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Alfredo Olivas

Los Sencillos Mejores De 2017 (enero – junio)

retonos de tijuana

NorteñoBlog has heard your clamorous cries, and brings you a YouTube playlist of
NORTEÑOBLOG´S TOP SINGLES OF 2017
(Spotify playlists are here and here.)

valentin-elizalde1. “Volveré a Amar” – Calibre 50 (Fonovisa)
Swanky midtempo heartache with backbeat, doo-wop tuba, and Eden Muñoz doing his best low-range impression of the late Valentín Elizalde. From the VALE LA PENA album Tributo a Valentín Elizalde (Fonovisa).
U.S. radio hit
2. “El Paciente” – Alfredo Olivas
Endlessly appealing, rippling deathbed banda, including a shoutout to the mythic Catarino, a corrido legend who fought in the Revolution and healed his wounds with his own saliva.
U.S. and Mexican radio hit
3. “Huapango El Pisteador” – Conjunto Águila Real
With a few changes in timbre, this could pass for a British folk-prog instrumental from the early ’70s. Other points in its favor: the rad sections where the accordion plays lightning fast triplets over the slower sax melody, and a dramatic ending on what they call in music school the “James Bond chord.”
hasn’t charted
nueva rebelion4. “La Gorrita” – La Nueva Rebelión (Puro Party)
This is still a band trying desperately to pull as much music as possible from their poor instruments. “La Gorrita” is a good example: six verses following the titular beanie-wearing dude from cartel hub to hub, each verse played differently, with unpredictable fills and accents jumping at you like faces in a crowd. From the VALE LA PENA 2016 album La Gorrita y Que Suene La Rebe.
hasn’t charted
comere callado5. “Recordando a Manuel” – Lenin Ramirez ft. Gerardo Ortiz and Jesus Chairez (DEL)
Banda corrido that invites flabbergasting instrumental flourishes, covered on Ortiz’s VALE LA PENA album Comeré Callado Vol. 1.
hasn’t charted
6. “Mi Son” – Azierto Norte
Another galloping 6/8 instrumental with tricky internal rhythms and those rarest of all beasts: bajo sexto solos.
hasn’t charted
7. “Nada de Nada (Vete a la Fregada)” – Pepe Aguilar ft. Ángela Aguilar (Equinoccio)
An impressive band workout, with tuba and percussion burbling along like synth polyrhythms and the horns draping sweeping melodic lines over everything. Also, both singers undersell the song, making it one of banda music’s rare Big Smart Cumbias.
Mexican radio hit
no estas tu8. “Adios” – Jose Manuel Figueroa (Fonovisa)
More bouncy backbeat banda, with a tuba bassline groove that balances out the pretty melody and keeps it from turning maudlin, even as Figueroa sings about losing precious bodily fluids through his tear ducts and saliva glands. From the VALE LA PENA album No Estás Tú.
Mexican radio hit
9. “Escuela 6-1” – Adriel Favela (Gerencia 360)
Contains badass bajo sexto riffs.
hasn’t charted
el jerry10. “Te Deseo Lo Mejor” – Gerardo Coronel (Rancho Humilde)
A breezy sierreño kiss-off in which Coronel offers to teach his ex’s new pendejo “la forma correcta” to make love to her. His series of video tutorials is forthcoming. From the VALE LA PENA album El Jerry.
hasn’t charted

