Every year on his syndicated radio show “Country Classics,” DJ Rick Jackson compiles a playlist called “Creepy Country.” He claims to do this in honor of Halloween, but I know he’s really observing All Souls’ Day, since most of the songs are about death. And every year I’m amazed at the full spectrum of Death Takes available to country listeners: doomed (“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”), hard-ass (“Delia’s Gone”), gleeful (“Goodbye Earl”), mawkish (“Paper Rosie”), legit heartswelling (“Riding With Private Malone”), campy creepy (any number of songs about people having conversations/dinner/sex with trucker ghosts), and just plain making fun of the whole enterprise (Steve Goodman’s deathless cover of “Strange Things Happen In This World” — “Undaunted, our hero plunges on!” — which, OK, wasn’t any kind of country hit, but Jackson still spun it one year). I shouldn’t be amazed. Death being even more universal than love, it makes sense that country singers would confront all the spectre’s faces, from sublime to ridiculous.

Same with norteño singers; maybe especially the same with narco singers. Narco singers sing about drug traffickers. Drug traffickers obsess about death for a living — how to avoid it, how to cause it, the value of lives and what happens when those lives end. Stands to reason that narcos, as depicted in song, would meditate extensively upon death and give varying answers to those questions. I won’t pretend this is anything other than a spooky coincidence, but the best songs on the U.S. hit parade this Día de Muertos capture several such meditations.

NorteñoBlog first noticed “Vengo a Aclarar,” the second narcocorrido hit for man-myth-legend El Fantasma, when it entered the radio chart way back in June. It remains in the top 10 thanks to an irresistible tune, shaggy brass charts, and some vivid character study. El Fantasma rasps in the persona of someone named “El Orejón,” whom a Hasty Cartel Google reveals to be a real dude. As always, the Blog turns to corridos for life lessons more than factual exactitude or specific (Gulf) cartel allegiances. Our antihero’s hardscrabble origins have taught him that “el oficio no importa, solo la humilidad” — the job doesn’t matter, only humility. Pretty sure that’s what Jesus was getting at when he said, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.” I’ll see myself to the stake now.

Also like Jesus, El Fantasma’s narrator has love for the underdog — in his case, two cholo primos named Travieso and Slick — and finds himself singing among a great company of a thousand saints looking down on him from heaven. This is pop-bro spirituality in the vein of “See You Again” or “I’ll Be Missing You,” opened up to include a great cloud of witnesses. Of course, El Orejón might very well be responsible for killing some of those witnesses, so your sympathy may vary, but it’s a compelling portrait anyway.

comere calladoEven less sympathetic than El Orejón might be Palma Salazar, a Sinaloa Cartel honcho accused of killing several people, including a Catholic Cardinal and a human rights investigator. Sinaloan pride and KeepItReal-itis being what they are, Gerardo Ortiz has dedicated his latest single to this dude’s exploits. Translation caveats apply, but I’m pretty sure “Palma Salazar”‘s narrator is singing about his friend from heaven, where he has appeared with the help of a wayward blowtorch.

As always with Ortiz, the song’s main draw is its spectacular music, played by the best musicians he and DEL Records can afford. In particular, the bass/drum interplay here is smooth yet tumbling, laying a bed of perpetual tumult for Ortiz’s melody. The video, released today, elides many of the more complicated details of Salazar’s life, depicting him as a simple DEA-evading folk hero rather than a killer who’s been arrested twice. But moral ambiguity is sort of the price of admission with this stuff; and as a bonus, the guy playing Salazar in the video looks like Eric Church. Pick to Click:

Coming in at #40 on the radio is corridero and noted Christian gun enthusiast Kanales, singing “Casitas de Cojoyo,” an ode to Guadalajara Cartel boss Caro Quintero. Musically, it’s a catchy little sierreño waltz, with guitar and tuba chasing one another up and down their scales, or locking into swinging syncopations. Lyrically, Quintero and Kanales adhere to the “God helps those who help themselves” school of narco philosophy. As Kanales sings in the opening verse of this proverb-heavy song, “He who knows how to do things asks God for very little, and doesn’t go bothering saints.” It’s a stark rebuttal to El Fantasma, who sees dead people everywhere he goes; it may even represent a refusal of the whole idea of Día de Muertos.

“Meditate if it suits you,” Kanales-as-Quintero advises in the final verse; “I’m the narco of narcos. You already know what’s coming.”

These are the top 50 Hot Latin Songs and top 40 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published November 4.

1. “Mi Gente” – J. Balvin & Willy William
2. “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber (40 weeks!)
3. “Escapate Conmigo” – Wisin ft. Ozuna (30 weeks!)
4. “Felices Los 4” – Maluma (26 weeks!)
5. “Mayores” – Becky G ft. Bad Bunny
6. “Bailame” – Nacho (26 weeks!)
7. “Corrido de Juanito” – Calibre 50 (#1 RegMex)
8. “Bonita” – Jowell & Randy & J. Balvin
9. “Criminal” – Natti Natasha x Ozuna
10. “Ahora Me Llama” – Karol G x Bad Bunny

11. “Perro Fiel” – Shakira ft. Nicky Jam
12. “Tu Foto” – Ozuna (25 weeks!)
13. “Vuelve” – Daddy Yankee & Bad Bunny
14. “Imitadora” – Romeo Santos
15. “Como Antes” – Yandel ft. Wisin
16. “Me Rehuso” – Danny Ocean (26 weeks!)
17. “Probablamente” – Christian Nodal ft. David Bisbal (#2 RegMex)
18. “Krippy Kush” – Farruko, Bad Bunny & Rvssian
19. “Robarte Un Beso” – Carlos Vives & Sebastian Yatra
20. “Reggaeton Lento” – CNCO & Little Mix (46 weeks!)

