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Banda Los Recoditos

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!)”

100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015

calibre 50 mejor

The hyper-abundant compilation album is one of the more bewildering aspects of the Regional Mexican music industry. There are a LOT of them — witness this Allmusic list of more than 50 Conjunto Primavera comps since 1995, released on eight different record labels. Lately some music-writer friends and acquaintances have observed a dearth of compilation albums in recent years, given listeners’ ability to cherrypick their own songs on streaming sites. NorteñoBlog does not dispute this observation; I’ll only add that the compilation market in Regional Mexican is still going strong. This year saw four new Primavera comps, on two different labels. Who’s buying these things? Don’t they already own all these songs?

Without answering these questions, NorteñoBlog presents this list of 100 single- (or, in the case of Sony’s Frente a Frente series, double-) artist comps released on CD in 2015. It doesn’t include multi-artist comps like Fonovisa’s annual Radio Éxitos: Discos Del Año series. This list is incomplete; I’m pretty sure I could find more by scouring the catalogs of indie labels Select-O-Hits and D&O.

Some items of interest: Continue reading “100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015”

¡Feliz 2016! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2015!)

2016-copia

Regional Mexican music had as good a year in 2015 as any other style of popular music, but you wouldn’t know it from any music magazine’s year-end coverage. This Mexican-American radio format is only one small musical laboratory within the vast complex of U.S. pop; but figured by their percentages, norteño, banda, cumbia, and Tejano bands released as many great, vibrant singles and albums as their peers in other popular music subgenres. Yet good luck finding this music on year-end lists. Even at Billboard, which provides the best English-language coverage of Mexican music, the list of Top 10 Latin Albums contains only one (very good) regional Mexican album, which came out in 2014. None of the magazine’s Top 10 Latin Songs represent Mexican regional styles. (Shoutout to the New York Times’ Ben Ratliff, though, for getting Remmy Valenzuela’s “¿Por Qué Me Ilusionaste?” into the paper of record.) And never mind year-end coverage — this fun, fascinating music rarely gets covered throughout the year in mainstream publications, although NPR and Annie Correal in the Times are notable exceptions. As is The Singles Jukebox, where Josh writes and where the editors and writers share an expansive definition of “pop.”

This is pop music, dammit! MILLIONS OF AMERICANS LISTEN TO IT.

(An appropriate YouTube playlist to accompany that claim.) Continue reading “¡Feliz 2016! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2015!)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (aka The “Downtown” of Pan-Latino Videos)

julion and juan

At NorteñoBlog we’re accustomed to seeing our fair share of videos that are, to put it politely, extraordinary. (To put it impolitely: batshit insane.) Usually these videos result from the collision of wild creativity with meager indie label video budgets: Who can forget Los Pakines de Perú’s heavily narcotized Ed Wood fever dream for “Vacia,” which featured ghostly visions of a dude in a goblin mask playing the trumpet, as well as some ex-lovebirds smearing one another with frosting? That was not a rhetorical question. PLEASE TELL ME WHO CAN FORGET THAT VIDEO, so I can consult them before I wake up screaming again tonight.

Today’s extraordinary video is something different. For one thing, it wasn’t cheap. The song that sits at #12 on this week’s Mexican radio chart features not one but three big stars, a cast of dozens (at least), a norteño band and an R&B band, and serious Fonovisa/Universal money behind it. True, not much happens in the video — it’s a performance re-enactment, not one of those Trakalosa epics where the hero spends years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit until one day the stars cross and he shivs the real villain with a crucifix in the cafeteria. (I only made up the shiv.) But at the same time, you can tell it took some doing. The abundant video cutting suggests either a multitude of takes or an editor who was way overthinking the job; and Los Pakines could finance another video with Juan Gabriel’s eyeliner budget alone.

That’s right, it’s the new song by Juan Gabriel, a remake of his 1980 12-bar blues “La Frontera,” Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (aka The “Downtown” of Pan-Latino Videos)”

Desfile de Éxitos 11/28/15

camacho hablemos

camacho hablemosA couple weeks ago Billboard reported that Ariel Camacho‘s “Hablemos” had debuted at #44 on its Hot Latin chart. This is the same “Hablemos” whose yearning, lovey-dovey video dropped in March of 2014, almost a year before Camacho died; it now has 48 million views. This week the song moves up to #14 Hot Latin and #9 on the airplay chart, and it’s also the title track of a new Camacho album. Hablemos (DEL) contains some previously released songs and some apparently unreleased ones that I wanna call “unearthed,” or “liberated from the vaults,” or maybe “scraped from the studio dustbin.”

Not that Hablemos is a bad album. As Sierreño offshoots go, it’s better than the latest by Los Cuates, because Camacho’s guitar chops and his interplay with Omar Burgos’s tuba elevate his music to its own league. But aside from “Entre Pláticas Y Dudas,” a killer two-year-old corrido that’s this week’s Pick to Click, the whole thing feels a bit lethargic.

Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 11/28/15”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2015: Julio – Septiembre

marco flores

UPDATED YOUTUBE PLAYLIST HERE

Three months ago on our Top Singles list, NorteñoBlog was concerned about a lack of chart hits and puro sax music. Worry no more! There’s a bit less variety on this list than before, in part because I devoted the month of agosto to a project that prevented me from trawling for indie singles. (More on that project soon.) But the states of California, Chihuahua, Texas, Tijuana, and Zacatecas all represent below, along with ever-present Sinaloa.

(First quarter singles are here; second quarter singles are here.)

1. Marco A. Flores y Su Numero Uno Banda Jerez“Amor de la Vida Alegre” (Garmex)
Mexican radio hit
Flores, who also made NorteñoBlog’s favorite single six months ago, is like the Ramones with better beats, Rae Sremmurd if they were fast, early Madonna with a better voice. He makes termite art of the most gnawing and forward-thinking sort. He spends half this song crowing over just drums and tuba.


Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2015: Julio – Septiembre”

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