music, charts, opinions


Conjunto Primavera

NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since the Year 2000


As a recovering rockist and certified Old, I enjoy listening to the radio station The Current, 89.3 FM, whenever I’m driving through the Twin Cities. Recently The Current held a listener poll to determine the 893 essential songs since the year 2000. This list is a hit of sweet, unfiltered white elephant art. “Seven Nation Army” is #1 — and to be fair, it’s got one of the first riffs learned by today’s budding guitarists. Arcade Fire is everywhere, and Duluth folk-rockers Trampled By Turtles are more ranked than they’ve ever been ranked before.

In response, last week the Minneapolis City Pages, led by the excellent Keith Harris, published a list of 40 non-essential songs since the year 2000. This was the termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss riposte to all that Art. As you might guess, the non-essential list is way more fun, since it contains songs about dog sex and smashing things with hammers. But still, there was something missing, and I don’t mean Trampled By Turtles.

Both these lists gave NorteñoBlog an excuse to indulge in its two favorite pastimes: bitching that nobody pays attention to regional Mexican music, and shamelessly stealing the ideas of its betters.

So, in the pioneering spirit of 7-Minute Abs: ¡NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since 2000!

What does “esencial” mean in this case? I only got into Mexican music in 2005, so my list will look different than the list of someone immersed in this music for years, let alone decades. If you’ve followed the Blog at all, you know my taste leans toward novelty: cumbias, tubas, brass sections turned into backbeats, and squalid consortiums of instrumentalists all trying to outplay one another. I have Complicated Feelings about violent narco songs celebrating real criminals, but I don’t dismiss them outright, and I think they often make bands sound more exciting than they would otherwise.

In short — and this is one of the points I read in the City Pages’ subtext, and in Richard Meltzer’s The Aesthetics of Rock and Chuck Eddy’s books — the non-esencial is esencial to the whole enterprise. That’s why this list sometimes looks like a mutant termite-elephant hybrid.

Before we get started, here’s something else you won’t find on either of those other lists: an artist who’s currently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury! Romantic balladeer Julión Álvarez, despite being basically Iran, has the distinction of being the continent’s best singer, and he recorded the most esencial melody here, but you can’t find it on the Spotify playlist at the bottom. So enjoy “Ojos Verdes” as you peruse.

And now, get a whiff of the Blog’s essence.

40. Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa de Monterrey – “Mi Padrino el Diablo” 2014
Whether flaring his nostrils or trying to jumpstart his perpetually nascent acting career, Luna over-enunciates more dramatically than anyone in banda music. Here’s a jaunty waltz where he gets down with the devil.

39. Los Angeles Azules – “El Listón de Tu Pelo” 2000
Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since the Year 2000”

Archivos de 1996 (starring Jennifer y Los Jetz, Los Tigres, y más)


The Regional Mexican charts of 1996 held four separate genres. One of them was the deathless norteño of Los Tigres and Los Huracanes; the other three were in various stages of decline.

The technobanda of Bandas Machos and Maguey still thrived, but in a few years would be eclipsed by acoustic banda. Helena Simonett’s book Banda lays out the commercial leapfrogging these two styles played with one another throughout the ’90s.

Tejano fans were still mourning Selena — see #7 below — but they were also welcoming newcomers like Jennifer Peña y Los Jetz (see the Pick to Click, below) and Bobby Pulido (see the terrible song right below her). There were, however, rumblings on the horizon. San Antonio and Dallas were suffering from too many Tejano bookers flooding the market, one promoter told Billboard‘s Ramiro Burr. Some bands complained that clubs were replacing live bands with DJs. Burr would spend the next several years chronicling the decline of the Tejano genre as a commercial force, though it still exists for a small but fervent fanbase.

The third synth-based style, grupo music, also still exists, but its commercial mojo would peter out more abruptly. Marco Antonio Solís had just left Los Bukis and was scoring a bunch of solo Hot Latin #1 hits that sounded way more pop than the rest of his cohort. (See #2 below.) Bronco would retire in 1997, leaving Los Temerarios and Los Mismos to care for the genre. I think. NorteñoBlog’s disinterest in grupo music remains strong and resolute.

[EDIT: I just checked and Los Temerarios were still scoring big hits in 2004, and possibly later, so maybe the petering was more gradual.]

