Ricky Martin Comes Full Circle on the Grammys, 20 Years After His Historic Breakthrough Performance: ‘We Are Here to Stay’

The 1999 Grammy Awards began like every other Grammys ceremony -- the performances sedate, the applause well mannered. That is, till a hip-swiveling Ricky Martin took the stage.

Cavorting with a 15-piece band and a bunch of dancers and percussionists, who did a conga line up and down the aisles of Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, Martin blistered with a bilingual model of “The Cup Of Life” -- his anthem for the 1998 World Cup, a world smash the 12 months earlier than. Even earlier than the top of the music, the viewers was up on its toes. 

With confetti floating down amid the standing ovation, host Rosie O’Donnell confronted the digital camera with one thing akin to awe on her face. “I by no means knew of him earlier than tonight,” she mentioned. “But I’m having fun with him soooooo a lot.”

So was everybody else. At the time, then-UTA head Rob Prinz referred to as Martin’s efficiency “the only greatest sport altering second for any artist within the historical past of the Grammys.” 

But past Martin, it was additionally a game-changer for Latin music worldwide, successfully ushering in what would grow to be identified stateside because the “Latin explosion.”  Three months after his Grammy efficiency, Martin -- already a Latin American star -- debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 along with his eponymous first English-language album, and a phalanx of different Latin stars adopted him onto the highest echelons of the charts: Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias. 

Twenty years later, Martin returns to the Grammy stage, as a part of a gap quantity that can even function Camila Cabello, J Balvin and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, an ensemble nod to the present reputation of Latin music and an enormous departure for the Recording Academy. 

Latin artists performing on the Grammy telecast are uncommon. Very, very, very uncommon. In reality, up to now 30 years, there have been fewer than 15 Latin performances on the Grammys, together with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s rendition of “Despacito” final 12 months. 

When Martin carried out in 1999, Latin music was merely not vital to the Academy, or to the mainstream music trade. 

But Tommy Mottola, the then-chief of Columbia, “had it in his thoughts that he was going to create this Latin revolution,” Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich advised Billboard in 2009. At the time, Mottola was already in conversations with a number of artists, together with Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez and naturally, Ricky Martin, to launch materials in English. 

The former Menudo member was a charismatic performer with movie-star appears to be like and strikes, and was already a famous person within the Latin world. He was additionally bilingual, which on the time was important to even take into account a crossover. After being chosen to carry out "The Cup of LIfe" because the 1998 World Cup anthem, Martin was nominated on the 1999 Grammys for Vuelve, an album of largely romantic materials that additionally included “La copa de la vida” (“The Cup Of Life” in Spanish), a music that had made him a star nearly in all places else on the earth. 

The Grammys have been leery about having a Spanish-language efficiency -- this was effectively earlier than YouTube and streaming, after all -- however Mottola, who had no doubts about Martin’s stardom, pushed onerous to have him on the present. 

“There was great resistance from the Grammys,” Mottola advised Billboard this week. “They didn't need an ‘unknown’ to carry out, but we he had already bought 10 million copies of Vuelve worldwide. To me, that was completely UNACCEPTABLE.  We had monumental leverage at the moment with nearly each main famous person on our label. We closely voiced our ‘opinion and affect’ and mentioned: ‘Ricky will need to have a efficiency on the Grammys!’ No was not an choice.

"Of course, the remaining was historical past," he continues. "Ricky Martin’s efficiency on the Grammys doing ‘La Copa de la Vida’ lit the fuse to the Latin explosion. It took a comparatively unknown artist within the Anglo market and propelled him to international superstardom, actually in a single day. We adopted this by instantly releasing ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca,' and bought over 20 million albums worldwide." 

The irony of all that is that it’s taken 20 years -- 20 years! -- to get Martin again acting on that Grammy stage. In the interim, Latin music stopped being handled as a novelty, and the mainstream usually (and the Grammys specifically) stopped taking discover. Unfortunately, it has historically taken seismic developments for our Latin tradition to achieve recognition. But right here we're, three years into a brand new cycle of Latin music that once more has permeated international consciousness. 

As a end result, final 12 months the bilingual “Despacito” was nominated for music of the 12 months, and though it misplaced to Bruno Mars' pop smash "That's What I Like," Fonsi and Daddy Yankee carried out it on the awards present. This 12 months, “I Like It” by Cardi B, J Balvin and Bad Bunny is up for file of the 12 months. While the music gained’t be carried out (so far as we all know but), Balvin will be a part of Martin onstage for the opening slot. 


It’s a full-circle second for Martin and for Latin music, which now will get a second probability to solidify its place not as a fad that comes and goes, however as a everlasting a part of the material of music on this nation. 

“As an artist it’s at all times an honor to be part of the Grammys, however this time specifically feels additional particular, as a result of we have now united forces to proceed showcasing our Latin roots to the world,” Martin tells Billboard. “20 years in the past I used to be extraordinarily lucky to carry out for the primary time on the present and it undoubtedly grew to become one of the crucial vital and defining moments of my profession. Since then, we have now remained centered. Our music has developed with the occasions, and there's no denying Latin music got here again to the mainstream charts full drive within the final two years, breaking all obstacles as soon as once more. The world is listening and we're right here to remain.”

Ricky Martin Comes Full Circle at the Grammys, 20 Years After His Historic Breakthrough Performance: 'We Are Here to Stay'

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