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Angel Del Villar

Selena and Ariel Camacho: coming to MoPOP 2019

selena memorial

Year after year, Seattle’s MoPOP Pop Conference is a great weekend to learn a ton of musical ideas you never imagined you’d need to know, and to meet and befriend a ton of very smart music geeks. This year the conference runs from April 11-14; the theme is death. See you there!

Here’s the abstract I’ll be expanding:

SELENA, ARIEL CAMACHO, AND TWO TRAGEDIES THAT RESHAPED REGIONAL MEXICAN MUSIC

selena cloudsIn 1995 the 23-year-old Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla died at the hand of her fan club president. She was already the biggest act in Tejano music, itself the hottest sound on the U.S. radio format known as Regional Mexican; but in death, Selena became a household name. Her posthumous bilingual album, Dreaming of You, debuted atop the Billboard 200 and became the best-selling Latin album of all time. A generation later Selena remains an icon, but the same cannot be said of Tejano music itself. “Tejano Market Hits a Lull,” read Billboard’s ominous 1997 headline, and in 1999 the Houston Press reported, “The Tejano scene is all but gone.” Over the ensuing decades the Regional Mexican format would turn to other sounds — most recently sierreño, an austere style that exploded in popularity after a different twenty-something singer, Ariel Camacho, died in a 2015 car accident.

ariel camacho cloudsAfter these styles’ respective stars died, why did keyboard-led, pop-friendly Tejano fade from the airwaves but sierreño — a drumless genre propelled by ornate tuba lines — became inescapable? To learn why, I’ll examine the aesthetic and commercial trajectories of both styles and the evolving Regional Mexican audience. I’ll also explore how the U.S. infrastructure for Mexican-American music has developed. Central to this story is the man who discovered Camacho, Ángel Del Villar, the owner of DEL Records and the person who realized modern sierreño could be viral youth music. Since Camacho died, Del Villar has kept the singer’s band going with two different replacement leaders; he’s also seen norteño stars like Gerardo Ortiz and Calibre 50 hop aboard the sierreño bandwagon. What insights do these styles’ respective death bumps give us into the machinations of the Regional Mexican industry and the identities of its U.S. audiences?

Relevant links:
Archivos de 1994 (Now With Submarine Tracking Technology)
A Guide to Regional Mexican Radio in Houston
“Go Tejano Day”: What’s In a Name?
Karma Comes Back to You Hard: The Tale of the Strangest Latin Hit in Years and the Dead Man Who Sang It
Odes to Music Executives and Other Criminals
¡Nuevo! (starring Los Plebes, Los Tucanes, y más)

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¡Nuevo! (T3R Elemento, La Original Banda, Grupo Corrupta, y más)

t3r elemento

Lo siento, faithful readers. NorteñoBlog has been out of it for the past few months, mired in the wilds of bro-country, Christian rock, King’s X, Pulitzer Prizes, Selena (um, watch this space), and rap songs about cheap-ass wine. Not to mention general garden maintenance. The blog heartily recommends Sugar Rush Peach peppers, which produced like motherfuckers all season long. Use them to liven up your big salads and gangland torture scenarios.

Pepper-Sugar-Rush-Peach-LSS-000_2206

To get caught up, we turn to the Spotify playlist Novedades Regional Mexicano. Let’s rate these puppies until we stop!

Grupo Equis ft. Grupo H-100 – “Mas Sabe el Diablo” (Alianza single)
Grupo Equis is a quartet of leather-clad youngsters with a couple singles to their credit; Grupo H-100 is a somewhat more prolific quintet whose gruff, affectless lead singer sounds like a sociopath. (H-100’s album of narco tributes Trankis Morris came out earlier this year on Alianza, and would require a morning of Hasty Cartel Googling to plumb its lyrical depths.) Put ’em together and you have this high-spirited workout for battling clusters of 16th notes, with cymbals spattering across the sonic canvas like gunfire. This year the blog has been digging Vomitor’s death-thrash-WRAWWWR album Pestilent Death, and these guys seem just as diabolical. Pick to Click!