These were the Top 15 Regional Mexican songs, as published by Billboard on November 9, 1996: Continue reading “Archivos de 1996 (starring Jennifer y Los Jetz, Los Tigres, y más)”

Archivos de 2001: Los Twiins Break Through

los twiins

Lovelorn bounces and classic fanfares, old hats and new jacks, and early work by one of the most influential production duos of the past two decades, any genre: these were Billboard‘s top 10 Regional Mexican songs on May 19, 2001.

1. “No Te Podias Quedar”Conjunto Primavera (#4 Hot Latin)
The pride of Ojinaga, the gas-guzzling romantics of the road, Primavera scored their fifth Hot Latin top 10 with this soppy contribution from their go-to songwriter Jesús Guillén. Sometimes songwriters just find a niche, and Guillén was put on this earth to write soaring climaxes for the cavernous throat of Tony Melendez, the continent’s best singer before Primavera’s output dropped off and Julión Álvarez came along. The song itself barely exists.

2. “Y Llegaste Tú”Banda El Recodo (#6 Hot Latin)
In 2001, after 60 years of playing brass band shows to adoring but limited audiences, Recodo was enjoying the public’s newfound vogue for banda music and their first gold album. A couple years earlier, they’d begun hiring producer brothers Adolfo and Omar Valenzuela, aka Los Twiins, aka the bankrollers of El Movimiento Alterado later in the decade. (El Komander still records for them.) The brothers had their identical fingers on the pulse of the youth, and in this song they led Recodo toward a sound that blanketed the airwaves all year, and then for years afterward — a newly written Noel Hernandez song that sounded trad yet vibrant, with a arrangement that turned contrasting instrumental sections into hooks. Plus, “We’ve learned how to really tune the banda,” said Omar, “which [in the past] maybe wasn’t really done.” Progress! Pick to Click!

los tigres paisano3. “Me Declaro Culpable”Los Tigres del Norte (#13 Hot Latin)
Sad limericks of lost love — with sax! Continue reading “Archivos de 2001: Los Twiins Break Through”

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”

Desfile de Éxitos 8/8/15


Receiving an epic death bump on last week’s Hot Latin chart was singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer-equestrian Joan Sebastian, who recently succumbed to cancer at age 64:

On Hot Latin Songs, 11 of Sebastian’s tracks enter[ed] the chart — the most concurrent titles an act has ever had on the list. And, all of them are in the top half of the tally, including four in the top 10. One of his most memorable hits, “Un Idiota,” re-enters at No. 2 powered by 1.9 million weekly streams and 2,000 digital downloads sold in the week ending July 16 (up 2,306 percent according to Nielsen Music). “Un Idiota” originally peaked at No. 22 in 2001.

Note that none of these songs showed up on the Regional Mexican Songs airplay chart; Sebastian’s songs likely received more airplay than usual, but that bump didn’t coalesce around any one song. “Un Idiota” would have been a good candidate: two verses and choruses of gentle acoustic remorse, including spoken passages and a big “te AAAAAmo” chorus, it captures Sebastian’s knack for sounding traditional and poppy at once. (Alacranes Musical’s version displays a similar knack, although, as with every duranguense song, it requires that listeners shed any preconceptions about the emotional capacity of peppy synth polkas.) Listening to the smattering of Sebastian’s re-charting songs, it’s hard not to be impressed by the breadth of his catalog — the man could create pop ballads, uptempo synthpop, pedal steel country, mariachi, and Tejano with equal authority. His songs have begun drifting off the Hot Latin chart this week, so click on a few before they’re gone.

When we last encountered Duelo’s not-at-all-sexist tale of a heartless, icy, poisonous, murdering, dream-killing mujer, I wished it sounded more venomous. I have since shed my preconceptions about form following function and direct you to “Veneno,” this week’s Pick To Click and an excellent Tejano midtempo with a killer opening riff. (I can’t be the only one who hears Def Leppard’s “Hysteria.”) Singer Oscar Ivan Trevino regrets the venom flowing through his veins but sounds resolved to suck it out. Don’t try that at home.

Other nubes include a fine Tejano ballad from Conjunto Primavera ft. Intocable’s Ricky Munoz, although singing in the vicinity of Primavera’s Tony Melendez remains a fool’s errand; a fine Tejano midtempo from Intocable themselves; and Trakalosa’s “La Revancha,” whose melodramatic eight-minute video has things to say about Fate and Class and What Makes A Man Start Fires, or at least Beef Up And Kill Other Dudes. Driven by airplay and a new video with lots of slow-motion horses, Ariel Camacho’s elegiac “Te Metiste” climbs to #2 Hot Latin. Could he score his second posthumous #1?

