To hear Billboard‘s Leila Cobo tell it, singer-songwriter-producer Pepe Aguilar changed the industry of Regional Mexican music. Known for his giant sombreros and even bigger romantic mariachi ballads, this son of ranchera star Antonio Aguilar started his career as a rocker, he told Cobo in 2004:

Q: So what does a regional Mexican singer know about rock?

A: You should have met me when I had an earring and long hair! I recorded a rock album in 1987, before recording rancheras. Rock has been my inspiration and my best weapon. My Mexican music sounds the way it sounds because of rock. I produce and write everything I do musically based in rock.

Q: What happened with that album?

A: It flopped [laughs].

In 2012, Cobo credited Aguilar with essentially creating a new radio format. “Thanks directly to Aguilar’s contemporary readings on traditional music, radio stations that had never played mariachi opened up to the genre and, to this day, ‘romantic Mexican music’ is the programming base of dozens of stations around the country.” The closest Chicago comes to that format is Amor 106.7, where Pepe Aguilar is indeed a “core artist” but they also play bachata and Enrique. The point is, Aguilar’s traditional music has always had an element of crossover, and you can hear that in his latest banda single “María”, sitting at #9 this week on the Mexican chart.

“María” flaunts Aguilar’s crossover pedigree. With its pounding cumbia beat, its minor-key chord progression, and Aguilar’s seductive (and often multitracked) croak, it sounds like a stadium football banger filtered through a banda. It’s telling that Aguilar’s aside of choice is a grunted “hungggh!”, rather than the banda singer’s typical falsetto gritos. Add to that the high-concept video, where Aguilar stalks the nighttime city streets dressed all in black, eyes hidden behind intimidating sunglasses, using his magical touch to turn homeless women and whores into respectable ladies who dance around in bright primary colors. (One of them evangelizes some street toughs — this is the kind of retrograde video symbolism that inspires people to resurrect the term “street toughs” — who then paint a respectable wall mural. Of “María,” I guess.) Even in the most elaborate and sexist banda videos, singers rarely paint themselves as saviors. Whether lovers, cuckolds, protesters, or well-connected men about town, they belong to the scenes they depict. Aguilar here presents himself as savior and transformer, a transcendent figure — just as he sees himself within the regional Mexican scene?

Since the song sounds pretty good, we’ll let him think that if he wants. Pick to Click!

In other news, Fidel Rueda, who’s taken to releasing his own music and videos, is in at #17 with “Sin Pelos En La Lengua,” a so-so banda ballad about a complaining mujer and her bipolar corazón. The interesting part is the video. Rueda collaborated with Global Publicidad and Talento Lider to make it, and it’s got all this cool shit — the camera swoops through the air over precarious canyon drops, follows the path of a thrown rock, makes the drink thrown into Rueda’s face slow down:


I mean, I don’t know anything about special fx so maybe eso no es nada nuevo, but I was impressed. Talento Lider attributes all this to their use of the PHANTOM CAMERA (dun dun DUNNNNNH!), which they also used in Adictiva‘s “Muchas Gracias” video. You remember that video because IT MADE THE RAIN SLOW DOWN. Back in 2011, they did another Rueda video, “Me Encantaria,” in 3-D. Gangster Rueda goes to a casino and falls for the lady cop sent to arrest him, so there’s all this stuff comin’ at you: dice, gunfire, breasts. I don’t know how you actually watch it in 3-D, but I appreciate the gesture.

And the second Pick to Click contender this week is at #8: Tierra Sagrada’s “El Shot,” which is not a remake of Recoditos’ superior “Shot”, and which in fact feels a little rote, but I might just be too cranky and/or sober to dig it at the moment. It’s got lots of fast words and precise licks and would be totally unplayable if these guys had downed as many shots as they claim. The single-chord chorus speeds up the word “Shot” like a flip book until everything becomes a blur.

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 “Stressed Out,” “Work,” that remake of “Fast Car,” and and ultra-catchy former Pick to Click by Jesse & Joy, ft. the rasp of Alejandro Sanz, at #2.

1. “Solo Con Verte” – Banda MS
2. “Tragos de Alcohol” – Alfredo Ríos El Komander
3. “Supiste Hacerme Mal” – Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa de Monterrey
4. “Espero Con Ansias” – Remmy Valenzuela
5. “Me Complementas” – Arrolladora
6. “El Borrachito” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda
7. “Préstamela a Mí” – Calibre 50
8. “El Shot” – Banda Tierra Sagrada
9. “María” – Pepe Aguilar
10. “Me Empezó a Valer” – La Séptima Banda

11. “Que No Te Sorprenda” – Claudio Alcaraz
12. “Tu Mentira” – Luis Antonio Lopez “El Mimoso”
13. “Si No Es Contigo” – Banda El Recodo
14. “Todo o Nada” – Alfredo Olivas
15. “A Veces” – Espinoza Paz
16. “Amarte Es Hermoso” – Los Huracanes Del Norte
17. “Sin Pelos En La Lengua” – Fidel Rueda
18. “Pistearé” – Banda Los Recoditos
19. “Mente Degenerada” – El Bebeto
20. “Se Me Olvido Quererte” – Banda Los Sebastianes

“Suele Pasar” – Banda Pequeños Musical
“Hablemos” – Ariel Camacho
“El Viejón” – La Adictiva Banda San Jose
“Te Quise Olvidar” – Juan Gabriel ft. Alejandro Fernández
“Fuiste Mia” – Gerardo Ortiz
“En Qué Cabeza Cabe” – Banda Carnaval
“Tu Cárcel (En Vivo)” – Los Tigres Del Norte ft. Marco Antonio Solís
“Ya Te Perdí La Fé” – Arrolladora