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Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 11/22/17

espinoza

Welcome back to Songwriters’ Showcase, a not-at-all regular feature in which NorteñoBlog tries to muster some interest in the new songs on the Mexican radio chart, falls asleep in an office chair, and wakes up to find both lap cat and left foot asleep. Unable to move, the Blog faces two choices: pay bills or figure out who wrote the songs. The Blog chooses the marginally less depressing option.

tiempo recoditosAt #15 we find “Tiempo,” a romantic Banda Los Recoditos ballad written by Joss Favela, who’s capable of far more interesting work, both on his own and as a writer for hire. Here he depicts a lovelorn hombre begging a bored mujer for more time together. Their amor no ha terminado, you see, and he’s still got kisses on his labios, kisses that siguen esperando. We can only hope for an answer song where she curtly provides him with a rhyming dictionary.
NO VALE LA PENA

More labios haunt “Será Que Estoy Enamorado,” the latest sierreño-by-numbers ballad for Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, in at #8. Los Plebes, you’ll remember, left the late Camacho’s DEL Records hurling charges of “explotación.” They now record for indie label JG, where apparently they no longer have to credit their songwriters, because I can’t find a name associated with this thing anywhere. On the other hand, would you really want credit for this halfhearted attempt at tremulous amor? José Manuel López Castro’s affectless singing, sometimes an asset, just sounds bored, and even Irael Meza’s tuba sounds like it’s slinking towards the exit sign.
NO VALE LA PENA

espinoza paz chinguesAt #5 is the latest lost-love mariachi ballad from former baby-faced banda singer El Bebeto, “Seremos.” It was written and produced by Espinoza Paz, who has his own lost-love mariachi ballad, “No Me Friegues la Vida,” down at #14. In this case, Paz has wisely saved his best material for himself. “Seremos” is fine, a bittersweet and passive-aggressive “you’re gonna miss me” song, but there’s nothing passive about “No Me Friegues,” except that it really really would like to be called “No Me Chingues” if that wasn’t sure to chinga its airplay. (Recall Octavio Paz, no relation: “[Chingar] is a magical word.”) Besides being a good-humored cabron, Paz is a talented producer, and both these songs sound like breaths of fresh ranchera air, even incorporating accordion into their horn-and-string textures. Not sure whether he’s trying to bite Christian Nodal‘s “mariacheño” gimmick — but in any case, “No Me Chingues” is this week’s Pick to Click. The stately-smutty contrast puts it over the top.


Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 11/22/17”

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Desfile de Muertos 11/4/17

kanales

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.

vengo a aclararEL FANTASMA THUMPS CHEST FOR DEAD HOMIES:
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.
VALE LA PENA

GERARDO ORTIZ CHRONICLES KILLER FROM HEAVEN: Continue reading “Desfile de Muertos 11/4/17”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 10/24/17

enigma septima

“Probablemente,” “Corrido de Juanito,” and a whole lot of banda romance continue to color the Mexican airwaves; but hang around long enough and you might hear something más interesante.

batallandole-400x400At #9 we find the corrido quartet Enigma Norteño all hopped up on some profesor chiflado shit. “Batallándole (El Gordo Flubbers)” is a corrido celebrating the Good Life, occasioned by the illicit negocios of its narrator and shoved along by one of the Blog’s favorite hitmaking machines, La Séptima Banda. In Ernesto Barajas’s lyric, the narco narrator looks back on his hardscrabble origins serving hamburgers and selling Tercel plans, and waxes philosophical — “Sometimes you win and also lose yourself; today I won for being El Mono Verde.” For reference, recall Gerardo Ortiz’s kickass corrido “El Mono Verde”. Some Hasty Cartel Googling confuses the Blog, but also indicates “El Mono Verde” isn’t the same guy as “El Mono,” who was assassinated in 2015 and is therefore no longer winning.