In sadder news, Calibre 50’s latest boring ballad, already a big hit in Mexico, enters both charts. If history is any guide we’ll be changing the station on it for a while.

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published August 8.

1. “El Perdón” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
2. “Te Metiste” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho (#1 RegMex)
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (105 WEEKS OLD)
4. “La Gozadera” – Gente de Zona ft. Marc Anthony
5. “Ginza” – J Balvin
6. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B
7. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
8. “Un Idiota” – Joan Sebastian
9. “Malditas Ganas” – El Komander (#2 RegMex)
10. “Me Gustas” – Joan Sebastian

11. “El Amor De Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#6 RegMex)
12. “25 Rosas” – Joan Sebastian
13. “Mi Vicio Mas Grande” – Banda El Recodo (#3 RegMex)
14. “Pierdo la Cabeza” – Zion & Lennox
15. “Me Sobrabas Tu” – Banda Los Recoditos (#5 RegMex)
16. “Sigueme y Te Sigo” – Daddy Yankee
17. “La Mordidita” – Ricky Martin ft. Yotuel
18. “Perdido En Tus Ojos” – Don Omar ft. Natti Natasha
19. “El Perdedor” – Joan Sebastian
20. “El Cholo” – Gerardo Ortiz (#4 RegMex)

21. “El Taxi” – Pitbull ft. Sensato & Osmani Garcia
22. “Me Voy Enamorando (Remix)” – Chino & Nacho ft. Farruko
23. “Solita” – Prince Royce
24. “Aunque Ahora Estes Con El” – Calibre 50 (#9 RegMex)
25. “Duele El Amor” – Tony Dize

“Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#5 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
“Nota de Amor” – Wisin + Carlos Vives ft. Daddy Yankee
“Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#9 RegMex)
“Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
“Back It Up” – Prince Royce ft. Jennifer Lopez & Pitbull
“Como Antes” – Tito “El Bambino” ft. Zion & Lennox


7. “Cuál Adiós” – La Bandononona Clave Nueva de Max Peraza
8. “Piénsalo” – Banda MS
10. “Un Desengaño” – Conjunto Primavera ft. Ricky Muñoz

11. “Bonito Y Bello” – La Septima Banda
12. “Unas Heladas” – Grupo Máximo Grado
13. “Debajo Del Sombrero” – Leandro Rios ft. Pancho Uresti
14. “La Revancha” – La Trakalosa de Monterrey
15. “Suena La Banda” – Los Tucanes de Tijuana ft. Código FN
16. “Cajita de Cartón” – Intocable
17. “Confesion” – Arrolladora
18. “Veneno” – Duelo
19. “A Lo Mejor” – Banda MS
20. “Vete Acostumbrando” – Larry Hernández

“Que Tal Si Eres Tu” – Los Tigres Del Norte
“Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” – La Maquinaria Norteña
“Como Tu No Hay Dos” – Los Huracanes del Norte
“Calla y Me Besas” – Enigma Norteña

¡Nuevo! (starring Banda Cuisillos, Jovanko Ibarra, y más)


nino-albertelli-amor-y-saxo-vinilo-argentino-6294-MLA79618094_3701-OIn the movements known as Puro Zacatecas Sax and Puro Chihuahua Sax, one of the biggest wasted opportunities is the lack of terrible “sax” puns in album titles. Research reveals the Argentinian Nino Albertelli once released an album called Amor y Saxo, but that’s Argentina’s problem. Where is the Saxo Tántrico, the Saxo En La Playa, the Paga Para El Saxo of northern Mexico? Smooth jazz would’ve had this all locked down by now.

fieraFortunately the Mexican bands in question play with more lively energy than they use when bestowing titles, and this week sees new releases from two of ’em. In this corner, La Fiera de Ojinaga (“The Beast of Ojinaga”!) represents Chihuahua with the album Como Una Fiera (Azteca); the first spritely single goes by the same title, and from what I’ve heard, the rest of the album promises much much more. Possible alternate title: Saxy Fiera.

retonosIn the opposite corner, representing Zacatecas with one half-ton of bounciness, is the sextet (saxtet?) Los Retoños del Rio, whose “Por Qué la Engañe” NorteñoBlog has already recommended. It’s totes Intocablish, and frankly better than Intocable’s last couple singles. Their new album is De Buena Escuela (Goma) (alternate title: Saxo Con Mi Profesora), and NorteñoBlog has slacked by not listening to any of its other songs yet, but these bands are nothing if not consistent.

primaveraThe kings of this genre, Conjunto Primavera, have a new compilation out this week, because it is the position of the benevolent Fonovisa corporation that no band can ever be compiled enough. La Historia de los Éxitos (alternate title: El Mejor Saxo Nunca) is part of a series that also includes best-of’s by grupos Bryndis, Yndio, Liberacion, y Los Rehenes y Los Traileros. Get it quick before another one comes out next month!

