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Calibre 50 En la Jukebox

prestamela

En 2014 todos menos uno de los críticos en la Singles Jukebox les gustó la canción “Qué Tiene de Malo,” pero no esto tiempo. “Préstamela a Mí” de Calibre 50 inspiró amor, aversión, y indiferencia. No por nada es la canción un #1 sencillo en ambos México y El Norte. Escucho una letra ofensiva, sí, pero tambien una letra que exagera la infamia para hacer un punto. ¿Qué es el punto? No sé… tal vez “los hombres son pendejos.” Usted lo sabía.

Escribí:

While his rhythm section lurches like a Frankenstein monster wielding breath spray, Eden Muñoz goes full Eddie Cornelius on how to treat your angry mujer like a lady. Have you considered kissing her feet and feeding her ice cream? Muñoz is a smart enough writer that I’m convinced he’s kidding, in the Randy Newman sense, and that “Préstamela a Mí” is pointing and laughing at the many paternalistic manos surrounding Calibre on the radio. I mean, just this week you’ve got Gerardo Ortiz offering “Millones de Besos” instead of, you know, talking; Chuy Lizarraga kicking himself for succumbing to the kisses of a devious mujer; and the loathsome Banda MS wondering why all those kisses weren’t enough to make her stay. I can only imagine the stifling fog of their breath-sprayed BS, and I’d like to think Calibre points and laughs a way through it.

Intocable y Daddy Yankee en la Jukebox

Donald-Trump-unificado-Daddy-Yankee_CLAIMA20150925_0320_28

Esta semana: dos Picks to Click anteriores!

En 2016, el mejor solo de acordeón es posiblemente en los manos de Ricky Muñoz. En la radio, esas 16 medidas de “Tu Ausencia” contrastan con todo que está cerca, incluso mis propios dedos. Mis gorditas pequeñas se muevan como perezosos. Escribir para el Singles Jukebox, Leonel Manzanares nos dió un sinopsis util de Intocable (“the Steely Dan of Tex-Mex”), todavía una banda importante y divertida.

Escribí:

For the second time in a decade, Ricky Muñoz cries out “me faltas tú” in the chorus of a song; and just like last time, René Martínez bashes his batería with cheerful indifference to his friend’s bereftitude. I just finished reading The Giver so I’m a little tender, but for all the heartbreaking details in the lyrics — color giving way to gray, the absence of dew and breath — the most striking moments are pure communal musical joy: Hotshot accordion duking it out with distorted guitar. Cadences stretched past their expected stopping points. Muñoz’s inexplicable ability to scan the word “inexplicablemente.” The rhythm section that keeps finding new ways to lope. And finally, “eeeYAHW!!!!”

******

¿Por qué nadie se gusta “Shaky Shaky”? (Excepto Cassy Gress; gracias, Cassy. Shaky shaky.) Pobre Daddy Yankee. Sí, él es “repetitivo,” pero LA VIDA es repetitivo. Ergo Daddy Yankee representa la vida… y el terremoto… y el aficionado de booty en todos nosotros.

Escribí:

Daddy Yankee’s “One take!” braggadocio makes him more Cee-Lo than Glenn Gould, so thank goodness DJ Urba and Rome marshaled a small army of Yankees to squawk and pop off around him. Working those “rrrrr”s and changing his delivery from one chorus to the next, Yankee twitches like a seismograph needle giddy over the destructive potential of booty.

¡VALE LA PENA!

On Banda Music

banda serenade

Banda music is all about hard work; that work allows for banda’s fun, its depth, and its despair. Every banda song represents an enormous coordination of talent and effort, and this coordination is plain to anyone who listens. Aside from the lead vocal and an occasional horn solo or percussion fill, there is no pretense of spontaneity in banda music. The music we hear is the result of countless hours spent in preparation. Someone had to write charts for the horn players. To cleanly execute these charts’ complicated musical passages, the players had to devote time to rehearsal, both on their own and together. Popular musicians from metal to rap spend many hours practicing, of course, but the sheer size of a banda gives all this preparation, all this work, a quality of ornate formality. A banda song is like a room full of delicate antique furniture, where one misplaced elbow sends priceless valuables crashing to smithereens; or like an elaborate negotiation through a complex system of social etiquette, a labyrinth of rules that must be internalized if it is to be understood.

