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Latin Grammys Shift to Spanish Network

(Soundbite of song in foreign language)

JACKI LYDEN, host:

The songs of Cuba, Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Latin world, rang out this week on Univision. This year, the Latin Grammy Awards were broadcast only on the Spanish-language network and drew twice as many viewers as last year's event, which aired on CBS. Latin music is the fastest growing segment of the music industry. Recording sales were up by some 27 percent while the rest of the industry stagnated. Leila Cobo covered the Latin Grammys for Billboard magazine, and she joins us now from Los Angeles.

Hello there, Leila.

Ms. LEILA COBO (Billboard Magazine): Hi, Jacki. How are you?

LYDEN: I'm fine, thanks. What was it like to be at the first broadcast, broadcast only in Spanish? I mean, word was that there were some musicians and record producers who were actually quite happy about that.

Ms. COBO: Everyone I have spoken with is happy about this, because in its previous incarnation, the Latin Grammys, since they aired on CBS, they were trying to be a little bit of everything to everyone. And so, sometimes there were a lot of compromises reached regarding who performed in the show and kind of a mishmash of duets where you had Spanish-speaking artists performing with English-speaking artists. And no one was really ever completely happy, I think.

LYDEN: Mm-hmm. Well, what's happening in the industry to account for the growth in Latin music?

Ms. COBO: There are several things. First, you have Latin music being sold in many more outlets than every before. And second, you have a series of genres which are really doing incredibly well. One of those is reggaeton out of Puerto Rico and now out of the world.

LYDEN: And reggaeton is that sort of popular dance hall music?

(Soundbite of reggaeton music)

Ms. COBO: Yeah, reggaeton is a high-breed. It's a mix of hip-hop and dance hall reggae and Latin tropical rhythms. It is--you can tell that it's reggaeton because it has a very distinctive beat.

(Soundbite of reggaeton music)

LYDEN: Well, let's talk about some of the winners. Bebe was the winner for the best new artist. Tell us a little bit about Bebe.

Ms. COBO: Bebe has an album called "Pafuera Telaranas,"(ph) which means `Cobwebs be gone.'

(Soundbite from "Pafuera Telaranas" in Spanish)

BEBE: (Singing in Spanish)

Ms. COBO: And she's a Spanish artist--brand-new artist. This is her debut album. Her music is very different. It's kind of pop flamenco, and this first single, "Malo," which means like `bad one,' really is a song about domestic abuse. And it's kind of a woman's fantasy about, you know, what she's telling her husband who beats her up and that one day she's going to get up and that she's going to beat him back.

(Soundbite from "Malo" in Spanish)

BEBE: (Singing in Spanish)

LYDEN: Wow. She sounds really young, and she sounds like she's already seen it all. I'm thinking a younger version of Edith Piaf or something like that.

Ms. COBO: Yes, and she is very intense, and I think for the public at large, because this song has been a hit, it's--the refrain--it's a very catchy refrain: Malo, Malo, Malo ere. You're bad, bad, bad. And apparently, little kids latch onto that, too. They don't understand what the song is about, but they love the chorus. So it's a chorus that can reach many people for many different reasons, and she sings it very--in a very heartfelt manner.

(Soundbite from "Malo")

BEBE: (Singing in Spanish)

LYDEN: The winner in the Best Song category is "Tu No Tienes Alma" by Spanish singer, Alejandro Sanz.

Ms. COBO: Yes.

LYDEN: Meaning?

Ms. COBO: `You don't have a soul.'

(Soundbite from "Tu No Tienes Alma")

Mr. ALEJANDRO SANZ: (Singing in Spanish)

Ms. COBO: "Tu No Tienes Alma" is a song that wasn't such a huge hit here, but he continues to be an incredibly popular artist and I asked him about the meaning of the song when it got nominated. And he wrote back to me and told me that he wrote this song for a friend of his who was very sick and who had kind of decided that he was going to leave his fate to his illness and he wasn't going to fight it back. And he wrote this song because Alejandro was upset at the effect that this was having on this friend's family and friends. And so he said, `You don't have a soul,' and it's because you're not fighting for your life at this moment.

(Soundbite from "Tu No Tienes Alma")

Mr. SANZ: (Singing in Spanish)

LYDEN: You know, we notice that the Royal Scottish Orchestra was nominated for Best Classical Album. And so that got us to wondering, Leila, what are the requirements for these--for the Latin Grammy categories? I mean, does it have to be in Spanish or from a certain part of the world?

Ms. COBO: If it's something that has lyrics--51 percent has to be in Spanish, and this is down to a T. If you have albums that are in Spanish and English, they actually take the time to measure the--how long each song is to make sure that it is 51 percent in Spanish. And then for things that are--for pieces--instrumental pieces or classical music pieces that do have lyrics, either the composition is by somebody Latin or Brazilian or Spanish, or the person who performs it is Latin or Brazilian or Spanish. The language is predominant here.

LYDEN: So what did win in the classical category?

Ms. COBO: In the Best Classical Album, the winner was an album called "Qui Veras"(ph), which featured the Buenos Aires String Quartet with Cuban sax player, Paquito D'Rivera.

(Soundbite from "Qui Veras")

LYDEN: Leila Cobo is Latin American bureau chief for Billboard magazine, and she joined us from NPR West.

Leila, thank you very, very much for being with us.

Ms. COBO: Thank you, Jacki.

(Soundbite from "Qui Veras")

LYDEN: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.