the green tripT3R Elemento – “Ojitos de Conejo” (from the DEL album The Green Trip)
Young Kristopher Nava, the McLovin’ of the corridos verdes movement, considers the opthalmological effects of excessive weed consumption on “Ojitos de Conejo,” a decent accordion-laced waltz from the boys’ DEL Records debut, out today. DEL honcho Ángel del Villar never met a trend he couldn’t exploit, so signing T3R Elemento — a young, bilingual group of stoners — seems like a natural. Cursory listening suggests The Green Trip might be better than last year’s Underground, even if distinguishing one midtempo weed anthem from another isn’t the easiest task in the world. The tuba’s spiky, the sierreño guitar leads are interesting enough, and the boys attempt to market the catchphrase “El Verde es Vida” — it even pops up in this bunny eyes song. Really, though, the song to check out is previous single “En Menos de un Minuto,” with its soaring melody and creepy computer animated video featuring, like, clocks and space aliens and shit. VALE LA PENA

Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (T3R Elemento, La Original Banda, Grupo Corrupta, y más)”

Las Ironías de la Vida: Grupo Codiciado

grupo codiciado

BREAKING: Binational quintet Grupo Codiciado has changed its look. The fearsome fivesome sped onto the Billboard charts last year with “Gente de Accionar,” for NorteñoBlog’s dinero the most exciting debut hit in a year that also gave us “Mi 45” and “Adios Amor.” Propelled by rippling drums and spurts of accordion, “Gente” might also be the most exciting song with its overused four-chord progression since Urge Overkill’s “Sister Havana.” Here’s the Grupo playing the song back in 2015, when it was apparently so new Alilet Aragon had to read the lyrics off his phone:

Note the flashy matching suits, standard issue for corrido combos young and old. But now it’s 2018, and for their forthcoming album, No Lo Intenten en Casa, Codiciado seem to have blown their advance at Urban Outfitters:

no lo intenten

Not appearing on that tracklisting is Codiciado’s latest single, “Todo Nos Pasa Por Algo,” a song about getting, like, so high with los muchachos. “Todo Nos Pasa” is better than “Fire Up,” the latest hit ode to self-medication by T3R Elemento, because it’s faster and funnier. “Todo el tiempo la pasaba platicando que ironías de la vida,” sings Aragon — “We spent the whole time talking about the ironies of life.” Sounds about right. Pick to Click!

We’ve seen moves like these — flashy matching suits transformed into black urbanwear, tales of drug production into drug consumption — before. A decade ago California bands like Los Amos de Nuevo Leon went self-consciously hyphy, turning from their trad (if grisly) narcocorridos to faster, grosser party corridos. The Blog covered that whole movement in the article “Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño.” The members of Grupo Codiciado, in their late teens and early 20s, don’t identify as “hyphy,” and their new music hasn’t appreciably changed in style, but the visual impulse is the same.

Some enterprising hesher has uploaded the album in full before its official release. Notable songs include what I think is another single, “Miro Lo Que Otros No Miran,” a proud song about how the boys have worked hard for everything they’ve got; and “Yo Solo Me Entiendo,” one of the better corrido odes to DEL Records proprietor Angel Del Villar.

Could this mean indie rockers Grupo Codiciado are angling for major distribution on Del Villar’s roster? If he signs them, will he make them “expand from hardcore corridos and into radio-friendly romantic fare,” as Talento Uno CEO Gustavo Lopez promises to do with the similarly rockin’ Fuerza de Tijuana? Rewarding a talented band by destroying what people love about them? ¡Que irónico!

¡Controversy! ¡Polémica! (Who’s On the Mexican Radio?)

marco-flores-dancing

Controversy! ¡Polémica! NorteñoBlog’s favorite dancer Marco Flores (aka Marco A. Flores) y su Banda Jerez (aka #1 Banda Jerez, or simply La Jerez) are back on the Mexican airwaves with “Los Viejitos” at #17, an amped up waltz that takes an insanely complex approach to both rhythmic subdividing and cultural appropriating.

los-viejitos-400x400The song, you see, plays on the traditional Danza de los Viejitos, danced for centuries by the indigenous Purépecha people in the highlands of Michoacán. Flores lives two states to the north in Zacatecas, but because he bows to Terpsichore in all her forms, he’s opened his new video with a not necessarily accurate re-enactment: five guys in flamboyant stooped-old-man costumes walk a circle, “helped” by members of La Jerez, who keep looking underneath their ponchos but seem otherwise respectful. The slow, trad fiddle music of la Danza stops abruptly, La Jerez kicks into its waltz, Flores flails his limbs, and the stooped old men spring to life, emboldened by this rad new beat. There’s a long, proud history of affectionately tweaking the Olds by replacing their slow rhythm with a new, faster rhythm — recall the Clash’s “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” or Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings.” Flores seems to be operating on the same impulse here.