The rituals we see in videos — the horn players performing cheesy coordinated dances, the heartbroken singer bringing the banda to serenade his girlfriend outside her window — underscore what a lot of work a banda demands. In the movie Say Anything, Lloyd Dobler famously played a boombox outside Diane Court’s window to woo her. It was a charming gesture, in keeping with his character, and the wooing worked: the serenader won over his audience of one, and in doing so he won over the audience for his film. The serenading banda works in the same way. Just as the mujer at the window is impressed with the effort of her hombre — for starters, how the hell did he get 16 brass players together on the spur of the moment? — so we at the computer screen are impressed with the care and concentration the ensemble squanders on their silly pop song. When the three well-rehearsed virtuosos in Rush play a side-long progressive rock suite, they’re devoted nerds pleasing themselves; they could just as easily be arguing politics or playing Dungeons and Dragons. When the 16 virtuosos in a banda lavish their skill on their singer’s romantic plea, their audience must understand their effort as a formalized gesture of romance, or else all that effort and per diem money is wasted.

The canniest bandas recognize this elaborate formal system and use it to their advantage. Often their goal is romantic; Gerardo Ortiz can only soften his “Mujer de Piedra” if his banda’s music is harder and more rigid than her heart of stone. One of them must crack, and the banda never does. But just as often, the goal is humor — a humor that acknowledges The Void. In Recoditos’ “Ando Bien Pedo,”, the players’ dexterity mocks the drunken heartache of their singer as he marches toward oblivion. The audience, having learned to feel their way around the banda’s formality, recognizes this mockery for what it is and knows to laugh at the singer. Taken further, this effect explains an inescapable fixture of current banda albums: the big dumb cumbia. Nearly every banda album attempts one. Big dumb cumbias typically use only two or three chords, and their subject matter barely strays beyond drunken revelry or dance sensations that are (not usually) sweeping the nation. Yet the banda shows their big dumb cumbias the same, or more, consideration as any other song. Someone writes a horn chart full of elaborate musical passages. The players rehearse for hours to cleanly execute those passages. A banda rarely releases its big dumb cumbia as a single, so there the song sits in the middle of the album, awaiting its audience of several thousand: a hilarious and possibly scathing testimony to how much work musicians devote to their craft and how little, in the end, it all means.

Banda MS En La Jukebox

banda ms solo

¿Qué dice usted sobre la música romántica de Banda MS? Si usted escribe por The Singles Jukebox, posiblemente dice la palabra “swooning.” Es justo. Pero ¿cuál es la fundación rítmica para el swoon? El groove inspira a usted mover su cabeza de lado a lado, y la náusea resultante podría causar un swoon, ¿no? Es ciencia.

Escribí:

Ever since that Ed Sheeran song about Alzheimer’s knocked my socks off during last year’s Grammycast, I’ve grown less stingy about allocating slow jam points. These things can groove, you know? In the case of “Solo Con Verte,” the groove comes courtesy of the low brass section, their every note possessed by a rhythmic twitch as delicate as the caresses of that eternally happy slow-mo couple in the video. The tune’s a keeper, too. As for Horacio Palencia‘s lyrics — well, sometimes it’s just satisfying when words rhyme.

Los Horóscopos En La Jukebox

los horoscopos

Seis de los siete Singles Jukebox críticos les gustaba “Estoy Con Otro En La Cama,” el nuevo sencillo de Los Horóscopos de Chicago Durango. (Hometown!) “Seriously, someone give this song to Rihanna,” escribió Andy Hutchins; es una idea muy seductora. Es posiblemente más seductora de “Estoy Con Otro En La Cama,” implicaba Megan Harrington, quien sin embargo le gustaba la canción.

Escribí:

In pop music, real-time sex narratives are fairly easy to come by, but fewer singers have the cuernos to recount their infidelity while it happens, making “Cama” an unexpectedly nasty delight. When songwriter Espinoza Paz debuted the song last year, it seemed a tossed-off joke, like one of Toby Keith’s bus songs. Paz is hyper-prolific and usually maudlin, the driving force behind many drippy ballads about corazones. Vicky Terrazas (the brunette Horóscopo) said in a recent interview that “Paz es un Shakespeare,” which makes sense if we’re comparing their use of horns metaphors, but otherwise not so much. In “Cama,” though, he gives the Terrazas sisters a stately framework to exact diabolical revenge on their lovers, baptizing their anonymous new lays with the name of “amante” and hurling small-dick insults. Speaking of which — and notwithstanding the trenchant realism of the video — which fucking hotel hands out fruit baskets containing not just giant zucchinis, but eggplants? Are they conducting this tryst at the county fair?

