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2017

Yo Quiero Tu… ¿Grammy?

ramon ayala grammy

The Grammy category with the weirdest name — Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) — is especially bizarre this year.

It is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the Grammys have no idea what to do with Mexican music, especially norteño. This shouldn’t be the case. As Chris Willman reported last year, every Grammy genre, including Latin, has a “blue ribbon panel” of 15-18 industry insiders tasked with whittling long lists of vote-getting albums into the final lists of nominees. These panels are diverse groups of music professionals, which may explain why the nominees for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) tend to reward repeat winners’ often middling work, or tastefully dull ranchera albums nobody heard. The industry professionals who nominate Grammys want to reward music that reflects their industry’s professionalism. El Komander probably doesn’t fit the bill.

Usually the results resemble the overall Album of the Year category in 1994, when Tony Bennett’s Unplugged beat out The Three Tenors in Concert 1994, Eric Clapton’s blues tribute From the Cradle, Bonnie Raitt’s 3rd straight AOTY nom, Longing in Their Hearts, and Seal’s 2nd album. Those nominees were so lame they sparked a “revolt” and reforms, partly because they completely omitted Hole’s Live Through This.(!)

aida cuevasSo this year the Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) category includes a couple such expected nominees: a pretty good album by a perennial nominee, Banda El Recodo’s Ayer y Hoy (Fonovisa) — like happy families, all Band El Recodo albums are alike — and the boring “unplugged” Arrieros Somos — Sesiones Acusticas (Cuevas), by ranchera legend Aida Cuevas, whose far livelier Juan Gabriel tribute album missed the cutoff date. But then, the category takes a turn for the strange.

ni diabloThe man with the continent’s best voice, Julión Álvarez, is nominated for Ni Diablo Ni Santo (Fonovisa). In a typical year, you’d shrug. But not this year! That’s because Julión Álvarez, like certain terrorists and North Korean businesses, is SANCTIONED by the U.S. Treasury, meaning his assets are blocked and Americans can’t do business with him. He’s vanished from streaming services and he can’t tour El Norte. Listening to his illegally uploaded, mostly romantic, Grammy nominated album on YouTube is now an ACT OF POLITICAL RESISTANCE, or something. (It’s OK, not his best.) #FreeJulionAlvarez!

alex campos momentosThe other solo male nominee, Alex Campos, isn’t even Mexican! He’s a Colombian singer who wins Dove Awards and Latin Grammys for Christian music. (Here he is in 2012, singing “Dios Es Pederoso” with Hillsong Global Project Español.) His album Momentos (Sony) is a Christian mariachi album. Granted, it’s way more entertaining than Christian Nodal’s surprisingly un-nominated “mariacheño” debut, but also way less representative of the genre — not to mention less good than Alicia Villarreal’s ranchera pop La Villarreal.

zapateando en el norteAnd finally, there’s Azteca Records’ multi-artist compilation Zapateando en el Norte, the most bizarre nominee of all. It’s a compilation of puro sax bands from Chihuahua and Zacatecas, a longstanding interest of the Blog’s readership. Puro sax is a wonderful norteño subgenre all its own. Bands play bouncy sax/accordion polkas and sing often bereft, emo lyrics, and their popularity is impervious to larger regional Mexican trends.

Puro sax bands also play a lot of huapangos, largely instrumental tunes that contrast triple and duple rhythms — they’re all in fast 6/8 time — and are used for Mexican folk dancing. (“Zapateados,” these dances are called more generally; you stomp your feet a lot.) Huapangos make for spritely mid-album or mid-set novelties. As the Blog discovered last summer, more and more online playlists of huapangos have been appearing, so Azteca owner Humberto Novoa had his bands cut a bunch of huapangos for this comp.

Now remember, whoever nominates Mexican albums seems pretty oblivious to factors like hipness, relevance, and commercial performance. We can argue all day about whether that’s a good thing or not; for the Grammys in general, it’s a core existential issue. Anyway, this year, Azteca’s flagship puro sax band, the twice-nominated La Maquinaria Norteña, who stand astride the puro sax genre like Saxophone Colossi, missed the eligibility date with their own album, Por Obvias Razones. So in a sense, this album occupies their spot…

… which means the fifth nominee for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) is a compilation of a subgenre (huapangos) of a subgenre (puro sax) of a subgenre (norteño) of an industry format (regional Mexican). (Including Tejano.)

