Lovelorn bounces and classic fanfares, old hats and new jacks, and early work by one of the most influential production duos of the past two decades, any genre: these were Billboard‘s top 10 Regional Mexican songs on May 19, 2001.
1. “No Te Podias Quedar” – Conjunto Primavera (#4 Hot Latin)
The pride of Ojinaga, the gas-guzzling romantics of the road, Primavera scored their fifth Hot Latin top 10 with this soppy contribution from their go-to songwriter Jesús Guillén. Sometimes songwriters just find a niche, and Guillén was put on this earth to write soaring climaxes for the cavernous throat of Tony Melendez, the continent’s best singer before Primavera’s output dropped off and Julión Álvarez came along. The song itself barely exists.
2. “Y Llegaste Tú” – Banda El Recodo (#6 Hot Latin)
In 2001, after 60 years of playing brass band shows to adoring but limited audiences, Recodo was enjoying the public’s newfound vogue for banda music and their first gold album. A couple years earlier, they’d begun hiring producer brothers Adolfo and Omar Valenzuela, aka Los Twiins, aka the bankrollers of El Movimiento Alterado later in the decade. (El Komander still records for them.) The brothers had their identical fingers on the pulse of the youth, and in this song they led Recodo toward a sound that blanketed the airwaves all year, and then for years afterward — a newly written Noel Hernandez song that sounded trad yet vibrant, with a arrangement that turned contrasting instrumental sections into hooks. Plus, “We’ve learned how to really tune the banda,” said Omar, “which [in the past] maybe wasn’t really done.” Progress! Pick to Click!
3. “Me Declaro Culpable” – Los Tigres del Norte (#13 Hot Latin)
Sad limericks of lost love — with sax!
4. “El Amor Soñado” – Los Tucanes de Tijuana (#12 Hot Latin)
The hardcore corrideros had long known that dance and romance were their tickets onto the charts, and prolific frontman Mario Quintero Lara gave them the material to stay there. Craft fair synths propelled this ballad to top the radio chart for six weeks. I prefer the song that opens its album, an organ-driven NRBQ-esque party tune called “Me Gusta Vivir de Noche,” in which MQL denies the persistent rumors that he is a vampire.
5. “Despreciado” – Lupillo Rivera (#15 Hot Latin)
The story, as told by Leila Cobo in a 2002 Billboard, goes like this: Raised in southern California, Rivera was listening to Chalino Sanchez when all his Mexican-American friends were listening to rap. When he started performing corridos, kids would tell him they couldn’t buy his CDs because their nervous parents didn’t allow corridos in the house. So for his Sony debut album, Rivera kept his flashy gangster-caballero look but recorded a banda album of old songs, like this Javier Solis chestnut, baiting both generations at once. They bit. Cobo wrote: “The strategy worked, and ‘Despreciado’ hit Billboard’s Hot Latin Tracks chart, while Despreciado, the album, has remained on the Billboard Latin Albums chart since its release, even though Rivera has released three other albums.”
Banda fans trying to demarcate old from new schools should listen to “Despreciado” back to back with Recodo’s “Y Llegaste Tú,” above. Rivera’s brass mostly sticks to oom-pah-pahs, with some simple tuba and tutti fills, and everyone crescendos out of the choruses. Recodo’s arrangement is far more complex, with syncopated stabs, more counterpoint, and something new happening in practically every other bar. I’m not saying such things never happened during the previous 60 years — only that Recodo’s style is the one our ears hear as “modern” and “pop,” while Rivera’s aura was “a hip guy doing traditional music.”
Also, did this ever happen? “Sony is exploring the possibility of a special project with the songs of Javier Solis — one of Rivera’s idols — in which Rivera records duets with Solis using Solis’ old recordings.” Because it would have been UNFORGETTABLE. I’ll see myself out now.
6. “Amame” – Rogelio Martinez (#16 Hot Latin)
To follow his chart topping debut single, a Shania Twain cover on an independent label that spent a record 43 weeks climbing to #1, Martinez released “Amame,” which somehow manages to be even poppier than Shania. It, like, modulates and stuff. And — would you believe it — this song was also produced by the Valenzuela twins, just like Recodo. HMMMMM.
7. “Y Sigues Siendo Tu” – Rogelio Martinez (dropped off Hot Latin)
Speaking of… (The garish opening brass on this still makes me laugh. That’s a good thing.)
8. “Ni Que Valieras Tanto” – El Poder del Norte (#24 Hot Latin)
Brothers from Monterrey say sorry-not-sorry if their words offend you, YOU CHEATER WHO DROVE THEM TO DRINK. This is straight up romantic norteño lope, albeit at the opposite end of the reverb spectrum from Los dry-as-dust Tigres.
9. “Enséñame a Olvidarte” – Intocable (#26 Hot Latin)
A droning introduction transforms into the trademark Intocable bounce, with René Martínez rolling the beats off his snare, as though stacking a fortress to fend off heartache and tears.
10. “Qué Me Vas a Dar” – Arrolladora (#27 Hot Latin)
They weren’t quite Jenni Rivera, who’d record Ramón Ortega’s banda classic for her 2005 breakthrough, but the singer’s (Jorge Medina’s?) scathing high vowels are enough to recommend Arrolladora’s rendition.