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2015

¡Feliz 2017! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2016!)

new-years-eve

Well, that was a terrible year, wasn’t it? But as disappointment turns to fear, fear into love, and love to resistance, let’s remember why you came to NorteñoBlog in the first place: accordions and tubas, cumbias and corridos, gritos and gallos, all racing around at breakneck speeds and knocking shit over.

Here are some of the most-clicked items from the blog’s most clicked year. Thanks for reading!

beto-with-fireBeto Cervantes D.E.P.
Juan Gabriel might have been the most iconic musician in Mexico, but for certain music fans — the kind who run internet searches for the details of sordid deaths — Beto Cervantes’ untimely death in September came as a shock. Or maybe not. Roughly one fifth of NorteñoBlog’s 2016 visitors came to read Manuel’s 2015 article on Beto, which covered his previous assassination attempt as well as some of his best songs.

tomen-notaEl Karma Karma Karma Comes Back to You Hard
Speaking of dead corrideros, Ariel Camacho continued to intrigue internet listeners. His own songs and those of his band, Los Plebes del Rancho, racked up enormous numbers of internet streams and had a stubborn presence on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Songs chart for most of the year. NorteñoBlog looked the Sierreño wave in the articles ¡Pisteando! (featuring Chuy Zuñiga), Wristwatch Porn and White Slavery (ft. “Tomen Nota”), and Attack of the Teen Idols. Buncha people also clicked on 2015’s Who Played It Better: Ariel Camacho or These Dudes?

los-inquietos-del-norte-requisito-americano-feat-marco-flores-y-la-numero-1-banda-jerezTrap Is Hyphy and Hyphy Is Trap
Speaking of stubborn, the twin phenomena of hyphy norteño (existence iffy) and the Hyphy record label (going strong!) continued to fascinate. NorteñoBlog covered both in the 2015 article Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño, and happily learned about Martín Patrón‘s hardcore “trap corridos” in the above linked Trap Is Hyphy and Hyphy Is Trap. We also heard from a band of hyphy-not-hyphy progenitors in Marco Flores y Los Inquietos Saluden a Su Madre.

el-americanoTop 5 W.T.F. Corrido Moments!
Speaking of corridos, Omar Ruiz‘s song “El Americano,” re-recorded with the kickass band Fuerza de Tijuana, became an unexpected U.S. radio hit and sent people to Manuel’s above-linked 2015 article, where you can see Ruiz singing the song to its subject, Boston narco George Jung. And, perhaps feeling guilty about all these corrido articles but nonetheless digging the new Tucanes tune, Josh wondered How Do We Hear Violent Corridos?

100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015
But it wasn’t all corridos! The article above looked at the curious prevalence of Regional Mexican compilation albums, even though such albums seem to be dying in the rest of the music industry. We also looked at the histories of the Mexican radio market in Houston and, in a still-popular 2015 article, Chicago. And if you ever wondered what’s behind the Houston Rodeo’s “Go Tejano Day” — well, here you go.

sergio-floresAlso — and be sure to pour one out for the late George Michael, who inspired the name of this feature — Yo. Quiero. Tu. Saxo.

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Fiesta Segundo Aniversario: LOS PICKS TO CLICK

el-komander-fiesta

Welcome to year three!

If you’re looking for a handy review of good-to-excellent singles released over the past year, you could do worse than NorteñoBlog’s Picks to Click. They’re all listed and linked below, from Calibre 50’s big dumb cumbia “La Gripa” through El Bebeto’s new “Como Olvidarte.” Along the way you’ll find album tracks, old songs, big hits, and indie videos with a couple thousand views that look like they cost even fewer dollars to make.

Artists appearing twice include waltzing indie rockers Fuerza de Tijuana, the continent’s hardest working singles artist El Komander, La Séptima Banda, Calibre 50 spinoffs La Iniciativa, the aforementioned actually-a-grown-man El Bebeto, and walking cry for help Banda Los Recoditos. Also picked twice were Los Titanes de Durango, who Bandamax reports have split into two groups, the U.S.-based Los de Durango and the Mexico-based Los Titanes de Durango, because singer Sergio Sánchez’s work visa was denied. No word on whether that’s because Sánchez’s dad refuses to stop dressing up like El Chapo.

If there’s a trend here, it’s the surge of Sierreño music. Ariel Camacho’s 2015 death made everyone realize how well tubas, guitars, and true crime short stories go together, so now pretty boys like Adriel Favela and Bebeto are biting the style, and indie bands like Los Grandes del Pardito are receiving more attention.

