What the Year Has Left Us
Here's what sizzled & what fizzled in Latin music in 2012
By Juan Carlos Pérez-Duthie
How best to describe the year that is about to end in music?
Charles Dickens had it right when he wrote over a century ago in the opening of his novel A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
With that in mind, and with 2012 coming to a close, I thought it would be a healthy mental exercise to go over what rocked and what sucked in this country’s Latin music industry.
Here, in no particular order, some of those hits and misses:
- Best sign that, even under the populist regime of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, good music can still come out of that country: singer, songwriter, musician and philosophy (!) teacher Ulises Hadjis.
- Most intoxicating voice that needs to be heard more here: that of Spanish chanteuse Amaia Montero, formerly with La Oreja de Van Gogh, and who this year had her sophomore solo album, 2, released in the Americas.
- Most annoying voice that mercifully now rarely gets heard here: that of Mexican-with-a-Spanish accent Paulina Rubio, formerly with Timbiriche.
- The “WTF Happened?” Award: Chilean Beto Cuevas’ ultra-cool, second solo album, Transformación, which unfortunately didn’t transform much at all.
- Unnecessary, but fun remake: Puerto Rican Luis Fonsi’s single Claridad, popularized eons ago by boy band Menudo.
- The “Can Someone Explain to Me This Video I Just Saw?!” Award: Mexican phoenix Gloria Trevi for her video of the song La Noche.
- Song by Gloria Estefan that should have received more airplay: Hotel Nacional.
- Song by Gloria Estefan that should be buried forever: Wepa.
- Best music by a non-Hispanic artist with a Latino-sounding name: Lana del Rey.
- Cool song that nobody heard from a weird movie that no one saw: Casa de mi padre, by half-Ecuadorean Christina Aguilera.
- The “Really? She’s back? Oh Lord” Award: to Mexican diva Thalía.
- Songs that easily lodged in your brain (some people loved them, others hated them): Spanish DJ, singer, and producer Juan Magán’s Bailando por ahí and Bailando por el mundo; Tacatá, by Italian group Tacabro and featuring the voice of Cuban performer Martínez Rodríguez.
- Brazilian track that made many go bananas: Ai Se Eu Te Pego! by Michel Teló.
- The most improbable comeback: Puerto Rican Elvis Crespo, in Ilegales’ Yo no soy un monstruo and with Fito Blanko in Pegaíto Suavecito.
- The sink-or-swim comeback: Juanes.
- The “Duh! What Took You So Long To Record This?” Award: Gloria Trevi for Gloria.
- The not-so-hot video and song that I guess were supposed to be: Caliente, by Romanian pop artist Inna.
- Worst trend: The unjustified violence against fans of reggaetón music, particularly in Mexico and in Argentina. Doesn’t matter how bad the music may be.
- Best trend: More nominations and recognition for Best New Artists in awards shows.
- Good to have them among us: Groups Domino Saints and Bocatabú, singer Rakel.
- Most disappointing hit and worst song title: Lovumba, by Daddy Yankee.
- Most ubiquitous personalities: Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, J.Lo.
- Best reason to call in Family Services: The dreadfulness of the rap music by kids like Miguelito.
- The “So Bad It’s Good” Award: to Peruvian Juana Judith Bustos Ahuite, better known as La Tigresa del Oriente, for New Brighter Day, her English-language cover of her 2011 song Nuevo Amanecer. Really, you have to Google it. But you’ve been warned.
- Time to retire anything sung by: American of Mexican ancestry Selena Gómez; telenovela stars; American of Hispanic and mixed heritage Demi Lovato.
- Best voice still going strong after a career spanning decades: Mexican American Vikki Carr.
- Saddest news: the untimely death of Mexican American Jenni Rivera.
- Fusion album I liked the most: Primero Amarillo Después Malva, by Lara Bello.
- Fusion album I disliked the most: Bela y Sus Moskitas Muertas, by Beatriz Luengo.
- The “Bah, Humbug” Award: Me, for no longer enjoying Christmas classics in Spanish like Feliz Navidad and El burrito de Belén. And Feliz Año Nuevo para todos.