July 24th, 2024

Karol G becomes first Latina named woman of the year at Billboard ceremony honoring global musicians

By Maria Sherman, The Associated Press on March 7, 2024.

Tracee Ellis Ross arrives at the Billboard Women in Music Awards on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, in Inglewood, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) – Karol G made history at Wednesday night’s Billboard Women in Music awards ceremony.

“This is the first time, ever, a Latina is named woman of the year,” Karol G began her acceptance speech after a fiery performance of her reggaetón hit, “Amargura.” And so, in honor of that incredible feat, she delivered the rest of her speech in Spanish.

The global superstar received the award at the YouTube Theater in Inglewood, California, after a lively introduction from her “Griselda” co-star Sofia Vergara.

Of course, Karol G is used to making history at this point. Last month, she became the first woman to win in the best música urbana category at the Grammys, a moment that may reflect changing perceptions of reggaetón and Latin hip-hop as exclusively “men’s music.” Last year, her album “Mañana Será Bonito,” one of The Associated Press’ picks for best of the year, became the first ever Spanish-language album by a female artist to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200. (Not only that, but “Mañana Será Bonito” is the first Latin album – by a Latina – to reach No. 1 on the albums chart since Selena Quintanilla’s posthumous “Dreaming of You,” did in 1995 following her high-profile murder.)

When Karol G embarked on a stadium tour in support of the release, she became the first Latina to headline at many of the venues where she performed. To call Karol G’s rise meteoric wouldn’t be hyperbole.

In the crowds above the stage at the YouTube Theater, fans wielded glowing light sticks – official merchandise for the K-pop girl group NewJeans, who attended, performed an animated medley of their viral hits “Super Shy” and “ETA,” and were awarded the title of group of the year.

Later, the audience lead chants of “Bichota” – an affectionate nickname for Karol G, derived from Puerto Rican slang “bichote,” which refers to a drug dealer, but transformed into a term of empowerment with the feminine “a.” It might’ve temporarily confused host Tracee Ellis Ross, who otherwise masterfully guided the crowd throughout the evening, but it certainly underscored a major theme of the evening: to celebrate women in the music business is to celebrate women globally.

A new award category heralding performers who are “global forces” were given to women from around the world for their needle-moving contributions to their home countries, including Annalisa representing Italy, Sarah Geronimo from the Philippines and Luísa Sonza from Brazil, who performed and was joined by Demi Lovato for “Penhasco2,” their Portuguese power ballad.

The second annual producer of the year award was given to PinkPantheress, known for her jungle and UK garage beats woven into songs that avoid easy classification.

“As a woman of color in electronic music – specifically 2-step, drum and bass, it’s taken a lot for the genre to be recognized on a wider scale – a lot of people don’t expect me to look the way I did, making the music I was making,” she said in her speech. “Even now, people don’t want to take my music seriously. But I’m just happy that I have the opportunity to be recognized in a specific field by the Billboard Women in Music Award.”

Performers at the ceremony included Maren Morris, Young Miko, Tems, Victoria Monét – all of whom received awards. Charli XCX debuted a new song titled “So I,” about “a person who is no longer with us,” as she explained in her introduction.

Monét led the night – with a brassy performance of her massive hit “On My Mama.” Immediately afterward, her mother presented her with the rising star award. “She didn’t tell me she was coming, y’all!” Monét exclaimed, clutching Mama Monét, as she attempted to read from a teleprompter. In her acceptance speech, Monét shouted out “women doing the thankless jobs” in addition to those “behind the scenes and in front of the curtain.”

Across two and a half hours, Ice Spice and Kylie Minogue were some of the other music artists who were recognized at the event, which celebrated the achievements of top female performers and executives in the music industry.

Presenters included Katy Perry, Coco Jones, Andra Day, Saweetie, Ellie Goulding, GloRilla, Bebe Rexha and Lainey Wilson.

Michelle Jubelirer, chair and CEO of Capitol Music Group, was awarded executive of the year. She resigned last month, following the ongoing reorganization of Capitol parent Universal Music Group. In some ways, it was an effective reminder that a seat at the table is not guaranteed for women in this industry, but fighting for those positions is crucial to making progress.

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