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2007

Pesado flirts with angels, interrogates machismo

presentaciones-pesado-2018

You know how it is. One week you’re delivering a PowerPoint presentation on how young hat acts deconstruct traditional machismo (Coming soon! Watch this space!), then the next week you’re looking up old hat acts on Allmusic.com when you run across an intriguing passage like this:

“[Pesado] struck again quickly with [their 2007 album] Gracias por Tu Amor, a controversial album that challenged physical abuse and the traditional notions of male machismo in Latin America. The album and its title track single were the subject of hot discussion on radio and television talk shows, but they only served to grow sales and airplay.”

gracias por tu amorNorteñoBlog is always hungry for some polémica, but in this case we need to award Jason Ankeny with a well-earned [citation needed], because I can’t find any evidence of the controversy to which he alludes. Furthermore, Pesado’s song “Gracias Por Tu Amor” hardly seems like anything to get worked up over. Its video is a head-scratching depiction of (I think) a poor working-class man dreaming of a better life for his family before he has a heart attack on the job and as a result gets to move into a nice suburban home. (Workers’ comp! God bless unions.) That plot is nowhere to be found in the song’s lyric, which mentions only that the narrator’s amor is an angel from heaven and the living image of love. It’s a midtempo Intocablish thing, pretty but innocuous. I’m having trouble imagining why all the fuss, unless there were some anti-angel haters running their mouths, as anti-angel haters will.

But this does demonstrate something useful: Before today’s Mexillennials were interrogating machismo with their Izod polo shirts and their tears, Pesado was on the case. The Nuevo León quartet/quintet got started in 1993, around the same time as Intocable, and the two bands were soon celebrated as modern updates on trad vaquero accordion slingers. In a 2003 Billboard article, Ramiro Burr lumped them in with Costumbre, Duelo, Iman, and the sensitive mascaraed metalheads in Siggno, writing, “These acts sound as if they would rather whisper in their girlfriends’ ears than raise hell with the guys.” They got big in the years following Selena’s death, when the fairly gender-balanced Tejano style was giving way to more male-dominated norteño as the central sound of regional Mexican music. Burr quoted a San Antonio program director: “There is a large, disenfranchised Tejano community that feels comfortable with these artists that are not really defined as Tejano or traditional norteño. The [new groups] just have a fresh sound. It also helps that many… have lyrics that relate to younger audiences.”

los angeles existenI mention all this because Pesado has a new album, Los Ángeles Existen (Remex). Its title single is apparently meant to convince the haters that, yes, angels from heaven do exist, and, yes, they want to make out with the guys in Pesado. While this is not outside the realm of possibility, Pesado’s songs have trouble transcending pleasantness, let alone our drab earthbound reality. The album’s best single is probably last year’s “No Yo Tengo Remedio,” which has a soaring chorus melody and extremely dialed-in rhythm section, not unlike (you guessed it) Intocable. On “Ojitos Chiquitos,” they even pull the ol’ ‘Cable trick of starting with some rockin’ distorted guitar, before settling into the familiar watered-down cumbia lope. But faithful readers know the Blog is maddeningly ambivalent when it comes to Intocable, while acknowledging they remain the gold standard among this particular strain of norteño — which, right, is adored by throngs of people.

So… RSTG Intocable? Pesado flirts with angels; after some cursory listening, the Blog is flirting with calling Los Ángeles Existen NO VALE LA PENA. Their importance in mediating machismo between hardcore vaqueros and the new jack diaspora, though, won’t be denied. Now we just have to figure out how they could ever be considered controversial…

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Los Cuates de Sinaloa: Una Cartilla

cuates breaking bad

Inspired by one of top commenter Manuel’s karaoke jams, here’s a short history of Breaking Bad‘s favorite corridistas, the band Allmusic calls “as gritty and dramatic as one of their songs”: LOS CUATES DE SINALOA. But first, the karaoke jam in question, 2010´s “El Alamo,” a jaunty and repetitive take on a little three-note motive.

The song features accordion, not always a given with Los Cuates, who started out with just two guitarists and a bassist. Well, technically they started with just two guitarists…

1998: Two 14-year-old guitar-playing cousins from Sinaloa, Nano y Gabriel Berrelleza, cross the border from Mexico into Arizona. After living homeless and busking for a couple months, one day they show up at a Phoenix nightclub owned by musician José Juan Segura. Segura tells Billboard,

Continue reading “Los Cuates de Sinaloa: Una Cartilla”

Diario de Radio 5/18/15

pancho barraza

Calibre 50 – “Contigo”: NorteñoBlog hasn’t yet discussed what a bad song this is. I’d call it “terrible” but that would imply some level of awe or achievement that’s completely lacking in the music. And what about that music? It sounds like a second-tier Maná power ballad, only without the power. As these guys must know, an accordion isn’t a lead guitar! In some cases it’s better than a lead guitar, but its attempts to sustain single notes sound like wheezes, so the whole song feels empty, a dried out husk of attempted passion. Of course it’s a huge hit, so what do I know?
NO VALE LA PENA

Vicente Fernández – “Estos Celos” (2007): A late career hit written, arranged, and produced by Joan Sebastian, who won the Latin Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Song. The strings and midtempo chug could be ’70s Glen Campbell, as could Fernández’s rue when he sings about his jealousy. His high notes should teach Nick Jonas something about chin music.
VALE LA PENA

Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho – “El Karma”: NorteñoBlog has waxed about this song before. Basically, it sounds like nothing else on the radio, Camacho’s endless flutters of requinto deepening a murder ballad that’s cynical but cautionary, mythic but subversive, and coming to you direct from BEYOND THE GRAVE. (As near as I can tell, Camacho tries to kill his daughter’s kidnapper and gets killed himself, so Karma doesn’t work!) This is still the best version of the umpteen floating around. Here’s how I explained it to Frank Kogan, but I may be missing some nuance in how its audience hears it:

The song ends with the line, “nobody escapes the reaper.” Other versions of this song are speedy, either triumphal or drunken, performed by norteño quintet or banda. Camacho’s version is slower, stripped down to two guitars and a tuba, the fatalistic retelling of an old old story. Camacho’s version has become the hit version on regional Mexican radio, where it sounds like nothing else — it’s surrounded by sappy love songs and cheery trafficking songs. In early 2015 Camacho dies in a car wreck and “El Karma” hits #1 on Billboard’s overall Hot Latin chart, albeit during a slow week. (It’s the first norteño song to do so in years.) Possible social critique: this death we sing about so blithely deserves our respect.

VALE LA PENA

El Komander – “Malditas Ganas”: Loose, funny, talking as much as he sings — which is good, given his misguided attempts at balladry — Alfredo Rios defines charismatic. The word “charismatic” implies an apparent lack of effort, right?
VALE LA PENA

Pancho Barraza – “Ignoraste Mis Lagrimas” (1995): The cruel oompah of tears.
NO VALE LA PENA

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