By: Fredwill Hernandez
With no Regional Mexican panel during the 2017 Billboard Latin Music Conference, or in 2016, for that matter, it was up to [predominately] Puerto Rican artist, singers/songwriters who set the conference’s tone in panels such as [Tues. – April 25] “Pop + Urban = The Perfect Marriage,” [Tues. – April 25] “Me, Me, Me” panel, [Wed. – April 26’s] “Iconic Singer-Songwriter Q & A: with Residente,” [Wed. – April 26’s] “Superstar Mano a Mano,” and [Wed. – April 26’s] “Latin Trap Session” [panel] in which the artist/s or panelist either agreed or disagreed with the questions and discussions, or gave their opinions based on their panel’s topic concerning the present state of Latin music.
It was interesting how opinions varied, “Music has no limits, we can go into a studio work or collaborate on something, if we don’t like it or it doesn’t come out right we can erase it. A longtime ago when I sang with Yandel, we started to collaborate with artists such as Chris Brown, 50 cent, T-pain, Akon, etc., understanding that we all win,” expressed Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Wisin, during the Pop + Urban = The Perfect Marriage panel on whether he agreed with collaborations and the current state of the charts. “I was speaking with Silvestre [Dangond] before coming out here, and ran by him the need for us to collaborate, [see] I win in his demographic since his demographic is not necessarily mines, and mines not necessarily his, and when we collaborate we bring the public something new and fresh.”
In agreement with this was also Ozuna, a new comer Raggaetón singer/songwriter from Puerto Rico, who also sat on the Pop + Urban = The Perfect Marriage panel, “All who know me, know I always travel with my studio [equipment] and I am always ready to work and collaborate and stay current. I think artists need not to lose the drive to be, even though they are, that’s important.”
The other panelist on the Pop + Urban = The Perfect Marriage panel who were Tostao, member of Colombian Latin Grammy winning music group ChocQuibTown, [Colombian] Vallenato artist Silvestre Dangond, and Mexican pop/rock group Reik, who recently collaborated with Nicky Jam on an Urban remix of their song “Ya Me Entere,” also agreed with the importance of collaborations.
“I feel collaborations are necessary to evolve, many of us get comfortable in what we’ve done and how we work, where as Urban acts stay current, constantly creating and working,” also expressed members of Reik.
What is interesting about this, both Tostao, and Wisin, recently changed management, Wisin, to WK Entertainment headed by ex Universal Music Latino/Machete Music President Walter Kolm, who also manages Maluma, Carlos Vives, and Silvestre Dangond, and Tostao, to La Industria, Inc., headed by Juan Diego Medina, who manages Nicky Jam, both management execs were part of the BLMC’s [Wed. – April 26] Power Players panel.
Another panelists who agreed with collaborations was Puerto Rican Reggaetón star Nicky Jam who was part of the highly anticipated “Superstar Mano a Mano,” who also opened up about his genuine friendship with Reggaetón star J Balvin, who hails from Colombia.
“All artists need to do whatever they need to in order to maintain their status and have a long [musical] trajectory. We are at a time where they’ll be a lot of collaborations with Urban or Reggaetón artists since Reggaetón is reaching new heights, and accomplishing a lot, and you can say’ Reggaetón is the new Pop across the globe, not just my opinion, but look at the numbers [even at Billboard]. It’s also because it’s not your typical Reggaetón anymore, we are singing songs people identify with and feel they are listening to a good song without thinking of them as Reggaetón. People don’t say I like your Reggaetón, but I like your song, I identify myself with your song and that’s what is all about,” expressed [Nicky] Jam, who added he doesn’t look at J Balvin as his competitor, but as a little brother he genuine has love for. “Collaborations are always good since is two magic’s coming together to bring the world more magic. I think the problem is when you have bad songs, we can have 175,000 collaborations with good songs, but with bad songs, it can become a problem.”
“As far as collaborations go, I totally agree with Nicky [Jam]. In your career you have to learn how to surf and take different waves as they come, and I don’t have a problem that Pop artists are wanting to collaborate or be part of the [Reggaetón] movement. They are appreciating and respecting what is happening, and when you have good songs, it gives birth to songs like Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito,” feat. Daddy Yankee, super global hits, especially when they come about organically and with love. What’s more Pop than Enrique Iglesias’ or “El Perdon.” What we don’t need is a “Despacito,” two or three, then it will become boresome,” eloquently added J Balvin, who also expressed it meant a lot to him to share the cover of the Billboard magazine’s April 29 – May 5, 2017, issue with [Nicky] Jam.
