These were the top Regional Mexican songs of July 25, 1998, as reported by Billboard. Some things to note:
If I ever again start talking about banda and norteño groups using pop chord changes like it’s a recent thing, please shoot me. Maybe just in the leg. I’ll take the hint.
On the other hand (he whispers, writhing in pain), something happened between 1998 and now. Listen to the songs by Graciela Beltrán (#5) and Banda Maguey (#3). Beltrán is straight up pop with mariachi horns; the predominant sounds are guitars strumming and playing dry little MOR licks. (The song’s parent album was arranged by Joan Sebastian (#12), who Allmusic thinks is a woman, but I’ll cut ’em slack because STE’s a better critic than I am.) Banda Maguey’s song has something like a banda horn arrangement chugging alongside synths and a rhythm section. These are first and foremost pop songs, the way we think of pop songs in the U.S.; the ensembles get some of their POP by incorporating elements of traditional Mexican styles.
Today’s banda pop flips the equation: the ensembles are first and foremost acoustic, Cornelio Reyna-style big bands, only instead of playing the traditional ranchera repertoire they play pop songs by new songwriters, using up-to-date lyrical imagery. The commutative property of banda pop tells us we still get banda pop, but the results sound, improbably, more immediate and less dated. Whoever’s responsible for the past decade or so of banda hipness — maybe thank Alfonso Lizárraga, the arranger for Banda El Recodo? (further research) — realized something important. Banda arrangements can contain as many hooks, can deliver pop songs as sparkly and indelible, as rock bands, synths, or turntables and microphones. The Sinaloan brass band is a terrific vehicle for delivering pop tunes, and maybe because it’s so well established, it paradoxically doesn’t sound like it belongs back in some different era. Kind of like a blues-rock quartet.
6. “Yo Nací Para Amarte” – Alejandro Fernández
This swarthy ballad was #1 on the Hot Latin chart this week, and was therefore written about here by Jonathan Bogart.
7. “Por Mujeres Como Tu” – Pepe Aguilar
8. “Amor Maldito” – Intocable
9. “Eres Mi Droga” – Intocable
10. “Me Haces Falta Tu” – Los Angeles Azules
El Patrón 95.5 still plays this song on a semi-regular basis. I think I’ve heard the antiphony between accordion and trombones, deliberate to the point of creepiness, as part of cumbia mixes or even as interstitial music, coming out of breaks. Once you hear it you don’t forget it.
11. “Sentimientos” – Grupo Limite
12. “Gracias” – Joan Sebastian
13. “A Mi Que Me Quedo” – Los Invasores De Nuevo León
14. “Te Seguire” – Los Palominos
15. “Me Voy A Quitar De En Medio” – Vicente Fernández
Traditional mariachi from a master — listen to the way he slides into the ends of his phrases. The video’s simplicity is startling. Fernández rides his horse to the misión and sits there singing his song while a woman opens the doors. Then he stops singing and rides away, and she closes the doors.