11. “Adios Amor” – Christian Nodal
Leading off Fonovisa’s new Mexillennials comp is this slow stunner, unfolding into an endless three-minute series of baubles and trinkets, sparkles and flashes, soars and swoops.
U.S. and Mexican radio hit
12. “No Es Tan Fácil” – Impacto Sinaloense (Anval)
The beat lurches like the best of Calibre 50, and the band is tight while still finding pockets for individual flourishes of radness.
Mexican radio hit
13. “Asi es el Muchacho” – Los Retoños de Tijuana
hasn’t charted
14. “El de la Kush” – Diferente Nivel (Twiins)
hasn’t charted
15. “Gente de Accionar” – Grupo Codiciado (Rancho Humilde)
Supertight galloping waltz where the big shot narrator brags about how great his life is.
U.S. radio hit
EL FANTASMA16. “Mi 45” – El Fantasma (AfinArte)
El Fantasma’s narrator is somehow involved in the Sinaloa Cartel. He’s still firm with El Chapo’s sons Ivan and Alfredito, whose Instagram personas out-smarm the Trump brothers’. He may be hiding out in the wilderness with his 45, biding his time or doomsday prepping. International man of mystery! From the VALE LA PENA 2016 album Equipo Armado.
U.S. radio and viral hit
17. “El Pasito Perrón” – Grupo Dinastia Mendoza (Filser)
Chintzy electrocumbia depicting a dancing sensation that utterly failed to sweep the nation, until someone uploaded a video of a toy baby Jesus dancing to it. This was of course hilarious, especially the heaps of background stinkeye given by a wary shopkeeper, and it became a meme: you can now find “Pasito Perrón” videos featuring everyone from Winnie the Pooh to his orange honey-chasing doppelganger Donald Trump. A bunch of stormtroopers even performed the dance on Britain’s Got Talent, and Simon changed his facial expression at least twice.
U.S. viral hit
18. “No Vuelvas a Llamarme” – Joss Favela (Sony Latin)
The interplay between accordion and rhythm section is on point and, whaddya know, the words — about how Favela’s always too busy to take your calls — are funny.
Mexican radio hit
19. “Eres” – Costumbre (Revilla/Azteca)
Intocablish, with harmonies.
hasn’t charted
20. “Los Viejitos” – Marco Flores y La Jerez (MF)
Aren’t the dancing fake old men supposed to be funny?
Mexican radio hit

AND NOW FOR SOME THEORIZING:
If you’ve hung around NorteñoBlog for any length of time, at some point I’ve backed you into a corner, eyes burning with laserlike and possibly alcohol-fueled focus, and tried to convince you of one or more of the following propositions:

1. Plants are alive, man; and furthermore, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are all varieties of the same mustard species, and when you plant them the seeds all look like mustard seeds;
2. The best Christmas movie is Eyes Wide Shut;
3. Regional Mexican music is pop music, dammit!

The first two are objective facts and require no further explanation. But I fear I’ve never been clear on what I mean by #3. Continue reading “Los Sencillos Mejores De 2017 (enero – junio)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring José Manuel Figueroa, Bronco, y más)

ordenando

This week NorteñoBlog bids a fond Mexican chart farewell to Alfredo Olivas‘s “El Paciente.” It’s a rousing deathbed meditation and previous Pick to Click that’s still hitting on U.S. radio, where its rippling banda charts and soaring melody sound better every time I hear them. Plus — always worth noting — the song shouts out Revolutionary legend Catarino, who was able to heal his wounds with his own saliva. Sources tell me the new, top-secret Republican healthcare bill relies exclusively on this method of treatment.

BRONCO_B-696X852But fans of medical metaphors and in-song death need not worry: in its place we have “Doctor” by Bronco, a smooth, synth-led grupero throwback, written by one of the dudes from pop duo Río Roma. Its story is simple and disturbing. The self-medicating, anhedonic narrator visits his doctor asking for a heart transplant because he can no longer love. The doctor assures our narrator that no cure exists, and instead offers to kill him. The narrator accepts. This bleak indictment of Mexico’s public healthcare system has somehow slipped past censors and cracked the top 10 of the nation’s radio chart, no doubt thanks to the seductive powers of its soothing cumbia lilt. Seasons don’t fear the reaper. You can be like they are. Come on, baby.

michaJust ahead of the sickos in Bronco we find La Séptima Banda and their latest shot of banda pop cheer, “Se Defiende.” It’s the lead single from their new album Micha y Micha (Fonovisa), half new studio songs and half live corridos. It’s not as good or surprising as last year’s NONSTOP POP EXPLOSION A Todo Volumen, but it’ll still get you through a commute. “Se Defiende” gives you a good idea of the band’s trash compactor approach to brass charts: they cram a bunch of hooks into a small space, mercilessly squeeze the whole mess down to two and a half minutes, and produce a gleaming cube that’s somehow homogenous and finely detailed at once.