¡Bandononona! ¡En la Jukebox!

banda clave nueva

No lo siento por mi “dis” de unas “indie bands” en The Singles Jukebox la semana pasada, cuando escribimos sobre Bandononona Clave Nueva y “Cuál Adiós.” Tal vez era un golpe bajo, pero mi argumento era específico: bandas son grandes, indie rock bands son pequeños, y sus ironías estarán diferentes. (¿Defensivo? ¿Yo?)

Escribí:

I’m impressed: this banda-pop cover of Fato’s mariachi-pop “Ya No Vives En Mi” manages more lushness and luxury than the original (or Yuri’s straight-up pop version, or Samuray’s cumbia, or whatever this future-Tarantino-title-music horror is), while still sounding like the band’s making fun of it. Blame the flutter-tonguer in the back row, or Max Peraza’s bewildered double takes in the video. Not only are bandas perfectly suitable delivery vehicles for pop songs; when they put their minds to it, they can achieve shades of irony your little indie band can only dream of.

Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK

gerardo birthday

NorteñoBlog doesn’t always Pick to Click, but when I do… sometimes I get it wrong and type “Click to Pick.” This made searching for the previous year’s worth of Picks INTERESANTE.

The Pick to Click began as a shameless ripoff from Charles Pierce’s must-read liberal politics blog at Esquire, as did a couple other, possibly subtler NorteñoBlog tics. (Spot them all! Both! Whatever!) It’s a useful way to highlight the song I enjoy the most in a particular post, so that you the loyal reader don’t have to wade through a pool of Banda MS’s tears to reach the good stuff. Of course, if you enjoy the delectable bouquet wafting from Banda MS’s tears, you can always Click what I don’t Pick, though you’ll run the risk of turning Banda MS happy and then they might run out of Art. Besides current singles, the following list includes some older singles and current album tracks.

Most Picked at three apiece: NorteñoBlog’s probable artists of the year Alfredo Ríos “El Komander” and Marco Flores y #1 Banda Jerez. Banda Cuisillos, Noel Torres, and Chuy Lizárraga each scored two Picks. So did Los Gfez, Pancho Uresti, and Ariel Camacho, though one Pick from each of those three was in a “featured” role. Besides norteño and banda, the list includes cumbias and puro sax stomps, reggaeton and ABBA-schlager, Jenny and the Mexicats and Pitbull, and covers of Johnny Cash and — first up — Shania Twain. Happy Clicking!
Continue reading “Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK”

Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño

amos 2008

After first appearing at the 2014 EMP Pop Conference in Seattle, this article ran last spring at Maura Magazine; I reprint it here with their kind permission.

————————————–
amos 1996Here’s the story of a band from Modesto,
A small city east of San Francisco.
Led by the brothers Guajardo,
They’re known to the world as Los Amos.

amos 2001They got started back in the mid-’90s
Playing los narcocorridos,
And over the course of a decade,
Los Amos altered their appearance

amos 2006From flashy-shirted, big-hatted cowboys
To black-suited, no-hatted tough guys,
Los Amos’ transformation was dramatic,
And their music changed right along with them.

This transition was shaped by two forces:
The demands of their well-structured business,
But also their repeated incantations
Of one magic word from the Bay…

HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY

But before we get hyphy, we need to answer this question: Why were some guys in Modesto, California, playing corridos—Mexican story songs about the drug trade—for a living in the first place? The answer lies with two names, corridistas you’ve probably heard of, immigrants to los Estados Unidos, legends in their field.
Continue reading “Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño”

El Karma Comes Back To You Hard

camacho18656z

Alternate headline: NorteñoBlog Steps On Pitchfork

That’s right, my first article at the illustrious music website Pitchfork.com is also Pitchfork’s first article about Regional Mexican music. It’s all about Ariel Camacho’s song “El Karma,” which longtime NB readers know I like a bit. Here’s the opening:

So far in 2015, six different songs have topped Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. Five of them involved slick, established stars like Enrique Iglesias singing about love or dancing, but the sixth hit was different. It was a corrido, part of Mexico’s century-old ballad tradition about everyday heroes facing impossible odds; according to Salon’s Alexander Zaitchik, corridos are like “contemporary news reports—a Mexican version of Chuck D’s description of rap as black America’s CNN.” With the rise of Mexican drug cartels over the last few decades, corridos have largely given way to narcocorridos, story songs lauding the exploits of illicit kingpins and their employees. But before last March, no narcocorrido had ever hit #1 on the Hot Latin chart.

Then came “El Karma”…

Read all about it at the ‘Fork! You’ll notice the NB has changed our header to mark the occasion: Hats off to Omar Burgos, Los Plebes’ astounding tuba player.

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