You know how it is. One week you’re delivering a PowerPoint presentation on how young hat acts deconstruct traditional machismo (Coming soon! Watch this space!), then the next week you’re looking up old hat acts on Allmusic.com when you run across an intriguing passage like this:
“[Pesado] struck again quickly with [their 2007 album] Gracias por Tu Amor, a controversial album that challenged physical abuse and the traditional notions of male machismo in Latin America. The album and its title track single were the subject of hot discussion on radio and television talk shows, but they only served to grow sales and airplay.”
NorteñoBlog is always hungry for some polémica, but in this case we need to award Jason Ankeny with a well-earned , because I can’t find any evidence of the controversy to which he alludes. Furthermore, Pesado’s song “Gracias Por Tu Amor” hardly seems like anything to get worked up over. Its video is a head-scratching depiction of (I think) a poor working-class man dreaming of a better life for his family before he has a heart attack on the job and as a result gets to move into a nice suburban home. (Workers’ comp! God bless unions.) That plot is nowhere to be found in the song’s lyric, which mentions only that the narrator’s amor is an angel from heaven and the living image of love. It’s a midtempo Intocablish thing, pretty but innocuous. I’m having trouble imagining why all the fuss, unless there were some anti-angel haters running their mouths, as anti-angel haters will.
But this does demonstrate something useful: Before today’s Mexillennials were interrogating machismo with their Izod polo shirts and their tears, Pesado was on the case. The Nuevo León quartet/quintet got started in 1993, around the same time as Intocable, and the two bands were soon celebrated as modern updates on trad vaquero accordion slingers. In a 2003 Billboard article, Ramiro Burr lumped them in with Costumbre, Duelo, Iman, and the sensitive mascaraed metalheads in Siggno, writing, “These acts sound as if they would rather whisper in their girlfriends’ ears than raise hell with the guys.” They got big in the years following Selena’s death, when the fairly gender-balanced Tejano style was giving way to more male-dominated norteño as the central sound of regional Mexican music. Burr quoted a San Antonio program director: “There is a large, disenfranchised Tejano community that feels comfortable with these artists that are not really defined as Tejano or traditional norteño. The [new groups] just have a fresh sound. It also helps that many… have lyrics that relate to younger audiences.”
I mention all this because Pesado has a new album, Los Ángeles Existen (Remex). Its title single is apparently meant to convince the haters that, yes, angels from heaven do exist, and, yes, they want to make out with the guys in Pesado. While this is not outside the realm of possibility, Pesado’s songs have trouble transcending pleasantness, let alone our drab earthbound reality. The album’s best single is probably last year’s “No Yo Tengo Remedio,” which has a soaring chorus melody and extremely dialed-in rhythm section, not unlike (you guessed it) Intocable. On “Ojitos Chiquitos,” they even pull the ol’ ‘Cable trick of starting with some rockin’ distorted guitar, before settling into the familiar watered-down cumbia lope. But faithful readers know the Blog is maddeningly ambivalent when it comes to Intocable, while acknowledging they remain the gold standard among this particular strain of norteño — which, right, is adored by throngs of people.
So… RSTG Intocable? Pesado flirts with angels; after some cursory listening, the Blog is flirting with calling Los Ángeles Existen NO VALE LA PENA. Their importance in mediating machismo between hardcore vaqueros and the new jack diaspora, though, won’t be denied. Now we just have to figure out how they could ever be considered controversial…