iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina Offered a Much-Needed Escape for Miami's Latinx Community

Marc Anthony
Marc Anthony Photo by Theo Wargo / Getty Images for iHeartRadio
As you might have heard from countless commercials, text messages, and canvassers over the past few weeks, there's a pretty important midterm election happening this Tuesday. But if you were one of the tens of thousands of fans gathered at the American Airlines Arena for iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina last night, you made it clear you did not want to hear about it. Concertgoers were there to party, and they made their sentiments known, cheering for their faves — among them Marc Anthony, Pitbull, Nicky Jam — but eliciting no more than a half-hearted whimper whenever a guest host brought up the coming election. Fiesta Latina evoked the family feeling of your tío's backyard cookout, and nothing sours the Corona quite like politics.

Fiesta Latina's family-block-party atmosphere is fueled largely by its egalitarian view of performers and their audience. Whereas certain artists and venues bring out the Yondr pouches in an effort to resurrect the old-school concert experience, iHeartRadio's model suggests social media activity makes fans active participants in performances rather than separating them from the action onstage. Host Enrique Santos encouraged fans to tweet, post snaps, and go live on Instagram throughout the show. Audience tweets and hashtags continually scrolled at the bottom of screens on both sides of the stage.

Real-time social media reactions are not the only factor that makes iHeartRadio events feel similar to watching an awards show from the couch at home. There are commercials, movie previews (in last night's case, Aquaman), heavy-handed sponsorship ("Who has Lysol at home?" is a bizarre line to try to hype up a crowd), and, naturally, Sting and Shaggy continue to show up needlessly (this time in a Fiat commercial).
Nicky Jam
Photo by Jason Koerner / Getty Images for iHeartRadio
But the minor breaks in momentum are well worth the wait at these events, if only for the sheer number of superstars and up-and-comers performing in one spot. Sets are short, so artists typically play the crowd pleasers. There's no filler, and much like the weather in Miami, if you don't like what's going on at any given moment, you can bet it will be over in a few minutes.

First up were Venezuelan brothers and Color Me Badd clones Mau y Ricky, who warmed up the crowd by performing their songs "Desconocidos" and "Mi Mala," the first of a handful of times when the show begged for a surprise Karol G appearance. Colombian heartthrob Manuel Turizo followed shortly thereafter, opening with his hit "Una Lady Como Tú," though he seemed most comfortable singing down-tempo ballads such as "Culpables." But like Ally in A Star Is Born, Turizo knew he had to bring the bops, so he closed out his set with the Ozuna collaboration "Vaina Loca."
click to enlarge Becky G and Steve Aoki - PHOTO BY THEO WARGO / GETTY IMAGES FOR IHEARTRADIO
Becky G and Steve Aoki
Photo by Theo Wargo / Getty Images for iHeartRadio
Many women performers took the stage throughout the night, but most of them guested as hosts, including Amara La Negra and Jackie Cruz of Orange Is the New Black. Only one woman was there to perform her own music. Becky G has only recently garnered chart-topping hits such as the Bad Bunny collaboration "Mayores" and the Natti Natasha teamup "Sin Pijama," but she's one of the top women in reggaeton. That says more about the lack of women's voices in the genre than it does about Becky G's successes to date. Ten years into her career and at only 21 years old, she's still finding her voice and identity, but she should not be underestimated. Though her preteen attempts at dance-pop largely fell flat before she found success in the Latin-urban realm, a successful crossover is almost guaranteed.

After a five-song performance, Becky G returned to the stage during Steve Aoki's set to assist in slamming cake into two fans' faces, as is customary at Aoki's shows. Dressed in a bright-yellow tracksuit, Aoki climbed onto the booth as he played his BTS collaboration "Waste It on Me," "Mi Gente," and "Azukita," featuring his surprise Ultra Music Festival collaborator Daddy Yankee. Scheduled performer Nicky Jam did not make an early entrance when Aoki played their song "Jaleo," but once he took the stage, he stayed longer than most, playing eight songs, including "Travesuras," "X," and "El Amante."
Photo by Theo Wargo / Getty Images for iHeartRadio
The audience was showing faint signs of exhaustion by the time Zion y Lennox wrapped up their set, but Mr. Worldwide (formerly, of course, Mr. 305) was determined to revive them. It should be noted that the hardest-working people onstage at reggaeton concerts are often the background dancers. Tyra Banks famously told her protégés not to "rest on pretty" during America's Next Top Model, but at reggaeton concerts, it can be easy for artists to pace around the stage and rest on catchy beats that are impossible for bodies to resist. Say what you will about Pitbull, but that is not the case for him. He was the only performer last night who danced as hard as the women backing him up. Shouting out his Little Havana roots and playing up his resumé as an entrepreneur, he works as if the slightest hint of complacency might get everything taken away from him. Though his music is hardly serious, it's clear how humbly and earnestly he takes the duty to entertain.

It was 11:30 p.m. by the time headliner Marc Anthony took the stage, initially to accept iHeartRadio's Corazón Latino Award, which is bestowed upon artists whose music and philanthropic efforts exemplify the values of the Latinx community. "Can you hold this?" he asked Santos as he handed over the trophy. "Because I want to sing." Leading with a stirring version of "Tu Amor Me Hace Bien," Anthony elicited the loudest sing-alongs of the night while backed by his band and eschewing the crutches of gimmickry and flashy LED screens. He gave the audience just a taste, though: He's scheduled to perform two back-to-back concerts at the AAA in two weeks. Three decades into his landmark musical career, he knows the balance that only pros know how to hit: Don't simply rely on infectious, proven hits when you're up there, but leave the audience wanting a little more.

Here's last night's setlist:

Mau y Ricky:
- "Ya No Tiene Novio"
- "Desconocidos"
- "Mi Mala"

Manuel Turizo:
- "Una Lady Como Tú"
- "Bésame"
- "Culpables"
- "Déjala Que Vuelva"
- "Vaina Loca"

Becky G:
- "Zooted"
- "Dura (Remix)"
- "Cuando Te Besé"
- "Mayores"
- "Sin Pijama"

Steve Aoki:
- "Waste It on Me"
- "Mi Gente"
- "Azukita"
- "Jaleo"
- "Pursuit of Happiness (Remix)"
- "Cake Face"

- "Materialista"
- "Alguien Robó"
- "No Te Vas"
- "Andas en Mi Cabeza"
- "Báilame"

Nicky Jam:
- "Hasta el Amanecer"
- "Bella y Sensual"
- "El Perdón"
- "El Amante"
- "Te Boté (Remix)"
- "Mi Cama (Remix)"
- "X"
- "Travesuras"

Zion y Lennox:
- "Hola"
- "Otra Vez"
- "No Es Justo"
- "La Player"

- "Don't Stop the Party"
- "Feel This Moment"
- "Hotel Room Service"
- "Dame Tu Cosita"
- "Echa Pa'lla"
- "Fireball"
- "Give Me Everything"

- "Coolant"
- "Ponle"
- "Krippy Kush"
- "Vamos Pa La Playa"
- "Inolvidable"
- "Mi Forma de Ser"

Marc Anthony:
- "Tu Amor Me Hace Bien"
- "Flor Pálida"
- "Vivir Mi Vida"
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Celia Almeida is the digital editor of American Way and the former arts and music editor of Miami New Times. Her writing has been featured in Venice, Paper, and Billboard; and she co-hosts Too Much Love on Jolt Radio.
Contact: Celia Almeida