MexicanRadio

I live near Chicago, where we have one country station — or sometimes two, if the cloud cover and solar flares and other relevant factors (airborne toxic events?) cooperate and Milwaukee’s airwaves reach my antenna. Aside from Rick Jackson’s syndicated “Country Classics” show, I don’t trust these stations. They sound programmed by some depressing combination of Billboard and brute force, and when they reach into the past to find some roots, they almost always emerge with some shiny pop country hit from the past decade and a half. The DJs sound like they got booted over from the Hot AC channel. The first time I heard Thomas Rhett’s disco-tinged (and possibly date-rape-tinged) “Make Me Wanna,” the lady punching up the hott traxxx said, “I like that song, you know, it’s so DIFFERENT!” Well, no, not if you’ve been listening to Gretchen Wilson’s really good last album, or ’80s Ronnie Milsap, or even Big & Rich or Toby Keith or Kenny Chesney. (Or Tom Petty’s “Breakdown,” or Lou Christie’s “Lightning Strikes.”) I’m not #Savingcountrymusic or anything, but it’s nice to have a sense that your radio station understands its music and isn’t simply doing what it’s told.

Whenever I visit my grandparents south-central Missouri, they have a ton of country stations. (Also a model of Stonehenge, something called the Mule Trading Post, and a town called Bourbon. “I think that’s really water,” says Grandpa every time we’ve passed Bourbon’s water tower for the past 37 years.) As you might expect, these stations exhibit some expertise. They play the hits, yeah, but they alternate ’em with the hits of several previous decades. Like, I’m sure Bourbon pledges allegiance to the Hag. And possibly vice versa. They also play great minor songs, like Collin Raye’s “Midlife Chrysler,” that I’ve never heard up in my arid suburbia. I won’t even claim I prefer all the songs I hear in Missouri, on balance, to the songs on my citified Chicago country station. But you can tell the Missourians know what they’re talking about. (Their political ads are pleasantly infuriating, too.)

In that spirit, here are the week’s Top 20 Popular (read: norteño and banda) hits in México, as published by radioNOTAS. The only crossover with Billboard‘s top 20 Regional Mexican Songs is at #3, Los Tigres’ “La Bala.” I don’t like every song on this list, but it’s a useful corrective to the stagnant U.S. chart and it’ll be doubly useful to explain some of the differences. For instance, Calibre 50’s topping the Méxican chart with a song that criticizes the laws throughout México banning corridos. It’s a different song than their current U.S. hit. I won’t rule out hearing it up here, but as a protest song, it speaks most directly in its home country. At #6, El Bebeto, a banda leader I’ve enjoyed in the past, hits with a mariachi ballad. While it’s not uncommon to hear old mariachi on Chicago radio, something tells me a throwback like “Cuando Tu Me Besas” is more likely to become an actual hit in México. (I could be wrong about this.) I’m also heartened to see nomenclatural geniuses La Bandononona Clave Nueva in a leading role. I do wonder why boring ballads take up so much more of this chart than the U.S. one. “Dime” is the draggiest song on Julión Álvarez’s latest, though I cut him slack since he’s the best singer on the continent. We’ll continue to check in with radioNOTAS and learn stuff, even if it means learning way more about amor than is necessary or right.

#1. “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Calibre 50 ft. El Komander
#2. “Hombre Libre” – La Adictiva Banda San José
#3. “La Bala” – Los Tigres Del Norte
#4. “Se Me Sigue Notando” – Chuy Lizarraga
#5. “Háblame De Ti” – Banda MS
#6. “Cuando Tu Me Besas” – El Bebeto (his mariachi move?)
#7. “Dime” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda
#8. “El Papel Cambio” – Alfredo Rios El Komander
#9. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval
#10. “En Tu Twitter y Facebook” – Danny Guillen (As you might imagine I went for this one first, and hoo boy, is this a terrible song.)

#11. “Somos Ajenos” – Banda El Recodo
#12. “No Te Vayas” – Fidel Rueda
#13. “Mayor De Edad” – La Original Banda el Limón
#14. “Bien Servida” – Los Gfez ft. Diego Herrera
#15. “Ya No Lo Vamos a Hacer” – Espinoza Paz
#16. “Perdoname Mi Amor” – Los Tucanes De Tijuana
#17. “La Bipolar” – Los Buitres De Culiacan
#18. “Ya No Vives En Mi” – La Bandononona Clave Nueva
#19. “Todo Lo Incluido” – Banda Los Sebastianes
#20. “Broche De Oro” – Banda La Trakalosa

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