It’d be like the Best Rap Album nomination going to a compilation of Southern rap Mama songs, or something. Which, btw, the Blog would totally endorse.

But this is where the blue ribbon panel’s haplessness pays off! Give or take the Banda El Recodo album, Zapateando en el Norte is the best thing in this category. It’s a nonstop zapateado fiesta, with sax and accordion banging out their riffs over amazingly capable rhythm sections. I’d vote for it, anyway. Although if Gerardo Ortiz had been nominated as he should have been, it’d be a different story.

Oh yeah, one more bit of Grammy hilarity. Guess which subgenre goes completely unrepresented among these Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) nominees? As it has every year since the category’s 2012 inception?

TEJANO.

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¡Feliz 2018! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2017!)

gerardo_ortiz_ganador_premios_tu_mundo_2017-1

¡Feliz año nuevo! NorteñoBlog leaps into the future resolved to do several things better:

1. Drink a cup of tea before drinking alcohol;
2. Figure out why the kids love Luis Coronel and his immaculately-coiffed-and-voiced teen idol ilk;
3. Keep up the Blog’s Spotify playlist, the 2017 version of which you can shuffle here:
https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/joshlanghoff/playlist/3NFlYGVzaKnkRWtXJfOVee

You can read about many of those songs on the Tercer Aniversario post and its accompanying links. While you’re shuffling, here are the Blog’s Top 10 albums of the year:

reyes de la quebradita1. Various Artists – Reyes de la Quebradita (Sony Latin)

A crucial compilation of last decade’s electro-banda novelty style. This album is one laugh-a-minute banger after another, and — as Friend of the Blog Leonel points out — the back story of many of these songs would make for a fascinating deep history.

comere callado2. Gerardo Ortiz – Comeré Callado Vol. 1 (DEL/Sony)
NorteñoBlog’s Artist of the Year, following the proud footsteps of El Komander in 2016 and Marco Flores in 2015, takes the surest hop of all his peers aboard the sierreño bandwagon. By adding stripped down guitar music to his normal red-hot norteño, Ortiz amps up his musical variety, and the contrasts are thrilling — check out his solo version of “Recordando a Manuel,” which I apparently can’t stop embedding.

3. Jesús Ojeda y Sus Parientes – El Amigo de Todos (Fonovisa)

The straight-up sierreño album of the year gooses its narcocorridos with wild backup vocals and feverish repeated-note guitar solos.

no estas tu4. José Manuel Figueroa – No Estás Tú (Fonovisa)
A second-generation songwriting legend makes the year’s best banda pop album, with inventive arrangements dressing up wildly catchy tunes.

valentin-elizalde5. Various Artists – Tributo a Valentín Elizalde (Fonovisa)
This multi-artist tribute to the late banda pop pioneer is consistently lively and catchy, only occasionally falling into the multi-artist tribute trap of paying polite respect. All of Elizande’s swoony, swanky charisma is intact.

los players6. Los Player’s de Tuzantla – De Parranda Con Jorge Garcia (Los Player’s de Tuzantla)
Fast, cheap, and barely in-control synthpolkas and cumbias from the southern state of Michoacán.

la villarreal7. Alicia Villarreal – La Villarreal (Universal Mexico)
The Tejano veteran makes an album of ornate ranchera pop, at its strutting best reminding me of Yolanda Perez’s great genre mashups from a decade ago.

8. Alta Consigna – No Te Pido Mucho (Rancho Humilde)
Sierreño in which bass and tuba are seemingly at war with one another, laced with dry, slashing guitar tones. First half is slow, second half is fast; guess which half the Blog prefers. Shuffle it!

La-Nueva-Onda-Norteña-V-Hell-Yea-2017-500x5009. La Nueva Onda Norteña – #Hell Yeah (Discos America)

Vegas puro sax band seeks to co-opt the phrase “Hell yeah,” cover Caifanes, and play with unflagging energy and verve. At the very least you have to admire the attempt.

10. Revolver Cannabis – La Ruleta Sigue Girando (DEL/Sony)
With Gerardo Ortiz gone on genre excursion, his labelmates pick up the slack in the straight-up accordion norteño department. It’s a typically lurching (if samey) affair.

And while you examine those, here are the most clicked articles from the Blog’s busiest year:
Continue reading “¡Feliz 2018! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2017!)”