At its core, this ode to drug trafficking competition is really a celebration of companionship, best expressed when Enigma and La Séptima stop trading lines to sing together, “En las helaaaaadas con camaraaaaaadas.” Well, OK, a celebration of companionship made possible through a morally suspect business. It’s basically the first half of Boogie Nights before 1980 comes along and everything goes to hell, or Flubber y El Profesor Chiflado before Robin Williams starts snorting the Flubber and becomes a monster to his wife and children. But until then, the combined bands bounce with the force of 20 bowling balls. PICK TO CLICK

If there’s one confusing hierarchical enterprise, dependent upon filthy lucre and violent acts of revenge, that I don’t really care to understand, it’s the cartel world. If there’s a second, it’s The Voice. My basic understanding is that The Voice, like its Mexican counterpart La Voz… México, is a four-step process:
Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 10/24/17”

Christian Nodal y Calibre 50 en la Jukebox

corrido de juanito

La semana pasada, los dos #1 éxitos más recente en la U.S. radio, “Regional Mexican” edición, recibieron la alabanza y la oprobrio de la Singles Jukebox. Particularmente con “Corrido de Juanito” de Calibre 50, Rebecca Gowns y Stephen Eisermann escribieron historias de sus familias y vecinos; me hicieron sentir orgulloso de escribir con ellos para el sitio.

Además, ¡escucha a Sparx!

Escribí:

Christian Nodal ft. David Bisbal – “Probablemente”
In the grand tradition of “Somethin’ Stupid,” a young boot-flaunting star teams up with a respected singer who’s twice as old to score a second #1 hit, in which the singers depict a let’s-say-undefined romantic relationship. There are differences, though. In “Probablemente,” teenaged Christian Nodal sounds at least twice as old as David Bisbal; “Probablemente” also has more accordion; but whoever played guitar for Frank and Nancy got to strum something less stupid than straight 8th notes the whole time.
NO VALE LA PENA

Calibre 50 – “Corrido de Juanito”
Despite its #MexicanoHastaElTope kicker, Calibre 50’s latest immigration story sounds more defeated than immediate precursors like Adriel Favela’s “Me Llamo Juan” (everyman comes to the U.S., struggles through poverty and odd jobs, starts successful company) or Calibre’s own “El Inmigrante” (everyman comes to the U.S., suffers various humiliations, starts successful string of “-ado” rhymes). It also sounds more defeated than Sparx’s chipper Clinton/Zedillo-era ranchera murder ballad, but we’ll say their “Corrido de Juanito” is not a precursor, at least until Calibre songwriter Edén Muñoz corrects me. The defeat resides partly in Muñoz’s melody, rising hopefully before collapsing into perpetual sighs; partly in the slow tempo and settled-in length, unusual for a radio corrido; but mostly in Juanito’s sadness at missing his family and feeling like an outsider everywhere, even around his own English-speaking, El Norte-born children.
VALE LA PENA

Los Reyes del Underground? Noel Torres, Los Plebes del Rancho, y El Fantasma en Desfile de Éxitos 9/30/17

noel torres laughing

Norteño, banda, sierreño, and the newfangled one-man genre of mariacheño have begun to claw their way back onto Billboard‘s Hot Latin chart — we’re up to 11 regional Mexican songs in the top 50 this week, from only eight four weeks ago. As they claw, it’s time for an installment of NorteñoBlog’s rarely repeated feature Record Label Report, mostly because this week’s most interesting songs are on indie labels, and I can’t think of anything else to write about.

Noel Torres - Se Vinieron Los Problemas-300x300ITEM! Hotshot accordion slinger Noel Torres has left the relative safety of the Sony-distributed Gerencia 360 label, instead opting for the ????-distributed wilds of his own NT label. The Blog has found no internet evidence of controversy or Los Plebes-style explotación driving Torres away from his previous label; but if you’re wondering why that “cien por cien norteño” followup to his last, fairly terrible banda album never materialized, this may explain why. Torres’s debut indie album La Vida a Mi Modo (NT) is not cien por cien norteño, but it’s about half and half, with someone’s hot lead guitar accompanying both norteño and banda arrangements, in the style of his previous wicked single “No Andan Cazando Venados.”