21. “Que Va” – Alex Sensation + Ozuna
22. “Bella y Sensual” – Romeo Santos ft. Nicky Jam & Daddy Yankee
23. “Almost Like Praying” – Lin-Manuel Miranda ft. Artists for Puerto Rico
24. “Si Tu La Ves” – Nicky Jam ft. Wisin
25. “Las Cosas No Se Hacen Asi” – Banda MS
26. “El Farsante” – Ozuna
27. “Se Preparo” – Ozuna
28. “Luna Llena” – Malu Travejo
29. “Bebe” – Ozuna x Anuel AA
30. “No Le Hago Falta” – Banda Los Recoditos (#8 RegMex)

31. “Vengo a Aclarar” – El Fantasma y Banda Populares del Llando (#5 RegMex)
32. “Corona de Rosas” – Kevin Ortiz ft. Ulices Chaidez (#9 RegMex)
33. “Ni Tu Ni No” – Jennifer Lopez ft. Gente de Zona
34. “Explicale” – Yandel ft. Bad Bunny
35. “3 A.M” – Jesse & Joy ft. Gente de Zona
36. “Sobredosis” – Romeo Santos ft. Ozuna
37. “Una Lady Como Tu” – Manuel Turizo
38. “Quedate Conmigo” – Chyno Miranda ft. Wisin & Gente de Zona
39. “Loco Enamorado” – Remmy Valenzuela (#12 RegMex)
40. “El Color de Tus Ojos” – Banda MS (#3 RegMex)

41. “Esa Boquita” – J Alvarez
42. “Si No Estas Tu” – Banda La Misma Tierra
43. “Como No Adorarla” – Banda Carnaval (#4 RegMex)
44. “Rafa Caro” – T3R Elemento (#29 RegMex)
45. “Te Acuerdas de Mi” – Plan B
46. “No Quiere Enamorarse” – Ozuna ft. Daddy Yankee
47. “Loco Enamorado” – Abraham Mateo, Farruko & Christian Daniel
48. “Ayer y Hoy” – Banda el Recodo (#7 RegMex)
49. “Te Perdono” – Intocable (#6 RegMex)
*50. “No Te Pido Mucho” – Alta Consigna (#24 RegMex)

“Chantaje” – Shakira ft. Maluma (46 weeks!)
“El Amante” – Nicky Jam (35 weeks!)
“Ahora Dice” – Chris Jeday Presenta J Balvin, Ozuna & Arcángel
“Me Enamoré” – Shakira
“La Rompe Corazones” – Daddy Yankee x Ozuna
“Hey DJ” – CNCO & Yandel
“Tu Sabes Que Te Quiero” – Chucho Flash & Arcangel
“Quiereme” – Jacob Forever ft. Farruko


10. “Yo No Tengo Remedio” – Pesado

11. “Porque No Te Enamoras” – Joss Favela
*13. “Palma Salazar” – Gerardo Ortiz
14. “Recordando a Manuel” – Lenin Ramirez ft. Gerardo Ortiz & Jesus Chairez
15. “Porque Me Enamore” – Ulices Chaidez y Sus Plebes
*16. “Me Está Doliendo El Alma” – La Original Banda el Limón
17. “La Suerte” – Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho
18. “Que Siga Lloviendo” – Duelo
19. “La Receta” – Los Rieleros del Norte
20. “Tal Como Eres” – Luis Coronel

21. “En Definitiva” – Alfredo Olivas
*22. “No Me Hubiera Enamorado” – Cornelio Vega y Su Dinastia
23. “Desde Que La Vi” – Los de la Noria
25. “A Mover el Bote” – Los Tucanes de Tijuana
*26. “Pude Haber Sido Yo” – Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa
*27. “Mi Vida Eres Tu” – Virlan Garcia
28. “Ya No Sera en Tu Boca” – Nano Machado
*30. “Batallandole” – Enigma Norteña ft. La Séptima Banda

31. “Vamos a Darnos un Tiempo” – Roberto Tapia
*32. “Caso Perdido” – La Maquinaria Norteña
33. “El Taxista” – La Energía Norteña
34. “Se Vinieron Los Problemas” – Noel Torres
35. “Los Viejitos” – Marco Flores y La Numero 1 Banda Jerez
36. “Solo Dejame Besarte” – Los Huracanes del Norte
37. “Si Te Vas Ya No Regresas” – Jesus Mendoza
*38. “Que Me Amas” – Siggno
*39. “Ni Diablo Ni Santo” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda
*40. “Casitas de Cojoyo” – Kanales

“El Desayuno” – Banda la Misma Tierra
“Que Esta Pasando” – Banda la Misma Tierra
“Las Ultras” – Calibre 50
“Esta Noche Se Me Olvida” – Julión Álvarez y su Norteño Banda (#6 RegMex)
“Sería Un Error” – Regulo Caro
“Por Obvias Razones” – La Maquinaria Norteña
“El Amor de Mi Vida” – Raul Casillas
“Sinceramente” – Alta Consigna
“Cruz de Madera” – Leandro Ríos ft. Isaías Lucero
“Esperando Mi Juicio” – Virlan Garcia
“Me Mato” – Norteño 4.5
“Por Enamorarme” – Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho
“Lo Bueno y Lo Malo” – Voz de Mando