Let’s get to clicking!

calibre historias10/23/15: “La Gripa” by Calibre 50
Is this big dumb cumbia repetitive? Yes. Does it repeat itself? Yes. Does Calibre 50 keep singing the same thing over and over? Yes. Just when you think they’ve repeated the chorus phrase all the times they’re going to repeat it, do they repeat it several more times? Yes. BUT! Tubist Alex Gaxiola gets in some wicked syncopated jabs, and the whole rhythm section adds up to a sound much thicker than expected. Continue reading “Fiesta Segundo Aniversario: LOS PICKS TO CLICK”

Julio Tiene Calor

Pg13-Mens-soccer-celebration

Thanks to you, a loyal coalition of corrido heads and puro sax devotees, NorteñoBlog enjoyed its most-clicked month yet in julio. Here are the posts that got the most attention, both current articles and old ones:

Current Posts:
1. Trap is Hyphy and Hyphy is Trap (¡Nuevo!)
Hyphy Music Inc. is still going strong; Martin Patrón’s Trap Corridos is rad.

2. NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio
12 tunes worth hearing; NorteñoBlog will totally update the YouTube playlist sometime in the next decade.

3. Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (julio 2016)
Sax riffs and terrible puns comin’ at ya!

4. Desfile de Éxitos 7/9/16
Intocable sets a chart record; the blog continues to marvel at how much the kids love Los Plebes del Rancho.

5. Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 7/8/16
Songwriter’s Showcase underrates the new Recodo single.

Old Posts:
1. Explosion Norteña: Beto’s Revenge
Manuel celebrates the inimitable flow of Beto Cervantes, lead MC of Explosion Norteña.

2. Top 5 W.T.F. Corrido Moments!
More intersections of rap and corridos: Manuel counts ’em down.

3. Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/23/16
La Iniciativa and Banda Los Recoditos team up for a tongue-twisting tune about wingmen and the women they share at the club.

4. 100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015
Seriously, who buys these things?

5. Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño
Almost a decade ago, Los Amos and friends went hyphy; WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

¡Gracias por leer!

100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015

calibre 50 mejor

The hyper-abundant compilation album is one of the more bewildering aspects of the Regional Mexican music industry. There are a LOT of them — witness this Allmusic list of more than 50 Conjunto Primavera comps since 1995, released on eight different record labels. Lately some music-writer friends and acquaintances have observed a dearth of compilation albums in recent years, given listeners’ ability to cherrypick their own songs on streaming sites. NorteñoBlog does not dispute this observation; I’ll only add that the compilation market in Regional Mexican is still going strong. This year saw four new Primavera comps, on two different labels. Who’s buying these things? Don’t they already own all these songs?

Without answering these questions, NorteñoBlog presents this list of 100 single- (or, in the case of Sony’s Frente a Frente series, double-) artist comps released on CD in 2015. It doesn’t include multi-artist comps like Fonovisa’s annual Radio Éxitos: Discos Del Año series. This list is incomplete; I’m pretty sure I could find more by scouring the catalogs of indie labels Select-O-Hits and D&O.

Some items of interest: Continue reading “100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015”

Lo Mejor De 2015: Marco A. Flores

marco flores grimace

“Soy Un Desmadre” — loosely translated, “I’m Bad News, Baby” — begins as a pleasant midtempo waltz by Banda Tierra Sagrada. But then, in one of the most thrilling entrances since Busta Rhymes commandeered “Scenario”, someone invites guest singer Marco A. Flores to show everyone how they do it in Zacatecas. What follows is a noise both exhilarating and terrifying. Imagine some maniacal rooster doubled over in laughter, and you may begin to understand the unique vocal timbre of Mexico’s greatest musical entertainer in 2015.

Flores sings with a gallo-rific crow unequaled in Mexican music. He makes his #1 Banda Jerez play faster than everyone else, because that’s how they do it in Zacatecas. They only manage one slow verse of the pretty ballad “Soy El Bueno” before kicking it up to a doubletime bounce. In his videos, Flores dances with abandon and encourages everyone in his band to do the same. (Sometimes they hide from him behind potted plants.) The album Soy El Bueno (Remex) races by so quickly, with so many fanfares and war whoops, it might initially seem bewildering. But every song sticks, a headlong rush of blaring creation, a refusal to look backwards that nevertheless demands to be heard over and over again.

A radical new song recorded for an éxitos album, “Amor de la Vida Alegre” juxtaposes quick horn fills with passages of Flores crowing over just drums and tuba. His dancing remains excellent and floppy. Like the Ramones, Rae Sremmurd, or early Madonna, Flores and his Banda make termite art of the most gnawing and forward thinking sort.

Read the entire list here or at PopMatters, check out a list of my other non-norteño picks on Twitter — and thanks for reading!

