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Banda Los Recoditos

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”

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Do Bandas Dream of Romantic Sheep? (or, nodding off to bandas románticas in 2017)

coronel-kiss

NorteñoBlog has been of two minds about Las Bandas Románticas de América, the annual compilation of lovey-dovey banda hits (and “hits”) released by either Fonovisa or Disa Records, the two norteño tentacles of el pulpo gigante known as Universal Music Latin Entertainment. The first mind thinks the songs are catchy, and is grateful for the occasion to write the phrase “asymptotically approaching the musical ideal of amor.” The second mind hated asymptotes in high school, thinks 20 straight love ballads is 19 too many, has nightmare fever dreams involving doe-eyed clarinet armies, and has boycotted the series for two years running.

bandas-romanticas-2017Resolve is not the Blog’s strong suit. Thus did I find myself washing dishes and listening to the latest in the series, Las Bandas Románticas de América 2017, 20 songs by 10 bands, only some of whom are “hitmakers” in the sense of “being heard anywhere outside this compilation.” I mean, I’m sure they tour. But if you’ve heard “Pedirás Perdón,” a 2015 nonentity by Banda Coraleña, on the radio anywhere in North America, you’re doing better than I am. If you can hum the song without looking it up, you’re doing better than Banda Coraleña. Give ’em this: their cover of Joey Montana‘s “Picky” is adequate! It’s also not included on Las Bandas Románticas de América 2017 — ironic for the least choosy compilation series around.

But you do get some good songs. As previously discussed, La Séptima Banda released some fine singles in 2016, two of which — the swinging ’50s sock hop “Yo Si Me Enamoré” and the irrepressibly bouncy “Se Va Muriendo Mi Alma” — are here. You also get Banda Los Recoditos’ current hit “Me Está Tirando El Rollo,” featuring some syncopated tuba bass that’s a primo distante of “Stand By Me,” and Samuel Sarmiento, the singer who isn’t Luis Angel Franco. Banda El Recodo‘s remake of “Mujer Mujer” keeps growing on me. Banda Rancho Viejo is, for NorteñoBlog’s money, the best banda working and always worth hearing. Their tune “Mil Veces Te Quiero” was also ignored by radio, and it’s from freaking 2014, but it combines an echoing triple-voiced hook and gang shouts with one of the struttingest grooves in all of bandaland. (Plus, more ’50s sock hop imagery in the video. Thinkpieces go!) A tardy Pick to Click.

Continue reading “Do Bandas Dream of Romantic Sheep? (or, nodding off to bandas románticas in 2017)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/28/16

marcello-gamiz

The best recent song to hit the Mexican radio top 10 is probably the #4 hit “Al Rescate,” the latest in the ongoing cry for help disguised as a brass band, Banda Los Recoditos. Having set aside a nice piece of land for themselves in the “ayyyy chiquitita I’m drunk and it’s your fault” territory, Luis Angel Franco and company seem content to mine that turf for whatever they can find, for the rest of their lives — which probably won’t be long, given the volatile state of their collective liver. Typically, their horn chart is accomplished and stuffed with counterpoint, and El Flaco is the most charismatic guy at the bar, savoring some strategically placed high notes that sound like they were written for his voice. VALE LA PENA, even if you’ve heard 20 other Recoditos songs just like it.

Also solid is the song sitting at #5, La Adictiva’s brassed up take on another “ayyyy chiquitita I’m drunk and it’s your fault” song: “Que Caro Estoy Pagando.” Formerly a hit in El Norte for Sierreño heartbreakers Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, the song transitions to its new instrumental setting with stately melodic leaps intact, though I do miss the scratch in José Manuel Lopez Castro’s voice. VALE LA PENA.

But that’s the chart that measures “Audiencia.” The real action is over on the “Tocadas” chart, where — I’m guessing — we see adventurous radio programmers in smaller markets testing the waters for more VALE LA PENA songs like:

Los Horóscopos’ “Qué Chulada de Papucho”: Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/28/16”

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!

