J Balvin performs at the 2020 Latin Grammy Awards in Miami, a show restricted over the coronavirus / © Courtesy of The Latin Recording Academy®/AFP
Mexican pop-rock folk singer Natalia Lafourcade took home Thursday's coveted Latin Grammy for Album of the Year, at a socially distanced gala where high hopes for reggaeton fell short.
Lafourcade won the night's top prize for "Un canto por Mexico," after reggaeton superstar J Balvin had led the pack with a record 13 nominations.
But in the end the Colombian took home just a single trophy, as fellow leaders of the massively popular style also lost out in the general field in what had been billed as the year the genre would get its due.
Spaniard Alejandro Sanz snagged the coveted Best Record for "Contigo," as Puerto Rican Residente -- a co-founder of the alt-rap group Calle 13 -- won Best Song, which honors songwriting, for "Rene."
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."
Residente accepts the Song of the Year award for "Rene" during the 21st Annual Latin Grammy Awards, held partially virtually due to the pandemic / © Courtesy of The Latin Recording Academy®/AFP
"What the world needs right now is color," said Balvin in accepting the award, noting in particular the Latin American countries hard hit by Hurricanes Eta and Iota.
The disappointment in the general categories for reggaeton -- a massively popular Puerto Rican-born amalgam of Caribbean beats and hip-hop influences -- follows years of snubs by the Latin American Recording Academy.
After much protest this year the institution gave the genre its own category, with Latin trap king Bad Bunny taking 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.
Latin Grammy co-hosts Ana Brenda Contreras and Yalitza Aparicio speak during the socially distanced gala anchored in Miami / © Courtesy of The Latin Recording Academy®/AFP
Most of the 53 awards were handed out prior to broadcast, with performers including the norteno act Los Tigres del Norte and Colombian crooner Carlos Vives taking home trophies.
Residente 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 2020 letdown follows 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.
"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 2019 show, as Bad Bunny, who won that year's Best Urban Music Album, decried "people who still have trouble accepting that reggaeton is a genre established for more than two decades."