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”

Fiesta Tercer Aniversario: LOS PICKS TO CLICK

alfredo olivas wary

Welcome to NorteñoBlog’s fourth year! As I survey the previous twelve months of radness, several themes emerge:

fantasmaSierreño is no longer a novelty. The guitar + tuba-or-bass style is now as prevalent as its country cousins, banda and accordion-based norteño. Although the style has existed for decades, you can trace its popularity back to the 2015 death of young singer-guitarist Ariel Camacho, which cemented sierreño as both young people’s music and a vehicle for pop hits. Two Camacho-related bands — Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho and Ulices Chaidez y Sus Plebes — appear below, as do established norteño/banda stars Gerardo Ortiz and Remmy Valenzuela, jumping on the sierreño bandwagon with corridos and romantic ballads. One of the year’s biggest breakout stars, man-myth-legend El Fantasma, scored a long charting hit with the guitar corrido “Mi 45,” in the process becoming one of California’s most streamed Latin artists.

comere calladoGerardo Ortiz continues to dominate. You wouldn’t know it by looking at his album sales, but artistically, nobody in the genre had a better 2017. His sierreño-biting Comeré Callado album was a rebound from 2015’s disappointing Hoy Más Fuerte, with better songs and typically stunning band interplay. He was also featured on excellent norteño and bachata singles (see below), and notably did not release any videos showing him murdering women. I only accomplished one of those things.

La-Nueva-Onda-Norteña-V-Hell-Yea-2017-500x500Like Civil War reenactments and teen slasher movies, puro sax music will never die. The jaunty norteño subgenre, whose songs definitely do not all sound the same, continues to do several things well. It’s an excellent accompaniment to doing chores. Like freestyle, it pits bouncy uptempo music against bereft emo lyrics, to the benefit of both. And it pulls all kinds of other stuff — notably the huapango folk dance and alt-rockers Caifanes (see below) — into its deranged but happy orbit.

christian-nodalI wish I liked mariacheño and socially conscious corridos more than I do. Christian Nodal released an excellent, career-defining debut single, “Adios Amor,” and then followed it up with a boring but well-reviewed mariachi album. Calibre 50 released a heartfelt sigh of an immigration story, “Corrido de Juanito,” that meant a lot to some very smart people. Given the choice, though, I’d rather listen to the parade of reprehensible narcocorridos scattered below. Bands like La Nueva Rebelión draw swaggering energy from their illicit subject matter, turning narco music into a thrilling and paradoxically life-affirming force. Not that musicians can’t walk and chew gum at once — last year especially,
El Komander succeeded with both kinds of stories.

la villarrealWhere are all the women? I’m sorry to say, this is one area where the Blog seems to be getting worse, not better, and I’m not sure if it’s my fault or the industry’s. This year the Blog enjoyed singles by Alicia Villarreal (her album La Villarreal is way better mariachi pop than Nodal’s), Lucero, Diana Reyes, and Chiquis Rivera, but didn’t Pick to Click them, simply because there was better stuff those particular weeks. The latest countrified album from blog fave Laura Denisse was more of a chore than her last one, although it may be growing on me (and I just saw she has a Christmas album! Must research…). Los Horóscopos have been MIA lately. As Victoria ‘La Mala’ has pointed out, Mexican regional music remains a man’s world — the sheer amount of music produced by men overwhelms that of the women. That said, the year’s most exciting new voice belonged to Ángela Aguliar, who showed rich confidence on two wonderful duets with her father Pepe. (See below.)

Anyway, here they are: the past year’s worth of Picks to Click. Thanks for reading, and happy listening!

11/17/16: “Que Perrón” by La Séptima Banda
A big dumb cumbia ode to the modern world’s sexually assertive mujeres. As you might expect, such mujeres make La Séptima Banda very happy, especially the dude in the middle of the song who sheepishly admits, “I’m ugly.”

12/2/16: “Traigo Ganas de Pistiar” by Escuela de Rancho, Los Orejones de la Sierra, y La Bandeña
It scarcely matters what the song “Traigo Ganas” is about. I mean, I know it’s about getting drunk — the song opens with the sound of cans being cracked open, and anyway, I’m sure you’ve met low brass players — but what matters is the stupendous way this makeshift octo-quin-trio makes you feel all giddy and swivelly by jumping from one part of the song to the next.
Continue reading “Fiesta Tercer Aniversario: LOS PICKS TO CLICK”

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”

Julión Álvarez’s Frozen Assets and the U.S. Treasury’s Overheated Rhetoric

alvarez press conference

NorteñoBlog top commenter Eric encourages me to address the current legal and financial travails of the continent’s best voice, Julión Álvarez. Challenge extended! If, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said, “anybody with a computer can be a journalist,” her operative word remains “can.” Speaking from personal experience, most of us “computer havers” maintain such extensive to-do lists of huapango videos and jazz podcasts that important stories can fall between the keys. But I’ll give it a go.