¡No tan rápido! says Michoacán’s secretary of indigenous people, Martín García Avilés. (Let’s just note how great it is that a Mexican state has its own secretary of indigenous people.) García Avilés calls the video an insult to native traditions nationwide. Flores and La Jerez are denigrating the Purépecha people and subjecting them to ridicule, he says, and they should take down the video. Flores expresses surprise, countering that he’s trying to rescue and exalt la Danza and bring it to the attention of younger generations. NorteñoBlog, watching a video of an actual Danza, asks warily, “Aren’t the dancing fake old men supposed to be funny? At least a little bit?” Not that I plan to start making video parodies of indigenous dances any time soon. Tumblr would have a collective aneurysm. But I’m curious to know how Flores’s video reads to other people who’ve grown up with la Danza de los Viejitos. Offensive? Funny?

Anyway, as I mentioned, the rhythms in this thing are also stellar — bar by bar, the band divides the basic pulse into either two or three, with Flores subdividing those beats into even smaller and faster bits during the choruses, his accents landing in unexpected places. Limbs flail accordingly. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “¡Controversy! ¡Polémica! (Who’s On the Mexican Radio?)”

Odes to Music Executives and Other Criminals

beto tiger

Ladies and gentlemen, our nation is in the grip of a Sierreño fever, and it´s mostly because — on the charts, at least — the dead are walking the earth. Or at least one dead man. For the second week in a row, Billboard‘s Hot Latin top 25 is 20 percent acoustic trio music, the signature Sierreño style of the late Ariel Camacho. His bandmates Los Plebes Del Rancho just released their first album since Sr. Camacho died, and they occupy four of those slots, one of them (the deathless “Hablemos”) with Camacho himself. The fifth trio spot belongs to Los Del Arroyo, backing up pretty boy gangster Adriel Favela. Had Camacho not died a year ago, it’s unlikely that he and his band would be clogging up the chart to this extent. The Arroyos might have still had their hit — after all, “Tomen Nota” is a really good song and Favela’s an established hitmaker — but it’s equally likely that Camacho’s post-mortem singles have whetted listeners’ appetites for rippling guitars and lurching basslines.

virlan garciaBut the old sound of Sierreño is having a moment off the charts, too. NorteñoBlog has already noted the fine new album from Los Migueles “La Voz Original,” who were Sierreño when Sierreño wasn’t cool. Now we’ve got a new tuba trio album from the young guitarist and singer Virlán García. His Y Cambió Mi Suerte (self-released) is a noble attempt to strike while the fever’s hot. (Please do not actually strike feverish people, except with leeches.) García is maybe the millionth person to record an ode to El Chapo Guzmán’s son “Iván Archivaldo,” but to his credit, the song demonstrates what a monster García’s lead guitarist is. This trio tries for different effects than the consistently hypnotic Los Plebes — “El Serio” contains some studied group fills, almost like a pop song arrangement, though the main riff just barely hangs together. In other words, they’re still a little rough, but they’ve got their sites set on bigger things.

pobre o criminalI’m pretty sure all of García’s efforts thus far — two self-released albums, an active Youtube channel — constitute a savvy bid for the attention of DEL Records. After all, DEL’s charismatic CEO Angel Del Villar is known for signing musicians (including Ariel Camacho) based on their Youtube presences. García no doubt reads Triunfo magazine interviews about industry hiring practices, so last year he wrote and recorded Del Villar his very own corrido, guilelessly titled “Angel Del Villar,” as part of the self-released album Pobre o Criminal. If you think this sounds familiar, you’re right. Los Plebes recorded a different ode to Del Villar, “DEL Negociante,” that’s currently sitting at #15 Hot Latin. Short story: “Angel Del Villar” is no “DEL Negociante,” but I’m sure the CEO noticed the effort, and that he appreciated it more than he would a giltter-bombed resumé. Continue reading “Odes to Music Executives and Other Criminals”