Torres’s newfound lack of commercial clout is evident, though. In 2016, the aforementioned banda album debuted at #2 on the Regional Mexican Albums chart; before that, La Balanza debuted at #1. NT dropped La Vida on August 4 and it has yet to chart; we’ll see if his pretty good narcocorrido single, the fake friends lament “Se Vinieron Los Problemas” (#39 at radio), helps matters. Dude can still play accordion, that’s for sure.

la suerte¡ÍT! Speaking of exploiting or not exploiting Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, they’ve got a couple radio songs out there right now. The better tune is the rags-to-riches narcocorrido “La Suerte,” the lead-off title track of their April album, released on the indie JG label. The narrator of “La Suerte” started at the bottom as an errand boy and now, with loyal friends handling his raw materials and offices in the Americas and Europe, has gone intercontinental if not ballistic. (“Nadie batalla conmigo,” he claims, and it is in your interest to believe him.) Israel Meza is the tuba player; like DEL Records’ Omar Burgos, Meza used to play with the late Ariel Camacho, and he’s got some real whack-a-mole solos between stanzas here, popping up to taunt the smoother guitar and vocals of his 20-year-old bandleader, José Manuel López Castro. Pick to Click!


Continue reading “Los Reyes del Underground? Noel Torres, Los Plebes del Rancho, y El Fantasma en Desfile de Éxitos 9/30/17”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/11/17

ulices chaidez women

First things first: our friends in Mexico, especially southern Mexico and the Gulf coast, are dealing with the twin destructive forces of a magnitude 8.1 earthquake and Hurricane Katia. People have lost family, friends, and homes in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Veracruz. If you can swing it, this website has a list of organizations, including the Red Cross and UNICEF, that can use your cash to help people recover from the destruction. Remember, Mexico has sent all kinds of help to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Now Mexico needs help; and since climate change doesn’t care whether we dig Tejano or huapango or (G-d save us) “Despacito,” now is a good time for us to practice dealing with its fallout. Climate change’s fallout, not “Despacito”‘s. Although feel free to help Puerto Rico out, too.

omar burgos delNow, on with the countdown! This past weekend in Chicago I was playing the radio game “ScanQuiz!”, where you hit “Scan” on the car radio and try to name each song you hear before the radio moves on to the next station. Besides being a superfun test of mettle, ScanQuiz! is also a good way to survey who’s broadly popular with radio listeners. Shawn Mendes and Imagine Dragons are always lurking somewhere. Led Zeppelin will never die. And tubist Omar Burgos, by virtue of playing with both versions of Los Plebes del Rancho and los Plebes de Ulices Chaidez, has created one of the most dominant instrumental sounds on Chicago radio. Scan for a half hour and you’re likely to hear a sierreño song, probably played by one of Burgos’s bands; but even if the tubist is someone else, his bandleader owes his popularity to Burgos’s late employer Ariel Camacho, whose own posthumous hits still pop up like White Walkers.

porque me enamoreBurgos and Chaidez are also doing well in Mexico, where this week their year-old song “Porque Me Enamore” ascends to #2. (In El Norte, the song is #1 at RegMex radio.) You can catch them in the very special video, both “recording” in the studio and offering support to a young lady at her chemo sessions. This is standard-issue sierreño prettiness, and not the most memorable example of the style, but you can see why it’s big. Chaidez sings with misty teenage sensitivity and just the hint of an edge to his voice, and Burgos propels the arrangement with an opening flourish, flutter tongue madness, cool little pendulumic swings into his notes — just an endless variety of ideas and effects, all of which enhance rather than disrupt the song. He’s got as much personality as any instrumentalist around. Teen music with inoffensive, cross-generational appeal — kind of like Shawn Mendes!

loco enamoradoBetter yet is the sierreño bass (not tuba) trio at #11. “Loco Enamorado” represents a new bandwagon leap for Remmy Valenzuela, whom the Blog has admired for his accordion chops and for the lovely rasp in his voice’s upper register. Here he’s playing rhythm guitar on a song about how crazy in love with you he is. Spare a listen for the lead requinto player, who executes a bunch of exciting flourishes that have inspired YouTube tutorials. (Spare also his name, if you know it, because I can’t figure out who the guy is.) I’d say Valenzuela’s voice alone would make any song worth hearing, but his NO VALE LA PENA followup banda single “Mi Amante” disproves that theory.  But in “Loco Enamorado,” his voice and some mean requinto picking sell an entirely decent romantic ballad that has the temerity to move back and forth between two different keys. Pick to Click!


Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/11/17”

La Gran Purga (Desfile de Éxitos 9/2/17)

t3r elemento

It would become known as the Great Purge of 2017. A complex cultural exchange, once teeming with diverse reflections of the human experience, suddenly found itself ruled by a simplistic dictator. Well, ok, not strictly a “dictator” — after all, the people bestowed upon this ruler unprecedented power. But what began as novelty soon turned to tedium, then oppression, as one by one anyone who didn’t resemble our fearless leader began to vanish. To explain away those who disappeared, there was always a reasonable enough excuse. They promoted violence rather than unity. They were part of the old order; there was no room for them in our new, more streamlined era. If they refused to conform to the new paradigm, more supple individuals could easily be found to take their places.

And THAT, amigos, is how we went from having 17 regional Mexican songs on Billboard‘s Hot Latin chart six weeks ago, to only eight-count-’em-eight this week.

17 was already low, but 8/50 is the lowest portion in NorteñoBlog’s almost three-year history. When I started following this particular desfile, eight out of the top 25 was on the low side. The culprit, I’ve hypothesized, is One Song To Rule Them All “Despacito,” which, due to its unprecedented bigness, is sweeping along other songs that have the good fortune to sound like “Despacito.” Sooner or later, once we impeach “Despacito” from its perilous perch, I predict some of the fine radio hits on the Regional Mexican chart will make their way back to Hot Latin, to leaven the eternal boot-stomp of the club bangers.

Hits like…

tal-como-eresLuis Coronel’s mid-tempo puppy-dog banda ballad “Tal Como Eres,” at #20 RegMex airplay, which, in typical Coronel fashion, exalts a woman whose boot he does not feel competent to lick, this time swiping a keening hook from Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” (“Can’t read my, can’t read myyyy…”) Thing is, this usually undistinguished singer has never keened so well, and the brass arrangement is overstuffed with flourishes of its own. You could argue Coronel pioneered the current wave of norteño teen idols, but this is the first time I’ve wondered whether I might enjoy a new Luis Coronel album. VALE LA PENA

Roberto Tapia - Vamos A Darnos Un TiempoEven better is #27, the breakup banda “Vamos a Darnos un Tiempo” by blog favorite Roberto Tapia, who sounds great whether he’s doing backbeat banda pop or more neo-trad waltzes. “Vamos” falls squarely into the latter category, and the guitar-laced horn charts are chunky and violent, blat against blat, the better to depict the emotional violence wreaked by the narrator and his mujer upon one another. Although, when Tapia sails into his upper register to mourn the good times, you never doubt that he at least wants to regret leaving her. Pick to Click!

corona de rosasSince NorteñoBlog has been NorteñoSlacking these past few weeks, a second Pick to Click is in order. At #38 we find two more teen idols, this time from the DEL Records stable of unquestionably well-treated and unexploited performers: Kevin Ortiz, the middling younger brother of Gerardo, and sierreño guitar hotshot Ulices Chaidez. They’re dueting on “Corona de Rosas,” a country-ish story song. A young muchacho leaves the farm to seek his fortune. When he returns home wearing his new, fancy clothes, he finds his padre has died, buried beneath the titular corona. That’s the whole song — but in that simplicity lies all the complexity of the immigration narrative, echoing the apostle Luke’s Prodigal Son story, and even chased with a bit of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” The guitar/horn rhythms of the enhanced sierreño band pull off the same simple/complex trick. Kevin’s best song yet:

Also interesting:
Continue reading “La Gran Purga (Desfile de Éxitos 9/2/17)”

More Women and Mariachi, Less “Despacito” on Mexican Radio

aliciavillarealNorteñoBlog’s summer doldrums continue on the U.S. Hot Latin chart, where there’s only one regional Mexican song in the top 25 — [Casey Kasem voice:] at #23, here’s Gerardo Ortiz with the worst song from his new album! [/Casey Kasem voice] — and only 11 in the entire top 50. This is a historical anomaly. We’ve seen plenty of periods with more norteño and banda songs stuffed into the top 25: witness this chart from 2016, with 13 such singles, and who can forget the mid-’90s Tejano boom? Plenty of people can, but that’s not the point. The point is, why now?

