marco flores

As you listen to this Youtube playlist, imagine a Regional Mexican station that plays not just regional styles, but disco-fied international variations on those styles. Weirdly enough, the disco-mariachi songs here, while great, are far from the most danceable songs on the list. If you don’t believe me, check out the top video, where Marco Flores and his band create a barrage of anarchic polka moves, including Hiding Behind the Congas, for their banda-fied take on the Zacatecas state’s tamborazo music. Colmillo Norteño aren’t quite as terpsichorially ambitious with the waltz at #2, but they’ve still got moves.

You could call these the year’s best regional Mexican singles, but there’s a catch. “Regional Mexican” here includes Mexicans and non-Mexicans playing their takes on regional styles — norteño, banda, mariachi, and cumbia (not native to Mexico, but nation and format have embraced it), along with minor styles like Tejano, tierra caliente, and duranguense, if we’d found any. It doesn’t include Mexicans playing pop, although most of these songs register for listeners as pop songs. It also doesn’t include any Latinos playing reggaeton, bachata, or salsa, though NorteñoBlog broke that rule last year when Gerardo Ortiz released a full-throated bachata song.

Maybe not so weirdly, this list’s Venn diagram circle for “international interlopers” — Natalia Jiménez, Rocio Quiroz, Jenny and the Mexicats, and Shalia Dúrcal — overlaps perfectly with the circle for “women.” It’s not that women can’t make great music that’s puro Mexicano; after all, we’re observing the 20th anniversary of Selena’s death, the 10th anniversary of Yolanda Perez’s fantastic Esto Es Amor album, and also check out NorteñoBlog’s best of 2014 list. But in the recently dominant styles of norteño and banda, the male gaze and traditional, possibly smothering, notions of chivalry predominate. Women in song lyrics often have the upper hand over their hapless male counterparts — see the hilarious video for “Adicto a La Tristeza” — but the hapless males still make most of the music and money. Though she’s not on this list, check out América Sierra’s “Ponte Las Pilas” for a refreshing exception — she also wrote Ortiz’s latest single, “Perdoname” — and keep your eye on her this year. In the meantime…

1. Marco Flores y La Número 1 Banda Jerez“El Pajarito” (Remex)
We’ve admired before the vitality of Marco Flores‘s dance moves and his voice, a gallo-rific crow that cuts through anything in its path. His take on Espinoza Paz’s “El Pajarito” comes in versions both “sin censura” and, presumably, censura.
Mexican radio hit

2. Colmillo Norteño“La Plebona” (Remex)
A demented rapid-fire circus parade waltz — you like those, right?
U.S. radio hit

3. Natalia Jiménez“Quédate Con Ella” (Sony)
Spanish pop star Jiménez shoots for Mexican mariachi and, with the help of Venezuelan producer Motiff, winds up singing a marvelously square ABBA breakup ballad. She’s having more fun breaking up than she did when they were together. She’s Chiquitita with Fernando’s swagger.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

4. Rocio Quiroz“La De La Paloma” (Ser)
A minor key stomp with its drums slightly off-kilter in that delicious cumbia manner. The guitar tone is like something out of ’80s new wave, and Argentine singer Quiroz sounds great spitting out heartache.
hasn’t charted

5. Alfredo Ríos El Komander“Fuga Pa’ Maza” (Twiins)
Alfredo Ríos El Komander (I guess that’s what we’re calling him now?) continues to fire off charming singles that sound like he wrote them on a napkin and recorded them in the back of the bar. This one makes the theme explicit. It’s a drinking song whose background crowd noises exist as much for their musical energy as their verisimilitude — note how the crowd abruptly shuts up mid-whoop at the end of the song, rather than fading into a jumble of congratulatory high-fives. “Mi vida es pura pura pura borrachera,” Ríos brags, his tuba and requinto (I think) players capering around the bar, spilling everyone’s drinks.
hasn’t charted