no estas tuAt #18 we find José Manuel Figueroa with “Adiós,” from one of 2017’s most enjoyable albums until it peters out at the end, No Estás Tú (Fonovisa). Figueroa shares his given name and a talent for composing and producing with his father, the late Joan Sebastian. Also like padre, Figueroa doesn’t strictly adhere to any one style; he writes what amount to catchy country-pop songs, and on this album he mostly sets them to expert banda arrangements, though sometimes guitar, piano, and strings pop up. (On 2013’s “Rosas y Espinas” he dabbled with synths, which sounded cool and fit right in.) If you know NorteñoBlog at all, you know I’m a sucker for bandas that play bouncy backbeat pop, so “Adiós” is right up the Blog’s alley. The tuba bassline groove balances out the pretty melody and keeps it from turning maudlin, even as Figueroa sings about losing precious bodily fluids through his tear ducts and saliva glands. Maybe that’s how his voice got so scratchy. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring José Manuel Figueroa, Bronco, y más)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (1/27/17)

christian-nodal-bigWelcome to the Mexican radio charts*: Changing quicker than Mexican-American diplomatic relations! More exciting than the Doomsday Clock! Not even half the existential threat of those stupid made-up islands in the South China Sea!

NorteñoBlog is pleased to note that, since we last checked in, we get to enjoy nine new songs. Two are straight-up replacements for the better:

At #13, La Arrolladora Banda swaps its slow jam “Yo Sí Te Amé” for the busy merengue-flavored “Traicionera”;

and at #2, the young hotshot accordion slinger Alfredo Olivas trades the decent bluesy norteño number “Seguramente” for the skippy deathbed meditation “El Paciente,” con banda. He even works in a shoutout to the mythic Catarino, a corrido legend who fought in the Revolution and healed his wounds with his own saliva. Alfredito doesn’t fare as well in the song, but the Blog is looking forward to his next, apparently posthumous album. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (1/27/17)”

Desfile de Éxitos 5/21/16

Daddy-Yankee-Cortada1

It’d be hard to top last week’s spate of three-count-’em-three norteño debuts on the Hot Latin chart, including new songs from Arrolladora (this week at #28), Los Gfez (#36), and Hijos de Barrón (#47). But if you enjoy boring banda ballads, Norteñoblog has just the songs for you!

At #29, the week’s highest debut of any genre comes from Banda MS and their song “Me Vas a Extrañar,” which has been waltzing its sad tale of love gone wrong across Mexico for a couple weeks. Banda MS continues to be wildly, inexplicably popular. Their earlier hit “Solo Con Verte” just notched its 26th week on the U.S. Hot Latin chart, with no sign of slowing down: it’s still at #4, and this week it boasts the biggest gains in streams and digital sales. After half a year! I mean, as boring banda ballads go, “Solo Con Verte” is decent, but that’s sort of like calling John Kasich the standout candidate in the most recent Republican presidential primary. The field was not exactly an embarrassment of riches. (Other kinds of embarrassment, definitely.) But this comparison might be inapposite anyway, because John Kasich’s YouTube numbers are way below Banda MS’s.

At #48, the second banda debut is the title waltz from Recoditos’ latest album Me Está Gustando. Sung by Samuel Sarmiento, its video features not one but two inappropriate workplace romances and the band’s other lead vocalist, Luis Angel Franco, wearing a construction helmet. Sharpen those slash fiction pencils!

The debuts on the Regional Mexican radio chart are a little better. Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 5/21/16”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 3/23/16

alfredo olivas

Baby-faced Alfredo Olivas is sitting pretty at #3 in Mexico this week. You might remember Olivas from his unfortunate incident a little more than a year ago, when he was playing a concert at the Hacienda club in Parral, Chihuahua. In the middle of the concert he decided to flirt with a young lady sitting in VIP by throwing her his jacket. As everyone knows, flirting with young hotties from the stage is one of the three main benefits of being a touring musician; the other two are a preternatural ability to pull open doors while carrying heavy amplifiers, and, if you’re lucky, free nachos.

The young woman’s male companions didn’t see it this way. Alfredo’s insouciance, coupled with the fact that his thrown jacket knocked over some liquor bottles on the table, sent these young men into a murderous rage. They shot at Alfredo, injuring him and eventually killing at least one of the Hacienda’s patrons. This whole situation was exceedingly stupid, and should serve as a good reminder next time you hear some U.S. or state legislator trying to extend legal carry rights to places where people consume alcohol and get rowdy. Such places are not where you go to organize your “well regulated militia.”

