Every year, the Latin Recording Academy holds a separate ceremony honoring its Person of the Year, recognizing an artist who has made great contributions to not only Latin music but also the community as well. Luminaries such as Vicente Fernández, Gloria Estefan, Shakira and Gilberto Gil have won the award in the past, and this year’s winner is Laura Pausini, a talented singer-songwriter who has worked in the music business for three decades, won a Grammy Award and sold more than 70 million albums worldwide.
Such achievements are worthy of recognition, but Pausini never thought she could even be considered for such an honor from the Latin Grammys because of one particular trait that distinguishes her from every previous Person of the Year winner.
“When [the Latin Recording Academy] called me, I thought it was a joke at first because of the fact that I’m Italian, and I thought I couldn’t be nominated,” Pausini tells Pollstar. “The [CEO] of the Latin Recording Academy said, ‘Laura, why would you think that it wouldn’t be possible for you to be nominated? You have been adopted by Latinos.’”
That phone call came from Latin Recording Academy CEO Manuel Abud, and he’s not wrong about her being adopted by Latin music fans. (Full disclosure: I grew up listening to Pausini’s music thinking she was Latina, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.) With Spanish and Italian being romantic languages having a lexical similarity of 82% – according to reference publication Ethnologue – Pausini seamlessly transitioned to singing in Spanish with her 1994 self-titled album and was quickly embraced by Latin America with her ballads and pop sensibilities. She went on to record 10 more LPs in Spanish and has taken home four Latin Grammys along the way, making her one of the most prominent global artists.
“She couldn’t be more deserving,” says Róndine Alcalá, one of this year’s Latin Grammys Leading Ladies of Entertainment honorees and Pausini’s publicist. “I would say she’s more Latina than anything. … This industry is extremely hard. You have to have coraje. You have to be very courageous to be in this industry and work hard to gain respect from your colleagues.”
Pausini, who has advocated for women’s rights and the LGBTQ+ community, understands the weight of the Person of the Year honor and certainly doesn’t take it lightly.
“A person who is adopted takes a particular path because they have a new family to support them, and I truly experienced that,” Pausini says.
“I live as if my blood has also been converted to the color of the flags of all the countries from Latin America.
“I felt like people are finally starting to realize that I am truly adopted [by the Latin community] because in my life, I haven’t gone through my career thinking of Latin America as another region.”
Pausini is certainly feeling the love from fans and the Recording Academy, and she’s ready to reciprocate that amor to Latin audiences once again this year and the next with the release of her first album in five years, Almas Paralelas (Parallel Souls), as well as a global tour to support her newest studio effort.
“I am ready for this album to come out,” she says of Almas Paralelas, which dropped Oct. 27. “This is the first time in my life that so much time passed for me to release a new album. Normally, there would be about two years in between albums, and five is a lot. I’ve suffered a bit to get to this point of serenity and desire to be in front of the camera again.”
Five years can seem like an eternity for an artist like Pausini, who has released more than a dozen LPs in various languages – Italian, Spanish and English – since 1993, but it especially felt prolonged because of the coronavirus pandemic. Pausini, like many others across the globe, wasn’t in the right mindset to create the hopeful, emotional music her fans are accustomed to despite having received some accolades during that period. The track “Io sì” (“Seen”), which was featured in the Italian film “The Life Ahead” and co-written by songwriter Diane Warren, earned Pausini a Golden Globe win for Best Original Song and an Academy Award nomination in 2021.
But the win came amid a difficult period that was full of uncertainty due to COVID. Pausini lost people she cared for to the disease and felt guilty about celebrating her accomplishments with “Io sì.”
“I needed to find the strength and my self-worth,” Pausini says. “I didn’t know where to start. … All the information and experiences fill you with doubt and bad thoughts that are difficult to overcome. I thought it was time to pause and reflect, so I began to find music again and write my thoughts. My task was to sing all of the music I received, even if they were different styles from what I was accustomed to.”
That process led her to record 90 demos – essentially eight albums worth of songs.
She ultimately chose 16 tracks (18 for the deluxe edition) that formed Almas Paralelas, which features songs of heartbreak, grief and appreciation of life and love through rock- and dance-infused pop tunes as well as her signature introspective ballads.
She ultimately wanted to spread the joy she began feeling as she centered herself and found her voice post-COVID.
“What attracted me the most was singing songs of happiness because I felt that way,” she says. “Before, I wasn’t ready to do an album like this. It would have been totally negative, and I didn’t want to come out with that.”
That positivity will also be delivered via theaters and arenas across the globe as Pausini embarks on a world tour in December. She will visit Italy, Spain, Chile, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico and wrap up her tour in the U.S. with an April 6 show at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Any feelings of self-doubt withered away for Pausini with successful shows in Venice, Italy, and Sevilla, Spain, last summer.
Three concerts at Piazza San Marcos sold 14,304 tickets and grossed more than $1.8 million from June 30 to July 2, and two nights (July 21-22) at Plaza de España grossed nearly $850,000 from 7,095 tickets sold, according to the Pollstar Boxoffice.
“As artists, it is necessary for us to go and see the eyes – not through a computer or phone – of the people who have permitted us to live this life and chose to see us live and sing for them so they can enjoy a few hours with us,” Pausini says. “I need that. I didn’t want to go onstage feeling insecure and sad because before, I felt like I was in a prison, not being able to see the people I loved. But when you finally see them, you want to share your feelings and bare it all.”
That openness and determination to give fans what they deserve is what made Puerto Rican star Luis Fonsi instantly bond with her. He admired her ability to connect with audiences as well as her aptitude for speaking various languages.
“She just takes the time to really connect with people, and it’s not just, ‘Let me get up and sing,’” Fonsi says. “It’s really, ‘Let me show people what I’m about.’”
It may sound corny, but Pausini is simply about love and positivity, and it’s kept her going throughout her illustrious 30-year career. It’s only fitting that one of her favorite songs on the new album is called “Durar,” which in English can mean “endure,” “last” or “hold up” – all apt terms to describe Pausini’s legacy as she prepares to tour the globe with newfound confidence and appreciation.
“I’m celebrating [this year] with so many people around the world who have changed my life, but also all of us have changed together. Together, we have grown,” Pausini says. “… It’s something big that unites us again and better explains the word ‘durar,’ because our relationship has lasted 30 years. … Our history of love remains. I owe that to the fact that [my fans] have patiently, willingly and lovingly wanted to make our love relationship last.”