6. Grupo Cañaveral ft. Jenny and the Mexicats“Tiene Espinas el Rosal (En Vivo)” (Fonovisa)
Grupo Cañaveral De Humberto Pabón played one of their turn-of-the-millennium cumbias, “Tiene Espinas El Rosal,” in concert. They brought out the little Spanish/Mexican indie band Jenny and the Mexicats to sing it with them. It turns out I’m a sucker for both turn-of-the-millennium cumbias and Jenny and the Mexicats.
Mexican radio hit

7. Shalia Dúrcal“No Me Interesa” (EMI)
The Spanish singer’s latest blends Nashville guitar licks, ranchera horns, and electropulse into something that never peaks but is more compelling for it. Also check out “Has Sido Tú,” a tech-folk-ranchera stomper whose main riff is lifted directly from one of Slash’s solos in “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
hasn’t charted

8. La Trakalosa de Monterrey ft. Pancho Uresti“Adicto a la Tristeza” (Remex)
It turns out Edwin Luna, lead singer of La Trakalosa de Monterrey, is very convincing portraying un “Adicto a la Tristeza.” It helps that his voice chimes like a throaty bell. Luna’s labelmate and guest singer, Pancho Uresti from Banda Tierra Sagrada, is somewhat less convincing because his voice is scratchy. When the woman in the video spurns his advances, he’ll feel nothing and should be able to pick up pretty easily with someone else. High camp.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

9. Los Tigres Del Norte“Qué Tal Si Eres Tu” (Fonovisa)
This study in triplets — the musical figure, not the polyzygotic phenomenon — still sounds better every time I hear it. Any other late ’60s bands still going this strong?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10. Rosendo Robles“Alterado De Corazon” (Rosendo Robles)
A banda waltz of furious excitement and possibly sharp brass sections. Possibly tuned sharp, I should say, although the jagged horn rhythms certainly feel like whirling blades of death, the kind of things you’d contort your shoulders trying to avoid in the upper reaches of a video game.
hasn’t charted

11. La Maquinaria Norteña“Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” (Azteca)
A stomping country polka with some puro Chihuahua sax, by way of New Mexico. I want La Maquinaria Norteña’s logo on my windshield.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

12. Mario “El Cachorro” Delgado“El Rancho” (Garmex)
A sad but swinging protest corrido using chicken farming as a parable about Mexican kidnapping violence, I think. The simple tune is appealing enough, but check out the interplay between bass, guitar, and requinto, alternately locking in together and tugging at the rhythm with passages of loose virtuosity.
hasn’t charted

13. Alfredo Rios El Komander“Malditas Ganas” (Twiins)
Tossed off kiss-off. The eternally loose Ríos sprechtstimmes and casually mentions “Soy De Rancho,” reminding the woman he can’t forget that nobody can forget him these days, either.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

14. Diego Herrera ft. Los Gfez“Es Todo Un Placer” (Remex)
One of those norteño quartet-meets-banda mashups the NorteñoBlog loves.
Mexican radio hit

15. Remmy Valenzuela“Mi Princesa” (Fonovisa)
A dextrous accordion hero puts down his axe to sing a banda ballad with more authority than he’s ever sung before, enunciating to las estrellas. Has any guitar hero ever done so well with a guitar-free power ballad?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10 more good ones:

Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon” (RCA Nashville)
Los Teke Teke – “Me Dite Duro” (Leo)
Nicki Minaj ft. Drake and Lil Wayne – “Truffle Butter” (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic)
Joey Bada$$ – “No. 99” (Cinematic/Relentless)
Sia – “Elastic Heart” (Monkey Puzzle/RCA)
Susanne Sundfør – “Delirious” (EMI Norway)
One Direction – “Night Changes” (Columbia)
Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen” (300)
Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns” (Sony Nashville)
Victor Manuelle – “Que Suenen Los Tambores” (Sony)

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