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio

chiquis-rivera-624x351

Last time out, NorteñoBlog counted six chart hits among the quarter’s best. This quarter we’re down to three, which doesn’t necessarily mean the radio has turned into a wasteland — after all, part of the thrill of radio is hearing a song you never much cared for, like Gerardo Ortiz’s “Fuiste Mia,” suddenly sound really good in the company of entirely dissimilar songs. Not that you’ll find “Fuiste Mia” below. But who knows, I may relent before the year is out.

No, all this means is that norteño and banda music have thriving independent scenes, geared more toward online video than terrestrial radio — see the tiny labels and self-releases promoted by Beto Sierra, whose YouTube clients make up a good portion of this list. In terms of their commercial outlook, bands like Máximo Grado and Los Rodriguez don’t resemble the reactionary ’80s heyday of “indie rock” so much as the early rock heyday of the ’50s and ’60s, when bands simply wanted to get paid to rock out, whether they recorded for Excello or Sun or Decca or RCA. Today’s world of online promotion means it’s easier for musicians of all genres to get heard, though not necessarily to get paid. But the barriers between majors and indies seem more porous in Mexican regional music than they do in Anglo pop and rock. Indie artists like Fidel Rueda and Los Inquietos regularly get played on mainstream radio; major and indie bands record the same corridos, and sometimes the same love songs. Everyone tours the same venues relentlessly. That’s not to say everyone is equal. Indie label acts are routinely priced out of performing on the glamorous award show circuit, and I’m guessing major label artists have first pick of surefire radio hits by Luciano Luna and Horacio Palencia. NorteñoBlog needs to research this more, but in Mexican regional music, the indie-major borderline isn’t drawn philosophically or aesthetically so much as with scrap and hustle and practicality: Who’s got the money? Who’s got the chops? How do we use our chops to get more money?

Of course, 10 years from now, when Ortiz and Julión Álvarez have catalogs full of dull 20-track prestige albums, who knows? Boredom has a way of shaking up philosophies and aesthetics.

1. Banda Renovación“Los Ninis” (Talento Lider)
Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/23/16

cuisillos

Sorry for the relative radio silence; NorteñoBlog has lately been norteñobogged down in real-life work and living changes. But you know where the radio ISN’T silent? (Wait for it…)

That’s right: in Mexico, where faith in the police is sky high and noted Chapo trollers Los Titanes de Durango can talk themselves out of speeding tickets by Knowing A Guy. I refer of course to their speedirific “Rumbo a Maza,” already a small hit in El Norte and a previous Pick to Click, now at #18 on la patria’s radio chart.

Also big on the radio this (and every) week are ballads stained with tears. At #17, the nomenclaturally gifted Bandononona Clave Nueva de Max Peraza demand “Dime Cómo” from the mujer who broke their collective heart. The only sadsacks sadder are Banda Cuisillos at #12, who demand “Utilízame” from the mujer who keeps getting her heart broken by some douchebag. (In the circus-themed video, said douchebag is a smoldering trapeze artist. Trigger warning: SAD CLOWNS ENSUE!) NorteñoBlog often enjoys Cuisillos, who veer wildly from ’80s-style pomp banda to raucous drinking songs, but the generic ballad “Utilízame” doesn’t utilize their strengths.

The real action is at #15, where the Calibre 50 splinter group La Iniciativa has teamed up with the swanky bros in Recoditos for a tongue-twisting tune about wingmen and the women they share at the club. (Standard translation caveats apply.) Like “Dime Cómo” and “Utilízame,” not to mention three of Taylor Dayne’s first four singles, “Convidela” issues demands; like Dayne, the combined norteño+banda ensemble actually sounds urgent about it. I’m also a big fan of throatiness in my banda singing, and Ariel Inzunza and Luis Angel Franco turn the tune into a total throat-off. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/23/16”

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”