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 12/18/15

adictiva singers

Welcome to the Songwriters’ Showcase! In this exciting feature, NorteñoBlog attempts to bring interest to the boring love songs on the Mexican radio chart by pointing out who wrote the boring love songs! Eventually I lose interest in that too! (Please note: some non-boring songs also lie ahead.)

At number 10, Diego Herrera adds lush guitar to a banda ballad, or maybe vice versa, and pledges his fidelity and jealousy to a mujer he claims is a good kisser. The song’s by Joss Favela and Luciano Luna, the (collective?) Diane Warren of norteño music, and if you’ve heard one of their love songs you’ve heard “Si Te Enamoras De Mi,” but the guitar makes some difference.

Case in point: Banda El Recodo’s at number 6 with another Favela/Luna love song, “Si No Es Contigo.” (Watch for my forthcoming pamphlet on the role of fate and potential realities in the Favela/Luna songbook.) Even though Recodo’s tune is skippier than Herrera’s, you can easily imagine them slowing it down and turning it into a waltz. While we’re talking about Recodo, NorteñoBlog would like to congratulate them on their Grammy nomination in the category Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano). Alternate parenthetical: (Stop Complaining, Noisy Tejano Voting Bloc). Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 12/18/15”

¡Nuevo! (starring Banda Maguey, Los Intocables, y más)

laberinto horse

los hermanos maderoHere’s the extent of what NorteñoBlog knows about Los Hermanos Madero: They’re a five-piece family norteño band from Culiacán, playing an instantly likable mix of corridos and love songs, and their lineup includes two baby-faced youngsters, Ivan (accordion and high harmonies) and new-ish addition Aldrich (bass). Despite my assignations, they switch off instruments like The Band — one album cover has Ivan holding a bajo sexto, and in this video Aldrich plays the bajo sexto. Sometimes they use a tololoche (stand-up bass) for the bass line, a point of pride. They just released their fourth likably-photoshopped album, Entre Gente De Arranque (Cosalteco/Hyphy). It contains 24 songs and gets a bit samey; more entertaining is this video of Ivan, Aldrich, and the older Jose Luis (I think) previewing the album. Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Banda Maguey, Los Intocables, y más)”

Lo Mejor de 2015: Roberto Tapia, Ariel Camacho, and Natalia Jiménez

natalia jimenez

A TV judge, narcocorridero, and all around country dude gone mainstream, Roberto Tapia has sung backbeat banda before on “Mirando El Cielo” and “Me Enamoré”, two of the decade’s catchiest earworms. (No lie, my kids hate on banda but they were seat dancing the first time they heard “Mirando” on the radio.) He goes a different route on Diferente (Fonovisa), corralling an excellent banda into 10 jumpy arrangements of merciless invention. “Soy Diferente” is a lightning waltz that transforms into an even faster polka, the murmuring brass leaving plenty of space for Tapia’s voice. Lead single “No Valoraste” marches in a stately manner, allowing Tapia to kiss off his ex with tongue-in-cheek decorum. “Dónde Estarás” flirts with bachata; “Besos” lets Tapia sing over just drums and tuba, then interrupts him with jarring tutti passages. In every horn chart you can hear the arrangers cackling with glee.

The last time I heard a tuba take the lead in a love song was in Scoring and Arranging class, when someone gave the low brass a verse of “Wonderful Tonight” for laughs. Decorating the haunting melody of “Te Metiste” (DEL/Sony) like finely wrought iron, Omar Burgos’s sousaphone trades off fills with the late Ariel Camacho’s requinto guitar, and the results are stately and moving.

Natalia Jiménez’s “Quedate Con Ella” (Sony) is irresistible breakup pop that owes as much to ABBA as it does to the mariachi music it streamlines — which makes sense, since Jiménez started off in the trans-Atlantic pop group La 5ª Estación.

Lo Mejor De 2015: Banda Cohuich, Duelo, Grupo El Reto y Alta Consigna

grupo el reto

Extollers of Mexico’s indigenous Huichol people and composers of relentless electrocumbias, the members of Banda Cohuich inhabit the liminal nexus of old and new. I mean who doesn’t? But I’m guessing Cohuich limns the nexus a bit more loudly than do you and I. Their single “Son Kora Kau Te Te Kai Nie Ni (Dialecto Huichol)” is a blaring ringwalk of a Huichol anthem, and most of the songs on their entertaining compilation No Te Equivoques (Pegasus) follow suit. One exception: the unapologetically goofy “Cumbia de Voz”, a low key groover that’s acapella except for a synth beat, with the band singing the part of falsetto trumpets.

Continue reading “Lo Mejor De 2015: Banda Cohuich, Duelo, Grupo El Reto y Alta Consigna”

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