Old dude’s hypothesis: it’s the internet’s fault. [Casey Kasem shakes fist at sky: “Millennials! You’re not reaching for the stars!”] The Hot Latin chart bakes in three different methods of song consumption, weighted according to a top secret algorithm. Regional Mexican music still gets plenty of airplay, leading to a fair number of hat acts among the diverse entries on the Latin Airplay chart. It’s the other two factors — digital sales and online streaming — where norteño and banda acts are struggling to keep pace.

bastaNorteñoBlog’s theory, unsupported by data because I don’t have it, is that the unprecedented popularity of “Despacito” is benefitting songs that sound like “Despacito,” and those songs’ streaming numbers are overwhelming the songs that don’t sound like “Despacito.” With three billion views, “Despacito” is now the most-watched video in YouTube history, and that’s just the version without Bieber. Videos and songs that follow it on streaming services are like sitcoms that followed Friends in the ’90s — automatic ratings contenders. CNCO, “Mi Gente,” “Felices Los 4” are all getting chart boosts because they’re dembow-ish bangers, often with international crossover appeal, that get recommended by YouTube or appear with “Despacito” on Spotify playlists. No matter how many norteño fans stream Calibre 50’s lite beer jingle “Las Ultras” or the latest Banda MS ballad, regional Mexican songs simply can’t keep up.

Prediction: This too shall pass. Eventually, the popularity of “Despacito” will fade. (Judging by the two-year chart run of “Propuesta Indecente,” that could take a while.) Once that happens, we’ll see more regional Mexican songs back on the big U.S. chart. If not, NorteñoBlog promises to have an existential crisis.

¡Jajaja! Just kidding. Not when there’s still cool shit happening on the Mexican radio. This week the Mexican radio chart sees two overlapping boomlets: three songs led by women (I know that doesn’t seem like much, but trust me, around here it’s refreshing) and three mariachi songs.

Alicia Villarreal - Haz Lo Que QuierasCovering both bases are Alicia Villarreal, formerly of Grupo Límite and solo cumbia radness, and Ángela Aguilar singing a duet with her dad Pepe. Villarreal is singing an original high-drama number called “Haz Lo Que Quieras,” produced like much of her work by her husband, former Kumbia King Cruz Martínez.

tu sangre en mi cuerpoBracing stuff; but since I tend to take my schmaltz stirred rather than shaken, I prefer the Aguilars’ “Tu Sangre En Mi Cuerpo,” a frankly cloying remake of… someone’s parent-kid duet that I will someday request at my daughter’s wedding reception. [Casey Kasem voice: “Their relationship quickly became strained.”] (Note: the song’s authors are Jose Luis Ortega Castro, Thelma Ines De La Caridad Castaneda Pino, and Yessica Sandoval Pineda; just not sure who did the original version.) Like Vicente Fernandez’s “Estos Celos,” this tune hits all my smooth mariachi buttons: soaring voices and strings milking high notes for maximum emotion while the chugging beat makes them sound like they’re tossing off everything — notes, burdens, hats, whatever. It’s the sound of a breeze blowing wispy clouds across a flat blue sky. Pepe’s career is long and distinguished, but Angela has been a real revelation this year, with a warm and inviting voice that reminds me of Gloria Estefan’s. Their last duet, the big smart cumbia “Nada de Nada”, earned the Blog’s affection, and this one carries on the legacy. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “More Women and Mariachi, Less “Despacito” on Mexican Radio”

¡Ay Bandito! “Despacito” steals norteño’s chart thunder (Desfile de Éxitos 7/22/17)

despacito

Big news from Billboard is that our official Latin emissary to the pop world, the “Despacito” of Fonsi, Yankee, & Bieber (LLC), has a new notch to add to its chart belt.

siggno despacitoIt was already the first Spanish #1 single since “Macarena.” Now it’s the first non-English song to top the all around Radio Songs chart… ever. Or at least since that particular chart began in 1990. Back in 1996, “Macarena” only reached #6 on the radio. Los Lobos’ cover of “La Bamba” topped radio airplay back in 1987, but that was a different time with different algorithms that only took into account Top 40 radio. “Despacito” is topping both Top 40 and Latin radio, and the song’s coattails are spreading. (Watch for “Despacito”-themed Segway tours to sweep Puerto Rico.) Down at #31 on the Regional Mexican airplay chart, you’ll find the mascaraed-and-tattooed norteño softies Siggno playing their own cover version of “Despacito,” while rocking Metallica and Misfits t-shirts in the video. Guess whose version NorteñoBlog prefers:

Unfortunately, Siggno seems to be the only norteño act lifted by the rising tide of “Despacito” drool. Take a look at that Hot Latin chart below. Normally you’d see a couple norteño or banda songs in the top 10; the top 25 often contains ten to twelve regional Mexican acts. Now the top 16 songs are all reggaeton, bachata, or Shakira, a genre unto herself, with the first Mexican acts only sneaking in from #17-21. (Some comfort: there are 12 more of our guys — and they’re all guys — in the bottom 25.)

Billboard notes that Fonsi’s “Despacito” is not only swamping both Top 40 and Latin airplay, it’s selling and streaming the pants off every other Spanish-language song you care to name. This works out well for other, similar sounding songs. When you play “Despacito” on YouTube, the video channel helpfully chases it with another variation on “Despacito”‘s dembow rhythm — for instance, CNCO’s “Reggaeton Lento,” Maluma’s “Felices los 4,” or Shakira’s “Chantaje,” in whose video Shakira goes HAM by walking a pig through a convenience store. All those ancillary streams give their songs a chart boost. “Despacito” is never followed by Christian Nodal‘s gorgeous mariachi-pop “Adios Amor,” which hung out in the Hot Latin top 10 for the first half of the year, or any other regional Mexican song. This is one way the club sound reinforces itself.

ulices-chaidez-albumAlso worth noting in the above-linked article: halfway through 2017, there’s only one regional Mexican album in the cumulative Latin top 10, and it comes not from perennial album seller Gerardo Ortiz, whose very good Comeré Callado Vol. 1 seems to be stiffing. Rather, this year’s biggest Mexican album is the (not quite as good) 2016 album from teen sierreño sensations Ulices Chaidez y Sus Plebes. Under Billboard‘s current album accounting methods, Chaidez’s “album sales” have risen thanks to online streams of his hit ballad “Te Regalo,” which peaked at #12 and charted for half a year.

hoy mas fuerteOrtiz could use his own big single to boost his Equivalent Album Units, but right now his lame sierreño pop “Para Que Lastimarme” is falling from a #15 peak. It’s looking more like Ortiz’s 2015 album Hoy Más Fuerte was, in fact, his New Jersey: “a huge event album that ultimately feels a bit hollow and signals a career decline” (at least in commercial terms). This is something NorteñoBlog totally called; although in fairness, if it proves untrue, I probably won’t retract it. I’ll be sure to consult my journalistic ethics team.

In short, regional Mexican music seems to be going through some summer doldrums, a period of relative unpopularity compared to other Spanish-language music. Its central star, Ortiz, is using a hot sound, sierreño, but his new music is struggling to catch on. Nodal, the singer of the format’s biggest 2017 hit, has yet to release an album. The popularity of “Despacito” is benefitting other songs with more club-oriented electro rhythms. And I haven’t even mentioned that our biggest norteño song, Calibre 50‘s “Las Ultras” (#17 Hot Latin, #1 airplay), is a beer jingle. For light beer. Plenty of blame to go around.

recordandoOne bright spot comes from Ortiz and his friends/labelmates Lenin Ramirez and Jesus Chairez: down at #26 on the airplay chart we find the three of them singing Chariez’s corrido “Recordando a Manuel.” It’s a spritely guitar-and-banda memorial to the late narco José Manuel Torres Félix, who was killed in 2012. Some sympathy for the devil, please — according to the song, he was a simple country man who only turned to a life of crime when mobsters killed his kids, at which point “el demonio” got him. Regardless of real-life circumstances, the song is stunning. I prefer Ortiz’s small band version on Comeré Callado, which features some jaw-dropping accordion and tuba interplay, but on the single you can enjoy three different guys harmonizing in honor of a reputed psychopath. And the guitar still sounds great! Pick to Click:

Continue reading “¡Ay Bandito! “Despacito” steals norteño’s chart thunder (Desfile de Éxitos 7/22/17)”

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