At NorteñoBlog we’re accustomed to seeing our fair share of videos that are, to put it politely, extraordinary. (To put it impolitely: batshit insane.) Usually these videos result from the collision of wild creativity with meager indie label video budgets: Who can forget Los Pakines de Perú’s heavily narcotized Ed Wood fever dream for “Vacia,” which featured ghostly visions of a dude in a goblin mask playing the trumpet, as well as some ex-lovebirds smearing one another with frosting? That was not a rhetorical question. PLEASE TELL ME WHO CAN FORGET THAT VIDEO, so I can consult them before I wake up screaming again tonight.
Today’s extraordinary video is something different. For one thing, it wasn’t cheap. The song that sits at #12 on this week’s Mexican radio chart features not one but three big stars, a cast of dozens (at least), a norteño band and an R&B band, and serious Fonovisa/Universal money behind it. True, not much happens in the video — it’s a performance re-enactment, not one of those Trakalosa epics where the hero spends years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit until one day the stars cross and he shivs the real villain with a crucifix in the cafeteria. (I only made up the shiv.) But at the same time, you can tell it took some doing. The abundant video cutting suggests either a multitude of takes or an editor who was way overthinking the job; and Los Pakines could finance another video with Juan Gabriel’s eyeliner budget alone.
That’s right, it’s the new song by Juan Gabriel, a remake of his 1980 12-bar blues “La Frontera,” featuring the continent’s best singer Julión Álvarez and reggaeton sensation J. Balvin. It also features a black gospel choir, who are annoyingly uncredited and whose presence here makes about as much sense as Andráe Crouch’s choir in “Man In the Mirror.” With its genre mashing and its five-minute running time, its profligacy and its nonsense, “La Frontera” is basically the pan-Latino version of Macklemore’s “Downtown” video. (Confession: I really like Macklemore’s “Downtown” video.) Also in its favor: a four-bar breakdown for tuba and funk guitar and an impeccably tiled studio wall. Against it: “La Frontera” is way too chipper a song, and both Gabriel and Álvarez are muggier than a summer day at the actual frontera. But still, you should watch this video before you die, if only out of solidarity with my eyeballs.
“La Frontera” appears to be the lead single for Gabriel’s forthcoming Los Dúo 2 album, wherein Gabriel will remake his songs with a panoply of Latin superstars — presumably the ones he didn’t hire for the first edition of Los Dúo, a hit earlier this year that gave Gabriel his best opening sales week of 22,000 units. He’s got plenty of songs to choose from. According to Billboard‘s Ayala Ben-Yehuda in a 2010 interview,
He’s written a large swath of the contemporary Latin music songbook: His label puts the number at roughly 1,000 compositions, covered by everyone from superstar rock act Maná to reality-show contestants. To the Latin world, he’s a combination of Frank Sinatra, Burt Bacharach and Liberace. Add a dose of mystery – he performs live but rarely gives interviews or appears on TV – as well as catchy songs laced with drama and wit, and you have a multigenerational household name.
Also notable on this week’s chart: Gerardo Ortiz’s really pretty good “Fuiste Mia” tops the chart, and Recoditos’ really pretty drunk “Pistearé” is at #4. Some new ballads aren’t notable.
These are the Top 20 “Popular” songs in Mexico, as measured by monitorLATINO. Don’t confuse “Popular” with the “General” list, which contains many of the same songs but also “Locked Away,” the ubiquitous “Hello,” Calvin Harris/Disciples’ “How Deep Is Your Love”, and Paty Cantú’s power ballad “Valiente,” which shoots for galvanizing and ends up sounding kind of nice, like Sara Bareilles’s “Brave.” (Which is better than shooting for galvanizing and ending up a steaming trash heap of clichés and strained singing, like Katy Perry’s “Roar.”)
1. “Fuiste Mia” – Gerardo Ortiz
2. “La Gripa” – Calibre 50
3. “Ya Te Perdi La Fe” – Arrolladora
4. “Pistearé” – Banda Los Recoditos
5. “Pregúntale” – Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa de Monterrey
6. “¿Por Qué Me Ilusionaste?” – Remmy Valenzuela
7. “El Viejon” – La Adictiva Banda San Jose
8. “La Miel de Su Saliva” – Banda El Recodo
9. “Sonrie” – Duelo
10. “Solo Con Verte” – Banda MS
11. “¿Y Qué Ha Sido De Ti?” – Chuy Lizárraga
12. “La Frontera” – Juan Gabriel ft. J. Balvin and Julión Álvarez
13. “Quien Que Crees Tú” – Banda Los Sebastianes
14. “Hoy Toca” – Alfredo Ríos El Komander
15. “Si Te Enamoras De Mi” – Diego Herrera
16. “Tu Cárcel (En Vivo)” – Los Tigres Del Norte ft. Marco Antonio Solís
17. “Moneda Sin Valor” – Pesado
18. “Ginza” – J. Balvin
19. “Te Cambio El Domicilio” – Banda Carnaval
20. “Típico Clásico” – Luis Antonio Lopez “El Mimoso”
“El Hijo del Ingeniero” – La Septima Banda
“Mi Niña Adorada” – Saul “El Jaguar”
“La Peda” – Banda Los Recoditos
“Sonando Despierto” – Banda Cuisillos
“Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro
“Maquillaje” – Luz María
“Pongámonos de Acuerdo” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda
“Piénsalo” – Banda MS