In 2007, after singing with Banda MS for three years, 24-year-old Álvarez went solo. With a drumless, tuba-bottomed trio, he released his first album Corazón Mágico under the name Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda. Since then he’s remained as prolific and consistent as Electric Six or someone, releasing a studio album almost every year — including the best album of 2014, Soy Lo Que Quiero…Indispensable — along with several live albums and collections. He’s grown into the biggest solo norteño star who’s not named Gerardo Ortiz, reliably scoring romantic radio hits in two countries, plus mentoring young singers and judging La Voz… México. Until his recent troubles hit, he was set to judge the latest season of La Voz Kids, too. In 2015 he was Spotify’s most-streamed artist in Mexico.

Along the way, Álvarez started operating some music-related businesses. Germane to our story, his name is on the paperwork for the company that produces his concerts, Noryban Productions; a small ticketing agency, Ticket Boleto; and his publisher, JCAM Editora Musical, “JCAM” being the initials of his birth name, Julio Cesar Alvarez Montelongo. Also along the way, he met a friendly businessman named Raul Flores Hernandez. “If you met him [Flores Hernandez], you’d probably like him,” says one former official of the U.S. DEA. A lot of people liked Flores Hernandez, including fútbol star Rafael Marquez, who also now finds himself in the shit.

Unbeknownst to these innocents (or so they claim), Flores Hernandez also ran a cocaine cartel. Business Insider describes how he operated independently of the big, more violent cartels, while also skillfully mediating between them. In March, he was indicted in D.C. and California for trafficking and money laundering; he was then arrested in Jalisco in July. Shortly after that, on August 9, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) updated its “Specially Designated Nationals” (SDN) List, the registry of people it prevents U.S. citizens from doing business with. Of 21 Mexican citizens and 42 companies, the two biggest names were Rafael Marquez and Julión Álvarez, along with those three Álvarez-owned companies listed earlier. The charge was money laundering.

Money laundering is, of course, a time-honored aspect of the music industry, which until recently has been lathered in obscene amounts of money. Hilarious stories abound, inovolving everyone from Australian promoter Andrew McManus to Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja to American rap exec Irv Gotti. (“Mr. Gotti’s friend, Kenneth McGriff, known as Supreme on the streets of Queens… would simply send bags of cash to Mr. Gotti’s label, Murder Inc.”) The Treasury contends Álvarez and the others have “held assets” on Flores Hernandez’s behalf, and that’s why they’ve canceled Álvarez’s visa, frozen all his U.S. assets, and forbidden Americans from doing business with him. Seriously — try finding his music on U.S. Spotify any more. (Eric adds, “His music was removed from my iTunes account…”)

After the accusation of laundering has come the inevitable spin cycle. Álvarez admits he met Flores Hernandez years ago, at a club in Guadalajara, but thought the narco was a concert promoter. He denies they ever did business together. Whether his assets will ever thaw remains a cold, delicate question. (A Mexican judge recently ordered Marquez’s assets unfrozen, but that was before the world discovered Marquez’s madre once bought a substantial hunk of property with Flores Hernandez. Ay-yi-yi.) Álvarez continues to play concerts in Mexico, but the loss of U.S. streaming and touring revenue has gotta hurt him financially.

As NorteñoBlog tries to iron out this story’s wrinkles, my feelings are a wash. (OK, I’ll stop now.) On the one hand, I can totally believe that Álvarez, as an inexperienced businessman, unwittingly laundered money for a narco, especially given how closely the Mexican cartel world associates with the Mexican music world. Similar things have happened all over the world, so why not in Mexico too? Maybe Álvarez even knew what he was doing. Given the sad history of other Mexican singers who, wittingly or not, got too close to the cartels and were shot for their trouble, give Álvarez this: if frozen U.S. assets are his stiffest penalty, his fate could be infinitely worse.

