As of Saturday night, national radio platform iHeartRadio has been showcasing the brightest in contemporary Latin music talent during marathon one-night concerts for more than half a decade. Sensing a widening interest in Latin music — reggaeton, in particular — iHeartMedia began putting on its Fiesta Latina concerts back in 2014. The concert series made its debut at the Forum in Los Angeles, but it made the move to its rightful home at Miami's American Airlines Arena in 2015, where it's returned every year since. It stands to reason that in its fifth year at the Triple A, concert producers should have figured out the ideal formula to keep the audience engaged throughout what can be a long night of performances from artists of varying levels of popularity. But despite standout performances by most of the artists on the lineup, Saturday night's iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina suffered from ill-planned pacing and some awkward moments.
The first odd choice came around one hour into the show after sets by Tito El Bambino, Sech, and Gente de Zona. Though Jennifer Lopez was billed as the show's headliner, she emerged onstage around 9 p.m., more than two hours earlier than her former husband Marc Anthony played when he headlined Fiesta Latina last year. Like Anthony, Lopez received iHeartRadio's Corazón Latino Award at the show. The award is bestowed upon artists whose music and philanthropic efforts exemplify the values of the Latinx community. Anthony received the award at the end of the night last year before playing his brief headlining set. This year, J. Lo's early performance and subsequent award presentation undercut some excitement that would've been useful later in the evening.
But that's not to say that Lopez didn't put on an impressive, albeit way-too-brief set. She led with the live premiere of her latest single, "Baila Conmigo," before reprising her role as Selena with a cover of the La Reina del Tex-Mex's "Si Una Vez." Adopting the exact arrangement that Selena's band Los Dinos played on live versions of the song, Lopez savored the opportunity to pay tribute to the woman who posthumously gifted her a career as a live entertainer.
Lopez, whose debut album was released exactly 20 years ago, introduced herself as an R&B and pop artist. But even in her debut music video for "If You Had My Love," she featured a Latin dance breakdown in tribute to her Puerto Rican roots. With a diverse output spanning two decades, Lopez can play any variation of sets she pleases, leaning into R&B, pop, hip-hop, or salsa. At Fiesta Latina, she read the room correctly, opting for her remix of "Te Boté," with Bad Bunny's vocals playing in his absence. She closed with "El Anillo," the Spanish-language answer to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies." Lopez admitted she had to catch her breath after some time offstage (she's shooting another movie at the moment), but she showed no signs of struggle during her final dance breakdown, a salsa number rife with flips.
Pedro Capó followed with a set that leaned heavily on his reggae-tinged sound, including his recent single, "Calma," a collaboration with Farruko that has resulted in the biggest hit of his more-than-a-decade-long career. Capó received a warm reception, but the crowd truly ignited when Puerto Rican singer Ozuna hit the stage for what became the true headlining set of the night.
Running through a 13-song set, Ozuna justified his title as "The New King of Reggaeton" with a masterful show that felt much more spontaneous than the typical reggaeton concert. When the band missed some notes on "Me Niego," the singer gestured to the musicians to stop playing. He joked about the misstep and sang the verse acapella before the band jumped back in for a second try. Drawing from his arsenal of massive hits including "Vaina Loca," "El Farsante," and "Taki Taki" among many others, Ozuna shut the show down before Daddy Yankee and Jowell y Randy played their closing sets.
Judging by the length of his set and the arena's enthusiastic reception, Ozuna should have been the show's closer. But as a sign of respect for his tenure in the reggaeton game, one of the genre's elder statesmen, Daddy Yankee, rightfully took the stage after the leader of the new school. He opened with his latest hit, "Con Calma" and recent singles such as 2018's "Dura," but his set leaned heavily on what he called his classics, namely 2005's "Rompe," 2004's "Lo Que Pasó, Pasó," and, of course, "Gasolina." After Daddy Yankee closed his set with the song that has become reggaeton canon, the crowd began thinning out rapidly.
That made Jowell y Randy's set feel like a postscript instead of what should have been a triumphant closing set. And it came after an extremely awkward moment in which Jowell jumped onstage as a commercial played on the screens on either side of the stage. The singer appeared to be trying to hype the crowd, but his mic was shut off and no one could hear him. Confusion registered on the faces of fans on the floor and production staff glared at the singer before he traipsed back behind the stage. It squandered the element of surprise when the stage rotated to reveal the duo, this time with Jowell joined by Randy wearing light-up glasses that should have retired with Kanye West in 2008. About a third of the arena had cleared out after they opened with their J Balvin collaboration, "Bonita," and the crowd continued to thin out straight through their last song, "No Te Veo." Although it wasn't the most electrifying set of the night, they weren't to blame for the exodus. Had their performance led up to Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, and J. Lo's sets, the audience would've stayed planted in their seats in anticipation of the heavy hitters to come.
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