But, speaking in general terms, to accuse the Latin Grammy of being a “discriminatory” award (you know, if Latino artists are good enough, we should sweep the “Grammy Grammys” instead of having a separate ceremony) is so passé.

Ever since the Latin Grammys debuted in 2000, the fact that Emilio Estefan was the main motor was enough to piss off a loud minority for a while. Some dismissed the event as “The Emilio Estefan Awards,” while others — especially heavyweights Pepe Aguilar and Los Tigres del Norte — justly complained that Mexican regional music (70 percent of the market) was represented in less than 10 percent of the event’s TV time.

Gradually, however, everyone cooled off.

“Things changed for the better,” Latin Grammy and three-time Grammy winner Aguilar told Rumbo last year in San Antonio. “There’s still a lot to do, but I think they’re getting there.”

Tigres del Norte won and appeared in the awards show, and Vicente Fernández seemingly contracted amnesia as soon as LARAS (the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) honored him as Person of the Year in 2002 with a star-filled tribute dinner and a live appearance on the telecast.

Fact # 1: The “Grammy Grammy” already gives “Grammy Grammys” to Latin artists in eight categories, but to expect that La Raza will or should take over the Grammy is just plain bullshit. It ain’t gonna happen and it shouldn’t happen. Period. We might get a Shakira or a Ricky Martin here and there, but that’s it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy seeing people like Aterciopelados from time to time on Saturday Night Live or Juanes on The Tonight Show. But those categories are useful and Latinos are being heard, as when Eddie Palmieri said “Fuck this shit!” and the “new” Latin jazz category was created.

Fact # 2: The amount of deserving artistry (and, yes, garbage too) in Latin music is jaw-dropping, and a separate awards show was needed. And thanks to the Latin Grammy, the careers of out-of-the-loop serious artists such as Mercedes Sosa, Jorge Drexler, Juanes, Bebe, Aterciopelados, Julieta Venegas, Fito Páez and many others have been recognized and the quality of mainstream pop has vastly improved.

And historically, those best served by the mere existence of the Latin Grammy have been the alternativos and rockeros, who find in the Latin Grammy the outlet still denied them by mainstream TV and radio. This year, a band like El Cuarteto de Nos, from Uruguay (South America’s smallest market) earned a deserved nomination for “Song of the Year” (“Yendo a la casa de Damián”). Before the Latin Grammy era, Cuarteto de Nos was a talented group doomed to obscurity, except locally.

The alternatives are not the only artists who enjoy the special attention, as was demonstrated by the recent announcement of the nominees for the 8th annual Latin Grammys (November 8 in Las Vegas).

Critically acclaimed merenguero Juan Luis Guerra returned to secular dance fusion after a surprisingly tolerable Christian album and scored five nominations, leading the pack. Ricky Martin (!) followed with four, as did reggaetón sensation Calle 13.

That trio of top nominees says a lot about the state of the Latin music industry (and I don’t mean what’s featured on the radio or Univision): Guerra is a Berklee graduate who feels the Beatles as much as tropical music and who is a motherfucking monster of a songwriter. And Ricky is not what you think: His MTV Unplugged was a carefully planned work of art because, instead of looking for, say, Emilio Estefan, he called Spain’s alternative flamenco pop Chambao to record a jewel called “Tu recuerdo,” which deserves to be Song of the Year. And Calle 13 is the hottest and smartest reggaetón act, a duo that gets closer and closer to Café Tacuba and further away from Daddy Yankee (thank God). Of course, Guerra will win, but who cares?

My point is this: It’s bad enough that many of the best Latin albums of the year (in any genre) are not released in the U.S. The internet improved the situation a little bit, but I want to be able to go to the store and get the damn CD, I want to touch it. And a Latin Grammy nomination is a powerful tool that enables the music to be more easily available everywhere.

After all, it’s all about the music, isn’t it?

PS: Don’t get me wrong: I don’t know Lady Binx but I’m dying to hear her upcoming album. And if she raps as well as she speaks and thinks, I think I’m gonna like her. Not that she cares, but … who knows? One day she could be nominated for a Grammy Grammy.

If not, we’ll always have the other one.

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