On Banda Music

banda serenade

Banda music is all about hard work; that work allows for banda’s fun, its depth, and its despair. Every banda song represents an enormous coordination of talent and effort, and this coordination is plain to anyone who listens. Aside from the lead vocal and an occasional horn solo or percussion fill, there is no pretense of spontaneity in banda music. The music we hear is the result of countless hours spent in preparation. Someone had to write charts for the horn players. To cleanly execute these charts’ complicated musical passages, the players had to devote time to rehearsal, both on their own and together. Popular musicians from metal to rap spend many hours practicing, of course, but the sheer size of a banda gives all this preparation, all this work, a quality of ornate formality. A banda song is like a room full of delicate antique furniture, where one misplaced elbow sends priceless valuables crashing to smithereens; or like an elaborate negotiation through a complex system of social etiquette, a labyrinth of rules that must be internalized if it is to be understood.

The rituals we see in videos — the horn players performing cheesy coordinated dances, the heartbroken singer bringing the banda to serenade his girlfriend outside her window — underscore what a lot of work a banda demands. In the movie Say Anything, Lloyd Dobler famously played a boombox outside Diane Court’s window to woo her. It was a charming gesture, in keeping with his character, and the wooing worked: the serenader won over his audience of one, and in doing so he won over the audience for his film. The serenading banda works in the same way. Just as the mujer at the window is impressed with the effort of her hombre — for starters, how the hell did he get 16 brass players together on the spur of the moment? — so we at the computer screen are impressed with the care and concentration the ensemble squanders on their silly pop song. When the three well-rehearsed virtuosos in Rush play a side-long progressive rock suite, they’re devoted nerds pleasing themselves; they could just as easily be arguing politics or playing Dungeons and Dragons. When the 16 virtuosos in a banda lavish their skill on their singer’s romantic plea, their audience must understand their effort as a formalized gesture of romance, or else all that effort and per diem money is wasted.

The canniest bandas recognize this elaborate formal system and use it to their advantage. Often their goal is romantic; Gerardo Ortiz can only soften his “Mujer de Piedra” if his banda’s music is harder and more rigid than her heart of stone. One of them must crack, and the banda never does. But just as often, the goal is humor — a humor that acknowledges The Void. In Recoditos’ “Ando Bien Pedo,”, the players’ dexterity mocks the drunken heartache of their singer as he marches toward oblivion. The audience, having learned to feel their way around the banda’s formality, recognizes this mockery for what it is and knows to laugh at the singer. Taken further, this effect explains an inescapable fixture of current banda albums: the big dumb cumbia. Nearly every banda album attempts one. Big dumb cumbias typically use only two or three chords, and their subject matter barely strays beyond drunken revelry or dance sensations that are (not usually) sweeping the nation. Yet the banda shows their big dumb cumbias the same, or more, consideration as any other song. Someone writes a horn chart full of elaborate musical passages. The players rehearse for hours to cleanly execute those passages. A banda rarely releases its big dumb cumbia as a single, so there the song sits in the middle of the album, awaiting its audience of several thousand: a hilarious and possibly scathing testimony to how much work musicians devote to their craft and how little, in the end, it all means.

Fonovisa Phones the Past (¡Nuevo!)

luis humberto

recoditosThe big new album last Friday was Banda Los Recoditos’ Me Está Gustando (Fonovisa). Based on their track record I’ll assume it’s another shiny, debauched, smutty, jokey, not great but actually pretty good 12-song collection with a couple too many ballads. (See this review of their 2014 album Sueño XXX, for example.) This time around, the album cover comes with a paranoia-inducing game: NAME THE EYES THAT SEEM TO BE FOLLOWING YOU. We’ve already marveled at the lead cry for help single “Pistearé,” currently at #4 in Mexico and threatening to enter the Hot Latin top 10 in the U.S., in which Luis Angel Franco (the lower left set of eyes) vows to drink away the memories of the mujer who done him wrong. (In the video he gets into a fight with co-singer Samuel Sarmiento — the lower right set of eyes — over said mujer. The cycle of booze being a vicious one, this drama also drives her to drink.) Even better is big dumb cumbia “La Cruda, which celebrates the inevitable hangover with way more gusto than I’ve ever felt during a hangover. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “Fonovisa Phones the Past (¡Nuevo!)”

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