¡Nuevo! (starring Los Plebes, Los Tucanes, y más)

cuisillos

Pura Rienda SueltaIt is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. The Zacatecan-I-think quintet Luis Ruiz y la Embarcacion de la Musica Norteña has just released their second album Pura Rienda Suelta (Goma) (alternate title: Cuidado Con La Bestia Saxy), and on first listen it stands out from the puro sax pack. Por ejemplo, accordion and sax hang out on a repetitive minor-chord riff in their single “Me Enamoré” (sequel title: “Tuvimos Saxo”). In a subgenre that’s almost oppressively chipper, minor chords count for plenty. But even on chipper tunes like Regulo Caro’s oft-covered “La Buchona” (alternate title: “Labios Saxys”), Ruiz’s clarion voice sells the songs. He’s got a way of making the most heartfelt pleas sound tossed-off. Thumbs up indeed, Sr. Ruiz.

los plebesImprobably (and not at all saxily), Los Plebes Del Rancho de Ariel Camacho are climbing closer to the Hot Latin top 10 with their single “DEL Negociante,” written by their DEL Records labelmates Revolver Cannabis. Like “Me Enamoré,” “DEL” boasts a memorable minor-key riff. Unlike “Me Enamoré,” it features the teenaged José Manuel Lopez Castro pinch hitting for previous lead singer Ariel Camacho, who died a year ago, and he’s singing a song about their label boss, Angel Del Villar. This is both crass and wonderful. After Jimi Hendrix died, imagine his rhythm section renamed themselves “Experience Hendrix,” hired the fresh-faced Neil Young as a frontman, and scored a hit with “Lonely at the Top (Reprise),” written by Randy Newman in honor of Reprise Records boss Frank Sinatra. And then they recorded a whole album! While we’ll never know the results of that particular thought experiment, we can hear Recuerden Mi Estilo (DEL), which sounds pretty good. Lopez Castro lacks the immediate charisma of his predecessor, but tubist Omar Burgos has more than enough to share. Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Los Plebes, Los Tucanes, y más)”

¡Nuevo-ish! (doing DEL Records due diligence)

los amos del terror

fernandez pacasWhen we last met the rambunctious corrido quintet Grupo Fernández last June, NorteñoBlog was praising their Regulo Caro and Ariel Camacho feature “La Fuga Del Dorian,” a real barnburner of a corrido. In fact the charisma of the two stars overshadowed Los Fernández themselves, kind of like Nicki and Weezy guesting on a Tyga song, or Jagger and Hendrix sitting in with a slaphappy but faceless British garage band. The band’s runaway rhythm section regularly achieves that sublime rolling feel you find in many of the best new corrido bands, but it’s hard to buy lead singer Elton Aispuro unless he’s singing high and fast. When they attempt a slow song like Camacho’s “Te Metiste,” rhythm and singer sound like they’re wearing lead boots. Unfortunately their new album Las Pacas (DEL) has too many slow ones — actually, too many songs period. 17! Who do these guys think they are, Revolver Cannabis? But they still know how to burn down the barn — witness this week’s Pick to Click “El Pariente De La O,” featuring the high, Keith Richards-worthy backing vocals of bajo sexto player Juan García:

Continue reading “¡Nuevo-ish! (doing DEL Records due diligence)”

Desfile de Éxitos 1/23/16

larry hernandez

While NorteñoBlog was away from the charts over Christmas, something unexpected happened. The listening public, perhaps because they were feeling unusually decent, STOPPED LISTENING TO “PROPUESTA INDECENTE.” Or at least they listened to it less. And because King Romeo’s ballad had spent more than one year on the Hot Latin chart, and because it had lately dropped to #5, and because Billboard writes you off the Hot Latin chart after a year if you drop below #5 — OUR LONG NATIONAL INDECENCY IS OVER!!!!! “Propuesta Indecente” ended its record 125-week chart run the week of January 2. We extend a hearty congratulations to King Romeo and all those who have swooned in his name.

(Alternate lead: “Propuesta Indecente” was destroyed January 2 when a small band of resistance fighters blew up its thermal oscillator, destabilizing the star-killing juggernaut and exiling King Romeo to his recording studio. In a prepared statement the King said, “Don’t worry, I’ll build another one,” and then chuckled with craven glee.)

Maybe coincidentally, the week of January 2 saw an enormous number of Regional Mexican songs climbing the Hot Latin chart: 14 out of the top 25, to be exact. (Usually the top 25 contains around 10 or 11.) Since that week the number has dropped to 13, many of which are holdovers from last year, but there are a few interesting things happening. Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 1/23/16”

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