music, charts, opinions


Alfredo Olivas

Desfile de Éxitos 5/21/16


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


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.

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


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.

(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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