Moving along to banda, the jokesters in Banda Cuisillos have a fine new-ish single called “Cerveza”, which features several of NorteñoBlog’s favorite elements: two different singers trying to outdo one another in the passion department, brass alternating with guitar, and deplorable sexism. Please accept it as this week’s Pick to Click with my apologies, but also with the understanding that, using the late Ellen Willis’s formula, “Cerveza” still isn’t as deplorably sexist as Cat Stevens’s “Wild World.”

jovankoBanda singer and former La Voz Mexico contestant Jovanko Ibarra is an extremely handsome man who should wear a helmet when he rides his motorcycle in the video for “No Le Hagamos al Cuento.” Look at it this way: when the Smithsonian moves the Hope Diamond, do you think they just toss it like a football to whichever flunky happens to be standing around? No. The Hope Diamond requires layers of padding and precautions and moving techniques that have been honed over decades, to ensure that the Hope Diamond makes it through the moving process unscathed. My point is, Jovanko Ibarra is prettier than the Hope Diamond. His new album No Le Hagamos al Cuento (Prodisc) has his picture on the cover.

agostiniSince we’re speaking of pretty dudes, I’ll turn your attention to Daniel Agostini and his 2003 album Sentimientos Vol. 1 (Magenta), whose album cover depicts him as an angel. Whether the songs bear this out I can’t say, but a cursory listen reveals some charming and very twee electrocumbia. I bring it up because it’s new to streaming services, and also because THE ALBUM COVER DEPICTS HIM AS AN ANGEL.

chavezBanda singer Sandra Chavez “La Comadre” is planning something. Most likely it’s an album or EP release, but the rollout by her label Music Eyes is proceeding in a slow and seemingly haphazard fashion. Earlier today three “singles” hit Youtube, and you can count yourself among the first human people to listen to them. “Sinceramente” is just that; “Me Das Asco” is stately; “Mejor Sin Ti” is heartbroken. None packs the punch of last year’s “Mucha Mujer” and its biker chic video where, I’d just like to point out to my new friend Jovanko, Sandra had the good sense to wear a face-obscuring helmet while riding her bike. Of course, using the late Roger Ebert’s formula, you’d expect that from her.

Finally, three recent albums of corridos:

Los Canelos de Durango sing about El Señor de la Montaña (Pegasus);

Luis Salomon sings about cartel figure Tito Beltran in “Por Encargo de los Viejos (Tito Beltran)” (ICON);

and Los Meros Meros Alteños sing Corridos y Canciones (Hyphy).

Archivos de 2000

rogelio martinez

Chart geeks know the story of “Macarena”‘s long climb to number one on Billboard‘s Hot 100 — this song was giving people’s cuerpos alegria for a record-breaking 33 weeks (the chafing!) before it hit the top spot, and it had to undergo remix to get there. But things move even slower on the genre charts. Chris Young’s ode to the “Voices” in his head was on the Hot Country Songs chart for almost a year, 51 weeks, before it hit #1 in 2011. And among all the Latin charts, the longest climb to #1 — 43 weeks — took place in 2000-01 on Regional Mexican Songs, with a banda cover of Shania Twain.

When Chicago’s WOJO changed its format to regional Mexican on September 25, 2000, Rogelio Martínez’s “Y Sigues Siendo Tu” was moving up at #5, but it still had more than three months to go before it’d reach the top. (It peaked at #8 on the overall Hot Latin chart, and I’m pretty sure I remember hearing it on Latin pop radio at the time, rare for banda songs.) Musically it’s really good, though you should always keep in mind that I’m a rockist gringo whose musical wheelhouse revolves around hair metal. There are some momentum-killing horn blares in the verses, but the momentum is still undeniable, and the banda achieves it by simulating a slow backbeat with the horns. The tuba is the kick drum, the soft trumpet stabs are the snare, and though they’re helped out by a subtle drum kit, the horns do most of the rhythmic work. This remains an excellent technique for bandas who want to play power ballads, as when Banda Rancho Viejo plays an Espinoza Paz song. The composite brass rhythm basically comes out sounding like “We Will Rock You.”

