2016-copia

Regional Mexican music had as good a year in 2015 as any other style of popular music, but you wouldn’t know it from any music magazine’s year-end coverage. This Mexican-American radio format is only one small musical laboratory within the vast complex of U.S. pop; but figured by their percentages, norteño, banda, cumbia, and Tejano bands released as many great, vibrant singles and albums as their peers in other popular music subgenres. Yet good luck finding this music on year-end lists. Even at Billboard, which provides the best English-language coverage of Mexican music, the list of Top 10 Latin Albums contains only one (very good) regional Mexican album, which came out in 2014. None of the magazine’s Top 10 Latin Songs represent Mexican regional styles. (Shoutout to the New York Times’ Ben Ratliff, though, for getting Remmy Valenzuela’s “¿Por Qué Me Ilusionaste?” into the paper of record.) And never mind year-end coverage — this fun, fascinating music rarely gets covered throughout the year in mainstream publications, although NPR and Annie Correal in the Times are notable exceptions. As is The Singles Jukebox, where Josh writes and where the editors and writers share an expansive definition of “pop.”

This is pop music, dammit! MILLIONS OF AMERICANS LISTEN TO IT.

(An appropriate YouTube playlist to accompany that claim.)

That leaves the job to NorteñoBlog. At the moment we’re only two men, so we can’t know how all the popular music subgenres are doing, and it’s entirely possible that K-pop or metal or something had a better 2015 batting average. But the more we delve into this music — Manuel primarily as a compiler and curator, Josh primarily as a music writer — the more depth and surprises we find. This format of “Regional Mexican” contains several genres with a wild variety of instrumentation. Its musicians continue to mess around with different rhythmic attacks and song forms. Their songs cover the gamut of emotional experience, sometimes within one deftly written song. Take Billboard‘s favorite norteño album of the year, the late Ariel Camacho’s 2014 release El Karma, which enjoyed(?) renewed popularity after Camacho died in February. Camacho’s music, a mix of corridos and love songs played by two guitars and a lead tuba, was not the likeliest candidate to produce a radio hit. Yet it did, and its haunting, fatalistic title single — already a minor hit before Camacho’s death — became the first ever narcocorrido to hit #1 on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Singles chart. Josh wrote about the whole strange story at Pitchfork, with valuable interview assistance from Manuel, and that article wouldn’t have existed without research that began at this blog.

Frankly, the regional Mexican music industry doesn’t need NorteñoBlog, and it might not need music criticism in general. The musicians and labels are doing quite well on their own. Bands tour every week, generally three shows every weekend to sold-out crowds of mostly Mexican-American fans; YouTube videos rack up millions of hits as a matter of course; albums don’t sell much, but whose do? (Besides Adele’s and Taylor’s.) The best source I know for Spanish-language coverage, Triunfo magazine, features thorough new-release listings and occasionally eye-opening interviews, but its fawning editorial style is nobody’s idea of “criticism.” I’ve found little evidence that listeners in Regional Mexican’s core fanbase — those who aren’t industry professionals — care to read extended commentary on their favorite artists, no matter which language it’s written in.

But still… NorteñoBlog’s readership has grown steadily over the past year, and December was our most-read month yet. Even if the industry doesn’t need this blog to promote its music, maybe some fans of Regional Mexican, or of new pop music and music writing, need it: to find out what’s good and what’s not, to see where Mexico’s regional music fits into the pop scene today and historically, and most of all, to find excuses to argue and joke around and think. As with many writing endeavors, this blog is an experiment to see what other people respond to. I’m convinced that, as long as there’s popular music, people will gravitate to places like NorteñoBlog — if not to Make Sense Of It All, then just for the sheer pleasure of thoughtful chitchat and goofing around. The blog’s New Year’s resolution is to provide more of both. And — in Josh’s case — to make it through a couple Spanish workbooks.

