By Lucas Villa
The most successful Latin artists on the charts this past year were celebrated at the Billboard Latin Music Awards on Thursday night (April 25) in Las Vegas. Reflecting the direction of Latin music at the moment, reggaeton music ruled the three-hour telecast, with Puerto Rican singer Ozuna as the king of the movement. In 2019, he made Billboard Latin Music Awards history as the most-nominated act in a single year with 23 nominations in 15 categories. Even though he didn’t completely sweep, his 11 wins still made him the most-awarded artist of the night and broke a record for the most wins for an artist ever.
Each time he took the podium to accept his awards, Ozuna dedicated his wins to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, places where his roots are. Stepping up to accept the evening’s biggest award, Artist of the Year, Ozuna thanked fans and another key group. “To all the dreamers, the new generation, and all my colleagues who are here fighting for their dream, don’t stop fighting,” he said in Spanish. “All is possible. Don’t pay any mind to those who say you can’t do it. You can do it because we’re all human beings. We are all equal.”
Puerto Rican pride was high as well with other big winners like Nicky Jam, who took home five awards, and Bad Bunny, who collected four awards. Part of Ozuna, Nicky Jam, and Bad Bunny’s respective awards hauls came from them all featuring on fellow Puerto Rican rappers Nio García, Darell, and Casper Mágico’s breakup reggaeton anthem “Te Boté” (“I Dumped You”), which scooped up three awards, including Hot Latin Song of the Year. Nicky Jam’s two wins for the hypnotic and inescapable “X” also meant two wins for his collaborator on the track, Colombian superstar J Balvin.
As one of today’s in-demand artists, Ozuna was able to garner that historic amount of nominations through his many collaborations. Collabs in general accounted for a lion’s share of the awards as well as the night’s biggest performances. Here’s a rundown of best ones.
Rosalía on the rise
Spanish singer-songwriter (and one of the year’s Coachella breakout acts), Rosalía performed her new single “Con Altura” (“With Height”) for the first time alongside J Balvin and El Guincho, the producer behind her El Mal Querer album. While the music video saw them on an plane high in the sky, Rosalía came down to earth to dance atop a helipad with her collaborators. Balvin kept the party going when he performed “Contra La Pared” (“Against the Wall”) with Jamaican legend Sean Paul right after.
CNCO open for business
Following a sweep in their three nominated categories, the guys of Latin pop group CNCO performed their latest single “Pretend,” a Spanglish take on DeBarge’s ’80s hit “Rhythm of the Night.” The hotel from the music video was recreated onstage with a neon CNCO sign flashing behind them. The quintet was in full pop-star mode with head microphones and sexy, synchronized dance moves. Like a nod to NSYNC’s dirty “Pop” days, CNCO ended with a beatbox breakdown.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Bad Bunny!
Bad Bunny actually spent the first part of the show as one of the show’s most eccentric co-hosts alongside Venezuelan telenovela actress Gaby Espino. (She got him to sing a little of “Estamos Bien.”) For his big performance, he rode a jet ski through the air while singing his Diplo collaboration “200 MPH.” Bad Bunny also rocked the house with his punk-influenced X 100pre standout “Tenemos Que Hablar” (“We Need to Talk”) that he performed in a glow-in-the-dark graffiti setup.
Anitta and Becky G go “Banana”s
Brazilian superstar Anitta performed one of the most talked-about songs from her new album Kisses, “Banana.” On the bilingual bedroom banger, she and Mexican-American singer Becky G sing in Spanish and English about having a sweet tooth for some loving. “Dame, come gimme some,” they demand. The candy-coated feeling of their collaboration made the stage colorful as the ladies straddled a giant yellow banana together. As the night’s girl-power moment, Anitta and Becky served just-desserts realness.
Luis Fonsi, Nicky Jam, and Sebastián Yatra say “Yatra, Yatra”
Like his signature catchphrase of repeating his last name twice, Colombian heartthrob Sebastián Yatra hit the stage two times. The first time, he joined Mexican trio Reik for a heartfelt performance of their ballad “Un Año” (“A Year”); the more upbeat second time found “Despacito” hitmaker Luis Fonsi bringing the post-apocalyptic vibe of the “Date La Vuelta” (“Turn Around”) video alive alongside Yatra and Nicky Jam.
Karol G and Anuel AA’s steamy “Secreto”
Rising Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA won New Artist of the Year over his fiancée, Colombian artist Karol G. There were no hard feelings for reggaeton music’s power couple, though, when they performed their diamond-certified collaborations “Culpables” (“Guilty Ones”) and “Secreto” (“Secret”) back to back. In fact, the two got cozy: Karol grinded on Anuel before a surprising finale, when they turned on a steamy shower and made out under the water.
Aventura rides again
Another big winner of the night was the self-proclaimed “King of Bachata” Romeo Santos, who won took home two awards, including Tropical Artist of the Year. He opened the show with a reformed Wisin & Yandel and their collaboration “Aullando” (“Howling”). Santos later returned with his bandmates from Aventura, the group that put him on the map, and their new sensuous single “Inmortal” (“Immortal”). Even though Aventura had been inactive since 2009, the fan activity around their back catalog led them to a win for Tropical Duo/Group of the Year.
Ozuna works overtime
Ozuna appeared in the first half of the show to perform his single “Te Robaré” (“I’ll Steal You”) with Nicky Jam on a stage that was literally lit with lasers. Near the end, Ozuna reappeared to sing “Taki Taki” and dance alongside DJ Snake. Afterward, he debuted a new remix of his song “Baila Baila Baila” (“Dance, Dance, Dance”) that doubled as a show of reggaeton music’s past, present, and future. Genre OG Daddy Yankee came out followed by Ozuna’s contemporary J Balvin and up-and-comer Anuel AA. With reggaeton coming out on top, Ozuna’s blowout was a fitting finale for the Billboard Latin Music Awards.