On the other hand, I could also believe our over-zealous Administration is making an example of some famous Mexicans by overstating the dastardly nature of some trumped-up “crimes.” And I’d still believe that, even if this operation began under the Obama regime. For American politicians, the spectre of dark skinned people selling us drugs is an irresistible excuse to act tough, rather than effectively. Our Treasury Department is sure making a point of crowing: “This action marks the largest single Kingpin Act action against a Mexican drug cartel network that OFAC has designated.” And some of the coverage given this story has been predictably awful, with Breitbart’s Warehouse of Questionable Capitalization (no link) sanctimoniously calling Álvarez a “Narco-Music Superstar,” “known for praising the drug trafficking lifestyle in his music.” Bullshit. If they’d paid attention to Álvarez at all before turning his name into racist clickbait, the computer-havers at Breitbart would know that, while the singer excels at corridos and romantic music, he’s far better known for the latter. Then they’d publish a list of white singers they love who have praised the drug consumption lifestyle in their music, and they’d ask themselves whether the two repertoires are in any way linked.

I don’t hold out hope.

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

2017 Albums: Christian Nodal NO VALE LA PENA

Looking to donate to Mexican disaster relief efforts? Let UNICEF ambassador Shakira and Friend of the Blog Leonel show you how.

me deje llevar

When NorteñoBlog mentioned yesterday that Christian Nodal‘s duet with David Bisbal, “Probablemente,” had ascended to #1 at regional Mexican radio, I left out a few relevant facts. First, Billboard reports that this is the Spanish Bisbal’s third appearance on the regional Mexican chart, a fact I find remarkable since both those previous tunes sound about as Mexican as I do. Which isn’t to say they’re bad. With its politely distorted riff, pensive acoustic fills, anthemic chorus, and chordally sophisticated bridge, “Quien Me Iba a Decir” could be prime Richard Marx. (You better believe such a thing exists.) What it was doing on RegMex radio in 2006 I have no idea, but that was the era when the Black Eyed Peas were scoring minor hits on the same format. It’s an era I want to return.

my love for mexicoSecond, Nodal’s long-awaited debut album Me Dejé Llevar (Fonovisa) is the top Regional Mexican album in the land, showcasing as it does his crooning-beyond-its-years voice and (sigh) trademark “mariacheño” style, which I think means a mariachi band with a lead accordion. As both Wiki and Gustavo Arrellano note, this isn’t a wholly unprecedented combination — Angelica Maria‘s “Me Gusta Estar Contigo” and Juan Gabriel‘s “Caray” got there first, and both are way more fun than anything on the surprisingly stodgy Me Dejé Llevar. Though I don’t cover much mariachi, that’s mostly because it’s not in vogue right now; one of the Blog’s founding principles is that Vicente Fernandez‘s “Estos Celos” and Jose Feliciano‘s tribute album My Love for Mexico are surpassing works of art. That’s because they’re full of color and life — singers doing unexpected things with their voices, instruments combining into rhythms of unstoppable momentum.

And that’s the third thing: “Probablemente,” like most of Nodal’s album, is just dull. As has been noted, Nodal’s first single “Adiós Amor” was an excellent performance of a perfect pop song. The melody went to novel places and the syncopated guitar groove motored the whole thing along. On “Probablemente” the guitarist opts for straight 8th notes, which gets old, if not water-torturey, real fast. The uninspired horn lines have little purpose apart from anouncing “¡Mariachi!” while Nodal croons and displays his admittedly impressive range. But he never loses himself to the whoops of joy or sobbing heartbroken despair of his elders. Like U.S. folk music, mariachi needs to at least flirt with bad taste, or it risks becoming simply a museum exhibit about national spirit and heritage. Blech.

A Nodal profile at Diario de Mexico shows a serious young man, worryingly describing his music as though it were a plate of locally farmed Brussels sprouts. “At the moment, the youth don’t know much mariachi, because they don’t know the names of some composers,” he says. “Banda and sierreño are in style; I think it’s necessary that people get to know our mariachi music again.” I’ll admit, it seems to be working for him. His first two singles topped their radio format in two different countries, quite an accomplishment. And the album isn’t all bad — “Vas a Querer Regresar” at least gives the guitarist something bouncy to do, and on “Yo No Sé Mañana” Nodal sounds like a swarthy Julio Iglesias fronting Chicago, before they both shift into a Marc Anthony-style salsa groove. But for most of Me Dejé Llevar, the gifted singer/songwriter lets his piety get the better of him.

NO VALE LA PENA

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