Anyway, NorteñoBlog welcomes Alfredo back with a new single not included on his so-so 2015 album Privilegio. “La Sigo Y Me Sigue (Todo o Nada)” is some mid-tempo romantic waffling Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 3/23/16”

Desfile de Éxitos 9/26/15

roberto tapia

ROBERTO TAPIA GRAPPLES WITH FEELINGS, FENG SHUI ON BEACH:

If you’ve hung around NorteñoBlog for very long, you’ll know that when I fall for a Roberto Tapia banda single, I fall hard. So it is with his new tune “No Valoraste” — the waltz beat is stiffer than his previous “Me Enamoré” and “Mirando Al Cielo,” but the high-climbing melody sounds great in his upper range. Along with Friday’s brand new video, and having heard it on the radio a couple times last week, “No Valoraste” shoots into Pick to Click status. And by all means watch that video: it’s like Ingmar Bergman shot a novela on the beach using the castoff furniture from Return to Oz. See Tapia and his ex-mujer stalk one another in symbolically opposing color schemes, as they seek cold comfort from an absent God and/or Princess Ozma.

Tapia’s at #4 on the airplay chart, so the streams racked up by this new video should propel him onto the big Hot Latin chart next week.

ADRIEL FAVELA WALKS THE BOOTY BEAT:
Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 9/26/15”

How Big Is Number 1?

For the past two weeks, regional Mexican music has claimed the #1 spot on Billboard‘s Top Latin Albums chart. Keep in mind, these were two very slow weeks. How slow? Remember the week Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star was the #1 movie in America? THAT slow.

Last week Intocable was on top with their live album XX: 20 Aniversario. The week before was led by Disa’s annual compilation Las Bandas Románticas de America. (Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Wanna role-play a “tryst with the vintner’s daughter” scenario?) We’ve got a stopgap in Intocable’s case and a brazen moneymaker for Disa, neither designed to put new songs into the world. But musical irrelevance isn’t the whole story. Just behind Bandas Románticas was Privilegio, the Sony debut of hotshot corridista Alfredo Olivas. I’d assumed some pent-up hunger for this guy, who’s had multi-million-hit videos and a Triunfo cover. But sales figures reveal otherwise:

The compilation set Las Bandas Romanticas de America 2015 leads the list at No. 1 (over 2,000 units shifted, according to Nielsen Music). The album follows the 2014 edition which spent four weeks at No. 1. Newcomer Alfredo Olivas bows in the No. 2 spot with his first charting album Privilegio, starting with 2,000 copies sold. The singer-songwriter spends a second consecutive week at No. 30 on Regional Mexican Airplay with the set’s lead single “Mi Porvenir,” its peak. The track climbs 11 percent in audience impressions, to 1.5 million, in its sixth week on the chart.

I’d like to say it took a population the size of my podunk hometown to top the Latin Albums chart, but my podunk hometown was more than twice that size. 2,000 people lived in the even podunker town next door. That was the town we all made fun of. 2,000 people is not very many. Intocable didn’t do much better:

Regional Mexican group Intocable scores its seventh No. 1 on Top Latin Albums, as XX Aniversario debuts atop the list with 3,000 sold in the week ending Feb. 1, according to Nielsen Music.

This chart is not always so slow, especially when it comes to fresh-faced crossover prospects. Luis Coronel’s second album debuted to 10,000 copies sold last year, which got him to #33 on the overall Billboard 200. The year before, Gerardo Ortiz moved 14,000 copies of Archivos de Mi Vida in its first week, enough to peak at #68 on the top 200. (A busier week, apparently; he’d peaked higher in the past.) But things are down all over, right? People are setting dubious records left and right. Last April, Pharrell scored the lowest selling No. 2 album in history when he sold 29,000 copies of G I R L. I don’t bring up these low numbers to mock Intocable, Olivas, or Disa’s roster of heartthrobs. It’s just good to have a sense of scale.

Also worth noting: Top Latin Albums measures album sales only, while the top 200 has moved to a new “multi-metric” algorithm, with digital track sales contributing to an album’s placement on the big chart. This is how Enrique’s latest album is the highest Latin album on the top 200, down at #190, without topping the Latin album chart. “Bailando” still going strong! Stream it 1500 times and Enrique gets his wings a sale.

