Critic’s Notebook: Puerto Rico Mattered at the Latin Grammys. So Did Salsa.

The remaining top award, best new artist, went to Vicente García from the Dominican Republic, a pop singer who has been fusing Dominican bachata with other styles.

When Residente accepted his award for best urban song, he had a different message for an audience full of music-business personnel. Artists “aren’t numbers, we aren’t digits, we aren’t data. We do what we feel,” he said. “People are putting out the number of followers, the number of views, the numbers of things. We should start to speak more about the music.”

Music was the clear priority for this awards show, which has wisely cut back on comedy, host banter and elaborate promotion of its Las Vegas location — though it still has more than enough dancing showgirls for its production numbers.

Instead, the Latin Grammys sought to bring out — or fabricate — connections between its younger, more internationalized, more computerized acts and the generations before them. Some performers have been looking back on their own — notably the Mexican songwriter Natalia Lafourcade, whose most recent album explores Latin American folk songs in acoustic arrangements. She was backed by the traditionalist group Los Macorinos and by Flor de Toloache, a rare all-female mariachi group that won this year’s Latin Grammy for best ranchero/mariachi album. Ms. Lafourcade descended from the stage to get the Latin pop stars in the front row on their feet and dancing.

Performances by the singers Maluma and Nicky Jam each started with them crooning backed by live musicians before the more familiar mechanized beat of their hits came in. (For Maluma, initially accompanied by a nightclub orchestra on an Art Deco set, the backdated tone was punctured by loud bleeps where his lyrics include expletives; he was singing “Felices los 4,” which simply shrugs off infidelity.)

Juanes was awkwardly grouped with the American rapper Logic and the singer Alessia Cara to recreate a bilingual remix of Logic’s anti-suicide song, “1-800-273-8255.” And four nominees for best new artist were corralled into a non sequitur medley, yet Sofia Reyes, from Mexico, and Danay Suárez, from Cuba, each seized her moment.


Mon Laferte performed “Amárrame,” which won best alternative song. Credit Chris Pizzello/Invision, via Associated Press

But the luckier performers were those who had the stage to themselves. Alejandro Fernández offered his own bi-generational medley: his pop hit “Quiero Que Vuelvas” and then “Mexico Lindo y Querido” from the repertory of his father, the ranchera titan Vicente Fernández. Mon Laferte, from Chile, belted her winning best alternative song, the cumbia-tinged “Amárrame,” in an electric-blue adaptation of a traditional ruffled dress that showed off her tattoos.

“Despacito,” a tidal wave of a Latin-pop crossover, was the show’s inevitable finale. It, too, was pushed into multiple molds. First, Mr. Fonsi emoted it as a ballad; then it took on its original beat while the Colombian electropop duo Bomba Estéreo joined him. Then it turned into salsa with guest vocals by the Puerto Rican singer Victor Manuelle. (Justin Bieber, who helped the song become a United States hit in a remix, was not present; the award was for the version of the song performed by Mr. Fonsi and the reggaeton rapper Daddy Yankee.) Improvising between verses, Mr. Manuelle reminded the audience: “The No. 1 song came from Puerto Rico!”

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