Springing from Wednesday’s post, these were Billboard‘s top regional Mexican songs in the issue dated Sept. 23, 2000. Besides Martínez/Twain, the pick to click is probably Límite’s “Por Encima De Todo,” a minor key Tejano cumbia with a good accordion solo and sharp singing from Alicia Villarreal.

1. “En Cada Gota de Mi Sangre” – Conjunto Primavera (#12 Hot Latin)
2. “Yo Se Que Te Acordaras” – Banda El Recodo (#13 Hot Latin)
3. “De Paisano A Paisano” – Los Tigres Del Norte (#15 Hot Latin)
4. “Eras Todo Para Mi” – Los Temerarios (#16 Hot Latin)
5. “Y Sigues Siendo Tu” – Rogelio Martinez (#10 Hot Latin)
6. “Secreto De Amor” – Joan Sebastian (#4 Hot Latin)
7. “Pa’ Que Son Pasiones” – Tiranos Del Norte (#20 Hot Latin)
8. “Por Encima De Todo” – Límite (#22 Hot Latin)
9. “Te Soñé” – El Coyote y Su Banda Tierra Santa (#23 Hot Latin) (These two words they swear to you!)
10. “A Ella” – El Poder Del Norte (#25 Hot Latin)
11. “No Puedo Olvidar Tu Voz” – El Coyote y Su Banda Tierra Santa (#27 Hot Latin)
12. “Sin Ti No Se Vivir” – Los Angeles Azules (#29 Hot Latin)
13. “Tu Y Las Nubes” – Lupillo Rivera (#30 Hot Latin)
14. “El Liston de Tu Pelo” – Los Angeles Azules
15. “Mentirosa” – Los Rieleros Del Norte (#33 Hot Latin)

… and, in at #40 on Hot Latin, it’s “Los Dos Zacatecanos” by Banda Machos.

Archivos de 1999


These were the top Regional Mexican songs of December 18, 1999, as reported by Billboard. Some things to note:

Los Angeles Azules continue to intrigue.

Several of these bands — El Recodo, Primavera, Los Tigres — released music in 2014. All of them sound pretty much the same today as they did 15 years ago.

The attempt to pinpoint when banda pop became today’s banda pop continues. I’m still looking for a swanky swinging midtempo backbeat ballad with doo-wop chord changes played by an entirely brass band. In the meantime, Recodo’s “Te Ofrezco Un Corazón” could’ve been released yesterday, but it’s more what Billboard would call “mainstream banda,” as in this excerpt from the March 3, 2001 issue:

The group’s somewhat avantgarde approach to music can be attributed to Don Cruz, the man who made vocals a staple of the band and who back in 1985 even dared to use a keyboard (not a banda instrument) on one of the group’s live albums.

A typical El Recodo album mixes genres. Y Llegaste Tu, for example, includes merengues and ballads, but the title track is more mainstream banda (in contrast to “Deja,” which is a ballad, says Moreno).

“We’re a typical banda sinaloense [a band from Sinaloa, Mexico, featuring brass instruments and percussion] that’s evolved,” says Alfonso. “We’ve tried to put on a more modern show and at the same time preserve a sound older followers can identify with. We want to offer a first-rate show that’s very Mexican.”

1. “Te Ofrezco Un Corazón”Banda El Recodo
2. “Te Quiero Mucho” – Los Rieleros Del Norte
3. “El Liston De Tu Pelo” – Los Angeles Azules
4. “No Le Ruegues” – Conjunto Primavera
5. “Con Quien Estarás” – Banda Arkangel R-15
6. “Mi Gusto Es” – Ezequiel Peña
7. “Sonador Eterno” – Intocable
8. “Dos Gotas De Agua” – Banda Maguey
9. “Perdoname” – Pepe Aguilar
10. “Paraiso Terrenal” – Priscila Y Sus Balas De Plata
11. “No Compro Amores” – Banda Machos
12. “Alma Rebelde” – Limite
13. “Eternamente” – Vicente Fernández
14. “Con La Soga Al Cuello” – Los Tigres Del Norte
15. “Basura” – Los Mismos

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