Los Maestros de CHOPS

accordion

Noel Torres – “Para Qué Tantos Besos”

You know the scene in Don’t Look Back where Donovan and Dylan are exchanging songs in a hotel room? And Donovan sings the perfectly innocuous “To Sing For You,” to which Dylan responds with a scathing rendition of “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”? And he looks directly into the camera and sings with exaggerated diction the couplet, “Yonder stands your orphan with his gun/Crying like a fire in the sun“? And you don’t know whether he’s putting you on, reveling in the singularity of his word choices, sharing an inside joke with D.A. Pennebaker, or simply casting about for some way — any way — to sell a song? That’s the sense I get from Noel Torres when he over-enunciates his way through ballads these days. True, Luciano Luna doesn’t write with the colorful precision of “Baby Blue” — he’s more in the ballpark of “Make You Feel My Love” — but Torres is bringing that precision to singing Luna’s ballads, which may be even more important.
VALE LA PENA

(In the video for “Besos,” Torres fantasizes about making out with a hottie in a variety of scenarios, totally ruining her bowling and billiards games in the process. Turns out it was all a dream, she’s marrying somebody else, and Torres is stuck at her real-life wedding with a cheerful but far less bosomy woman. I’m certain this is a metaphor.)

Long-time readers will know that NorteñoBlog admires Torres for his accordion playing even more than his singing. He owns his sound; at PopMatters I wrote:

When playing his own songs, which is usually, [Torres] arranges them into short masterpieces of precision and control. He tosses off riff after riff, their notes connected by chromatic flurries, then hits startling passages of kickass mind-meldery with the rest of the band while he’s singing.

That is, he’s precise, controlled, and tossed-off, the sweet spot for much pop music, if not Western music in general. It’s stomp and swerve; or, as they used to teach us in classical piano lessons, technique and expression. This isn’t a dichotomy or a balance so much as a tug of war, and if you’re playing an instrument, the tug of war conveys the tight switchbacks of human thought better — that’s to say, with more convincing illusion — than either wind-up-toy virtuosity or lazy splats of rubato. And yes, it’s always an illusion. You’re not gleaning the innards of Torres’s mind directly from air moved through the folds of his squeezebox or voicebox, but heaven know he makes you believe you are.

(The rockist should note that electronic music, while using different techniques, can create the same virtuosic illusions — for instance, the hilarious timing effects in New Order’s “Blue Monday.” And sometimes “conveying human thought” isn’t the goal so much as “conveying utter alienation from human thought.” But I rarely go in for dystopian shit.)

In this spirit have I grappled with last year’s album by Remmy Valenzuela, De Alumno a Maestro (Fonovisa). Valenzuela is a corridista in Torres’ mold: he writes, sings, and leads the band, but mostly he plays his accordion like a beast. He’s got some good songs, too. His radio hit “Te Tocó Perder” switches tempos confidently, something you rarely hear on the radio; the breezy dance tune “El Borracho” sounds like something Kenny Chesney could adapt from his old blue chair. (Assuming he can get Google Translate on the beach.) If I were judging conjunto contests, Valenzuela would receive the one-plus rating his fingers so richly deserve.

In the comments of his ratings sheet, though, I would advise him to avoid turning into DragonForce. Valenzuela has yet to make his accordion and singing speak for themselves; right now all the accordion really says is, “I can play faster than whoever the DJ plays next.” That’s something. But it’s not the same as Torres’s trademark riffs — notes connected by chromatic flurries — that say, “Not only can I play faster than the next guy, but SOY NOEL TORRES; Y YO SOY EL AMO.” Valenzuela and his skilled, polite band sound like they want pats on the head; Torres and his bunch make you wanna cover your head.

Still, Valenzuela’s album is fun and merits a polite VALE LA PENA.

In the most recent issue of revista Triunfo, a third young turk named Alfredo Olivas shows that he grasps the issue, which I’ll shorthand “Should a Virtuoso Have a Personality?” He says, “A lo mejor no soy a mejor, pero sí tenemos un estilo ya muy marcado.” — roughly, “Maybe I’m not the best [accordion player], but we have a style all our own.” Listening to his 2011 album Así Es Esto (Fonovisa) and his new one Privilegio (Sahuaro/Sony), he may have a point. Granted, back in 2011 his style’s most distinctive technique was a sound many (read: “zero”) accordion experts call “sawing.” Since then he’s developed more finesse and his singing has gained authority, especially for a young guy. (Olivas is 20 but he sounds about twice that.) So far Privilegio is the year’s highest profile norteño release, but I still need more time with it.

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