Besides the wonderful musicians and the teams of people who get it out to the masses, muchas gracias to everyone who’s found the site and stuck around to read more, and especially to those who’ve commented — you can learn as much from those comments as you can from the blog! And finally…

LO MEJOR DE 2015

14 VALE LA PENA ALBUMS
Marco Flores y #1 Banda Jerez – Soy El Bueno (Remex)
Roberto Tapia – Diferente (Fonovisa)
Laura Denisse – Sigo Enamorada (Con Banda) (Fonovisa)
Banda Cohuich – No Te Equivoques (Pegasus compilation)
El Komander – Detrás del Miedo (Twiins)
Colmillo Norteño – A Quien Corresponda (Remex EP)
La Maquinaria Norteña – Ya Dime Adiós (Azteca/Fonovisa)
Julion Alvarez y Su Norteno Banda – El Aferrado (Fonovisa)
Banda Costado – Chilenas de Oaxaca (Talento)
Gerardo Ortiz – Hoy Mas Fuerte (Del/Sony)
Brazeros Musical – Con Sabor a Banda (Skalona)
Maria Belem – Orgullo de Tierra Caliente (Alternativa Representa, S.A. de C.V./Prodisc)
Remmy Valenzuela – Mi Princesa (Fonovisa)
Javier Rosas – Otro Golpe (Fonovisa 2013 reissue)

10 MORE GOOD ALBUMS
Cave of Swimmers – Reflection (Cave of Swimmers)
Rudresh Mahanthappa – Bird Calls (ACT)
Rae Sremmurd – Sremm Life (Eardruma/Interscope)
Cam – Welcome to Cam Country (Sony EP)
Various – Next Stop Soweto 4: Zulu Rock, Afro-Disco and Mbaqanga 1975-1985 (Strut compilation)
Europe – War of Kings (Hell & Back/UDR)
Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Epicenter (Clean Feed)
Julia Wolfe – Anthracite Fields (Cantaloupe)
Eric Church – Mr. Misunderstood (EMI Nashville)
Kat Dahlia – My Garden (Vested In Culture/Epic)

20 VALE LA PENA SINGLES
Colmillo Norteño – “La Plebona” (Remex)
Banda Cohuich – “Son Kora Kau Te Te Kai Nie Ni (Dialecto Huichol)” (Pegasus)
Laura Denisse – “Sigo Enamorada” (Fonovisa)
Marco A. Flores y Su Numero Uno Banda Jerez – “Amor de la Vida Alegre” (Garmex)
Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes Del Rancho – “Te Metiste” (Del/Sony)
Natalia Jiménez – “Quédate Con Ella” (Sony)
Grupo El Reto ft. Alta Consigna – “La Parranda Va a Empezar” (Gerencia 360/Sony)
Duelo – “Veneno” (La Bonita)
El Komander – “El Tacoma” (Twiins)
El Komander – “Hoy Toca” (Twiins)
Rocío Quiroz – “La De La Paloma” (Ser)
Banda Cuisillos – “Cerveza” (Musart/Balboa)
Colmillo Norteño ft. Los BuKnas de Culiacán – “La Invitación” (Go)
El Komander – “Fuga Pa’ Maza” (Twiins)
Grupo Cañaveral ft. Jenny and the Mexicats – “Tiene Espinas el Rosal (En Vivo)” (Fonovisa)
Shalia Dúrcal – “No Me Interesa” (EMI)
La Trakalosa de Monterrey ft. Pancho Uresti – “Adicto a la Tristeza” (Remex)
Leandro Ríos ft. Pancho Uresti – “Debajo Del Sombrero” (Remex)
Banda El Recodo – “Mi Vicio Más Grande” (Disa)
Banda Los Recoditos – “La Peda” (Fonovisa)

10 MORE GOOD SINGLES
Los Teke Teke – “Me Dite Duro” (Leo)
Sam Hunt – “House Party” (MCA Nashville)
Nicki Minaj ft. Drake and Lil Wayne – “Truffle Butter” (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic)
Sia – “Elastic Heart” (Monkey Puzzle/RCA)
Dan + Shay – “Nothin’ Like You” (Warner Bros. Nashville)
Susanne Sundfør – “Delirious” (EMI Norway)
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee & Grandmaster Caz – “Downtown” (Macklemore)
Miguel – “Coffee”
Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon” (RCA Nashville)
AB Soto – “Cha Cha Bitch”

¡Feliz 2016!

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