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Beto Sierra

Un Aplauso Para Esas Mujeres (Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 4/21/17)

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Women charting with norteño and banda music remains an unfortunately rare phenomenon, like snow in April or seeing an owl in the wild. So NorteñoBlog is stoked to see not one but two women on the Mexican radio charts this week. At #10 is actress/singer/”novia de America” Lucero, with a banda remake of Joan Sebastian’s 1980 countrypolitan tune “Hasta Que Amanezca”. With its repeated demands of “Ámame!”, it’s as forceful a love song as anything from Taylor Dayne’s Imperative Period, and Lucero really lets her voice fly around the melody’s contours. VALE LA PENA

Diana-reyes-la-pasion-tiene-memoriaThen at #18 we’ve got Diana Reyes with the banda song “La Pasión Tiene Memoria,” a song that appeared on her 2015 album but just got a video. It’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde deal with lovey verses detailing the memories of love, and then an angry chorus, in a different key and tempo, where Reyes goes crazy and feels everything overflowing inside her. The switch from verse to chorus is jarring, but Reyes’ voice remains a wonder and the song is growing on me. And it’s definitely better than anything off her dull new album Cuando Tuve Ganas. VALE LA PENA

(Although, la pura verdad, I think I prefer the new Jekyll-and-Hyde video from Chiquis Rivera, “Horas Extras,” to both. Give me a week to ruminate.)

luna aplausoAnd it’s not just women getting in on the “women” act! At #17 we find Edwin Luna, his Banda la Trakalosa, and his perennially nascent acting chops performing “Un Aplauso,” which is sadly not a Lady Gaga remake. Continue reading “Un Aplauso Para Esas Mujeres (Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 4/21/17)”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio

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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”

No Más Lápices, No Más Libros

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Returning to the YouTube channel of the jet-setting, tiger-smooching promoter Beto Sierra, NorteñoBlog has stumbled across the perfect song to play as you’re ending the school year. (Besides “School’s Out,” I mean. You know who sings “School’s Out” and thinks it’s cool? Fourth graders.) From the Baja Californian sextet Grupo Recluta comes “El Estudiante” (Sitio), a tongue twisting song of familial love and visiting abuelo for the summer, enjoying soccer and tacos. The narrator’s name is Alfredo, nickname Carrillo, and he introduces us to a few friends — Gustavo, Francisco, and Jorge Arturo — whom he can count on one hand. Unless “Jorge Arturo” is the name of a school or a jefe. Standard translation caveats apply.

Here’s what I can tell you for sure: the music is astonishing. While the band bounds along like they’re waltzing through a jacked up version of The King and I, songwriter/leaders Manuel Rodelo and David Correa harmonize their way through a melody full of tricky syncopated subdivisions. They’re the two hotshots swing dancing in the center of the ballroom, garnering the adoration of women and the resentment of men. The other hotshot is the accordion player, curiously unmentioned in Grupo Recluta’s promotional literature and reluctant to show his face in the video. In any case, Pick to Click:

recluta plataNo strangers to the academic life, Recluta also cut a charming call-and-response song called “De Libros a Libretas,” in which they graduate from their academic books to their street-smart notebooks. (Need a summer job? Recluta’ll hook you up.) Neither song appears on their current album Plata O Plomo, whose title track isn’t a Soulfly cover but might cover the same lyrical territory. 24 songs, all but a handful under three minutes, I’m guessing describing some of the less taxable job prospects for new grads, and it kicks off with some tremendous drumming. And look! — there’s the accordion player on the album cover, second from the left. All the boys making all that noise ’cause they found new toys.

Odes to Music Executives and Other Criminals

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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”

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