You read it here first. Here are Billboard's predictions for the Latin Grammy Awards, which will be handed out on Thursday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. As always, our choices are based on past voting behavior and recent trends in the Latin music market.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Calle 13 member Rene Perez's profane rant against regional political leaders during the MTV Latin American Awards came three days after the October 12 close of voting for the Latin Grammys. That means the Puerto Rican hip-hop duo still has a shot at scoring album of the year for Los de Atras Vienen Conmigo. Then again, Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa's death just one week before voting closed makes her a possible winner, out of respect and appreciation for Cantora 1.
SONG OF THE YEAR
The winner has to be the continental hit Aqui Estoy Yo, written by Luis Fonsi, Claudia Brant and Gen Rubin for Fonsi's album Palabras del Silencio. The only other contender here is Yo No Se Manana, penned by Jorge Luis Piloto and Jorge Villamizar for Nicaraguan singer Luis Enrique. Although a smash stateside, the song is just starting to hit big in other countries.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
Aqui Estoy Yo will probably win in this category as well, but Italian pop singer Laura Pausini's En Cambio No has a shot too, given its beauty and its hit status in many markets.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Among this year's impressive list of nominees, the winner will be Mexico's Alexander Acha, who has the most name recognition in different countries. Luz Rios, who can sing and write, is a deserving nominee who is, unfortunately, little-known outside the United States.
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Nominees Sergio George and Cachorro Lopez have both won this award before. This year, due to sheer output as well as his impeccable handling of multiple genres, the honor should go to Aureo Baqueiro.
BEST POP DUO OR GROUP ALBUM
This is a hotly contested category with a major Spanish component. Our bet is with Spanish pop/rock band La Quinta Estacion, which straddles Spain and Mexico and whose Sin Frenos is one of the most beautiful -- and commercially successful -- albums of the year.
BEST MALE POP VOCAL ALBUM
Who's glaringly absent among the nominees? Luis Fonsi, whose Palabras del Silencio would have won hands down. Given the Latin Recording Academy's inexplicable failure to nominate him in this category, our vote goes to Argentine rock pianist Fito Paez's No Se Si Es Baires o Es Madrid, which was accompanied by a region-wide tour.
BEST URBAN MUSIC ALBUM
While many people might be quick to dismiss reggaeton (or the music it's evolved into) and back Calle 13, our bet is on Wisin & Yandel's La Revolucion, a hard-worked, hard-earned album that has great hit singles.
BEST TROPICAL SONG
Notwithstanding the success of El Amor by Tito El Bambino, the song of the year was Yo No Se Manana, performed by Luis Enrique. And Enrique's album Ciclos will nab best salsa album as well.
BEST SINGER/SONGWRITER ALBUM
Now this is a hot category. Will Franco De Vita finally get a long-deserved Latin Grammy with Simplemente La Verdad? Probably not, although the beauty of his album and his decision to invite emerging singer/songwriters to tour with him this year should make him a shoo-in. Zi e Zie by Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso, a past winner in this category, will likely prevail over Simplemente and Ricardo Arjona's 5o Piso, another gem.