On the flip side of this was Puerto Rican Artist Residente, co-founder of Calle 13, who opened up during his Iconic Singer-Songwriter Q & A, “People don’t understand art. Art [in this case Music] should be about what’s around you, a reflection of you, and if you are not representing [expressing] that reflection or what you feel, you’re not an artist. If you are doing music to sell a record, to look good, to fill a concert, or to just get played on the radio, you’re a merchant not an artist,” expressed René Pérez Joglar, known artistically as Residente, about the sad state of artists copying each other, [Pop + Urban] collaborations and the top five songs being played on the radio. “If you give me 30 minutes I can give you a hit song of what’s happening at radio. Artists feel they need to copy and collaborate with who’s popular and hot. If you listen to the top five records being played at radio, you can’t differentiate who’s who, and I feel is a disrespect to real songwriters and artists. It’s not good and it’s damaging the perception of those who are looking at Latin Music. There is so much good authentic music in Latin America and here in the United States, and everyone is just copying what I consider bad music. Formats need to open up, managers, label execs, and promoters should be ready to work and promote the new and different.”
Leila Cobo, executive director of Latin content and programming, Billboard, who moderated the Iconic Songwriters Q & A, and heads the [Latin Music] conference tried to defend the top five [Urban] songs being played at radio, by being diplomatic and stating, “they have certain similarities,” but Residente, wasn’t buying it, “you can’t differentiate who’s who, they’re the same, they all have major chords.”
Another artist who had an interesting and different opinion, that which was in line with Residente, was Raggaetón star Farruko, who was part of the Latin Trap Session [panel].
Farruko, who has up to recently been known for some of Raggaetón’s biggest hits, including “Passion Whine,” feat. Sean Paul, “Lejos de Aquí,” “Sunset,” feat. Shaggy, and Nicky Jam, and “Obsesionado,” feels Reggaetón is over saturated with artists who weren’t known for Urban or Reggaetón, per se, but their career now depends on Reggaetón.
“I feel happy, blessed, this is an evolution, it’s a rebirth for me. In Raggaetón I felt trapped, with [Latin] Trap, I feel free to express myself,” expressed [Farruko] the Puerto Rican urban singer/songwriter who in 2016 won a Latin Grammy [Award] for Best Urban Song for co-writing Yandel‘s “Encantadora,” with the artist, Egbert “Haze“ Rosa, and Eduardo Vargas. “Trap is a new breath of fresh air for the Urban movement needed in the Latin market, and [to me] it has a bright [bright] big future.”
In between panels, I discussed these opinions with conference attendees to find out how they felt.
“I totally agree with Residente. Today with the need and desire to become number one, artists forget their vocation and become a product. I recall those times when artists would take their time to create an album, to choose their songs, those type of artists whose music we [still] remember. In today’s era of “singles” artists write and record quicker which might seem as an advantage, in the same token, this [same] process can backfire with artists losing the magic needed to create something classic,” expressed Dominican artist Kelman, who sat next to me and happened to be attending the conference for the first time. “The market is flooded with the same melodies and sound, they all want to sing about drinking and dancing, like people’s lives is a party, is to say even the lyrics have lost importance, with a guitar and the raggaeton beat, it all sounds the same. ”
As the conference’s tone switched from Pop + Urban collaboration, to the current and growing state of Latin Trap, to the reason the Latin music world is the [right] vein for so many great stories, as far as memoirs and biopics are concerned, there was Puerto Rican musical icon Ednita Nazario, who explained what prompted her to write her memoir and the importance of communicating through music during the Me, Me, Me panel.
“I think of the main way [for me] of communicating emotions and telling stories that connects throughout, no matter what you do, who you are, where you come from [?] is music, and I think that the stories you tell through music have a far reaching effect on the people who listen to it. They connect, they see themselves, and music is a service to all of us, it makes us laugh, it makes us cry, it makes us dance, it makes us think, it makes us not think, and it is very healing. Music is very healing in so many ways,” eloquently expressed Nazario, who [also] explained that it was her friend Bruno Del Granado, of Creative Artist Agency [CAA], who planted the seed that she should write her own [life] story in a book, before someone else does. “I feel very nervous, I feel very excited, is the first time that I open that door. I’ve had a wonderful life, I still have it, and there’s a lot coming, but the door of what happens between the scenes of my private life is something I’ve always kept for me [for myself]. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I was going to have the courage to look back and write about it. Not that I’ve had a life that I need to hide, but what I’ve always felt that was relevant of what I did, of my past in this world was what I do, my music and the way music connects to the audience. I always felt that was what was important about what I was doing in my life in general.”
Coincidently Nazario’s memoir’s titled “Una Vida,” was released [Tues. – April 25] the same day of the panel.