LAS VEGAS – Dominican singer-songwriter Juan Luis Guerra swept the Latin Grammy Awards on Thursday, taking home five musical honors including album of the year, record of the year and song of the year.
Guerra's album, "La Llave De Mi Corazon," and its playful, upbeat title track also won the singer and his band, 440, trophies for best merengue album and tropical song.
Praise for "La Llave," also extended to its production, as the album garnered the award for best engineered album.
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"I want to dedicate this award to the Dominican Republic," said Guerra of his homeland upon being named the Latin Recording Academy's person of the year, recognizing career and personal achievements. Guerra talked about Tropical Storm Noel, which recently thrashed the Caribbean nation and killed several dozen.
"In recent days, we've had some difficult moments ... But we are a strong and courageous people," said Guerra.
Guerra, credited with popularizing the bachata dance rhythms outside the Dominican Republic, bested Miguel Bose, reggaeton duo Calle 13, Ricky Martin and Alejandro Sanz for the album of the year prize.
Among the artists he beat out in his record of the year win were Martin and other superstars: Beyonce and Shakira, and Bose and Paulina Rubio.
Martin and Calle 13 each picked up two trophies.
The awards show made its Las Vegas debut, and the flavor of Sin City was evident from the get-go, when Martin opened the show with a rousing performance along with the blue-headed musical trio Blue Man Group.
The superstar performed a medley of "Lola" and "La Bomba," while Blue Man Group added their signature frenetic dance visuals. It was one of the show's several mash-ups of nominees and Las Vegas Strip staples.
Later, reggaeton star Daddy Yankee performed "Ella Me Levanto," flanked by the scantily clad showgirls of "Folies Bergere," each wearing colorful feather headpieces.
Backstage, Martin praised Guerra.
"Juan Luis Guerra is ... the father of Latin American poetry and whoever thinks the contrary, well, get off the bus," Martin said.
The Puerto Rican superstar took home the award for long form music video for "MTV Unplugged" and for male pop vocal album.
Fellow Puerto Rican group Calle 13, which also started the evening with four nominations, picked up the trophy for urban music album for their politically charged "Residente o Visitante," beating out Daddy Yankee, Orishas and Ivy Queen.
"We are super thrilled, nervous, this has been a lot of pressure," singer Rene Perez said onstage. "To all of Mexico, Colombia, from the heart — to all Latinos: From here, no one will remove us."
One track, "Pal Norte," on which the group highlights hardships faced by immigrants trying to enter the U.S. illegally, nabbed the urban music song trophy, which recognized songwriting in the genre.
Jesse & Joy, siblings from Mexico who scored a hit this year with "Espacio Sideral" off their debut album, garnered the new artist trophy. The pair beat out several newcomers, including pop singer Alejandra Alberti, and Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto.
Among the other winners, Italian singer Laura Pausini won the trophy in the female pop vocal album category for "Yo Canto," while Michael Salgado won the Norteno album trophy for "En Vivo."
Los Horoscopos De Durango picked up the banda album award, while La Quinta Estacion took home the award for pop album by a duo or group with vocal.
"We hope this will be the first of many," said singer Natalia Jimenez, who also thanked Mexico, where the Spanish band lives. "Que viva Mexico!"
Before the nationalized televised portion of the show, when many of the Latin Recording Academy's 48 trophies were awarded, Venezuelan vocal group Voz Veis landed two Latin Grammys — becoming the first group from their nation to be honored.
Voz Veis took home the awards for short form music video for "Ven A Mi Casa Esta Navidad," and Latin children's album for "Como Se Llega A Belen," a collection of Christmas songs.
"This is an important moment," group member Santiago Castillo said after receiving the first Grammy.
Backstage, Castillo noted the group's album had a "magical energy" from the beginning.
"It was done almost entirely a cappella," he said.
Among the other preshow award winners was Sebastian Krys, who picked up the producer of the year trophy, and Brazilian Caetano Veloso, who won in the Brazilian song category for "Nao Me Arrependo."
The show was held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on the Las Vegas Strip. The show was broadcast from New York last year and has previously bounced between Miami and Los Angeles.
Las Vegas' aura as a party town has made it a popular destination for high-profile award shows in recent years. In May, country music stars converged here for the Academy of Country Music awards. Most recently, it played host to the MTV Music Video awards.
Panamanian rockers Rabanes, whose album "Kamikaze" won the award for rock album by a duo or group with vocal, said they were eager to celebrate Vegas style.
"The city has a special vibe for we, who like going (out) at night. We're creatures of the night," frontman Emilio Regueira Perez said. "We'll get well-deservedly drunk."