MIAMI Merengue star Elvis Crespo and Colombian crooners Los Tri-O picked up two trophies each at the seventh annual Billboard Latin Music Awards ceremony held last night at the Jackie Gleason Theater here.
Previous ceremonies have been dominated by such hitmakers as Crespo, Selena or Shakira. But this year the awards were more democratically distributed, with Mexican singer Alejandro Fernandez the only other artist who won more than once.
However, because the awards had been announced some time earlier and were published in the current edition of Billboard, there were few surprises other than which female performer or presenter would sport the blonder hair. La vida loca, for better or worse, was little in evidence.
Crespo was deemed the Latin 50 Artist of the Year for his sales, while Los Tri-O's album of cover versions, Nuestro Amor, won awards for Regional Mexican Album of the Year in both the male and new-artist categories.
Singer/songwriter Marco Antonio Solís was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame. Solís began his career as lead singer of the Bukis, with whom he pioneered the popular Mexican grupero sound. Solís combines pop, cumbia and norteña harmonies and rhythms in his romantic songs, and has been grupero's biggest star for most of his 30-year career.
The three-and-a-half-hour ceremony was conducted in Spanish, and performers made few concessions to the English-language pop market. Crossover star Marc Anthony performed two songs, one in Spanish, the other in English.
Nashville contemporary Christian singer Jaci Velasquez, on the other hand, continued her move into the Spanish market with a performance of her Grammy-nominated "Llegar a Ti."
Rather than appealing to the Anglo world, most of the performances including those by Son by Four, Maná, Velasquez and Los Tri-O resembled Beckworthy hybrids of pop-en-español, classical strings, ballet-dance moves and traditionalist gestures. These performances seemed designed to further an image of European sophistication while affirming the performers' roots.
Pop singer Noelia kicked off the ceremony with a performance that threw together sparklers, video and dancers to create an utterly Madonnalike disco inferno perfectly suited to the event's South Beach setting.
Maná, the Latin world's most successful rock band, was awarded a special Spirit of Hope award for the conservation efforts they've made through their environmental organization Selva Negra.
The ceremony was taped for a May broadcast on the Spanish-language cable network Telemundo.
Billboard Latin Music Award winners:
Pop Album, Male
Amarte Es Un Placer, Luis Miguel
Pop Album, Group
MTV Unplugged, Maná
Pop Album, Female
Pop Album, New Artist
Amor, Familia y Respeto, A.B. Quintanilla y los Kumbia Kings
"Livin' la Vida Loca," Ricky Martin
Tropical/Salsa Album, Male
Pintame, Elvis Crespo
Tropical/Salsa Album, Female
Tropical/Salsa Album, Group
Tropical/Salsa Album, New Artist
Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer, Ibrahim Ferrer
"El Niagara en Bicicleta," Juan Luis Guerra 440
Regional Mexican Album
"Mi Verdad," Alejandro Férnandez
Regional Mexican Album, Male Group
Nuestra Amor, Los Tri-O
Regional Mexican Album, Female Group or Solo Artist
Corazón de Cristal, Priscila y Sus Balas de Plata
Regional Mexican Album, New Artist
Nuestro Amor, Los Tri-O
Regional Mexican Track
Tigres Del Norte
Hot Latin Track
"Loco," Alejandro Fernández
Los Grandes Exitos en Español, Cypress Hill
Hot Latin Track, Vocal Duo
"No Me Ames," Jennifer Lopez with Marc Anthony
Latin Dance Maxi-Single
"Santo Santo," Só Pra Contrariar & Gloria Estefan
Contemporary Latin Jazz Album
Los Hombres Calientes, Los Hombres Calientes
Billboard Latin 50 Artist
Hot Latin Tracks Artist
Marco Antonio Solís