Latin Billboards Take Miami By Storm

Some of the hottest artists in Latin music descend on Miami for the annual Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards. All week long, host Michel Martin checks in with Jasmine Garsd, co-host of NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast, to find out which artists have pushed the boundaries of Latino music this year.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week, some of the hottest artists in Latin music will head to Miami for the Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards. This annual event celebrates the most popular musicians and business and innovators in Latin music.

To tell us more about the event and which artist to keep an eye on, we are joined once again by Jasmine Garsd, co-host of NPR's podcast Alt.Latino.

Jasmine, thanks for joining us once again.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Always a pleasure to be here.

MARTIN: So is this a big deal in the industry? Is it just kind of sun and fun, or is it a big kind of business event - a must do?

GARSD: Well, it's a little bit of both. Unlike the Grammy's, which is definitely celebrating commercial success but tries to have an artistic angle, the Latin Billboards and the Billboard Awards are based purely on commercial success. It's chart performances and the number of downloads and total airplay. So it's about sales. It is also a very important industry conference, in which throughout this week you're going to be seeing different conferences and discussions, including, you know, how radio is changing. So it has a very definitive commercial, practical angle.

MARTIN: So Jasmine, we're excited because you'll be joining us all this week to tell us about some of the artists we should be keeping an eye and ear on. Who are we going to talk about today?

GARSD: Today I wanted to talk about Romeo Santos. I think he's definitely going to be a big winner this week. Well, first of all, because he's nominated for like a gazillion awards. So he has to win something.

MARTIN: Which helps. It improves your odds, for sure.

GARSD: Romeo Santos is the lead singer for one of the biggest Latin groups in recent years, Aventura. And it's a band that's now in hiatus. They fused traditional Dominican Bachata - a very Caribbean guitar-based style, with R&B and they were huge. They sold out Madison Square Garden in record time, four nights in a row. That's huge. And he recently embarked on a solo career. Something that you'll notice with the artists that are nominated for these awards, they're all artists that are so commercially successful, they're starting to push a little bit into the mainstream market.

Romeo is definitely that guy. His debut solo album "Formula Vol. 1," included artists like Usher, Lil Wayne. It was a huge crossover appeal album. And I brought you his song, "Promise," with Usher. Never thought that I would hear Usher singing Bachata.

MARTIN: OK. Well, here it is. Let's hear it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROMISE")

ROMEO SANTOS: (Singing) He perdido el balance por tu amor. En tus manos yo cai, tienes control sobre mi. Tu cuerpo es la carcel y yo un prisionero. Y jamas quiero salir, condenado y soy feliz.

USHER: (Singing) Try to keep my balance but I still fall. But how I fall so hard, right into your arms is where, girl. Wrapped inside you baby and it's so warm. Yeah. Yeah.

MARTIN: I'm sorry. I'll just try to come back now. I'm lost in that. I think that's very artistically appealing.

GARSD: I think it's great. Romeo Santos just had this amazing year. Will Smith and David Pinkett Smith just picked him up for in ABC pilot in which he's going to play kind of himself. He's going to play a Dominican American guy living in Washington Heights, New York and he has his own vision of what he wants from the U.S. and his father is a very traditional immigrant. He's had a huge year.

MARTIN: It's interesting. So how about just musically, though? Is there something that gives him an edge? I know he's nominated for Artist of the Year, but he's against some heavyweights like Shakira, you know, what do you think? How do you call it?

GARSD: Oh, I...

MARTIN: I'm putting you on the spot, but how do you call it?

GARSD: I call it for him. Shakira is an artist who always has a good year. You know, she did a world tour. She got Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. But he has just produced a sheer volume and really what he's doing is really different. I mean there's other guys doing that. There's Prince Royce, whose kind of the same background, but he's fusing Bachata with R&B. He's a huge name and in terms of volume, he's been bombarding the airwaves.

MARTIN: Jasmine Garsd is a co-host of NPR's podcast Alt.Latino. She joined us here in our studios in Washington, D.C. Thanks, Jasmine.

GARSD: This was fun. Thank you.

MARTIN: And here is Romeo Santos performing "Que Se Mueran."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "QUE SE MUERAN")

SANTOS: (Singing) No tienen Razon. Esto no es correcto y si se arrepienten no merecen penitencia. Por que en el amor. No hay economia ni nada precisa pa que 2 se quieran. Que se mueran los incredulos envidiosos...

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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