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Edwin Luna

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alicia Villarreal, Christian Nodal, Joss Favela, y más)

jose villarreal

As promised, Edwin Luna and his perpetually nascent acting chops appear at #10 on this week’s busy Mexican radio chart with the giggle inducing “Fíjate Que Sí.” Actually, it might only induce giggles if you watch the video, let’s see here… [Listens to the song in another tab.] JAJAJAJA! Oh, Edwin Luna. You are an international camp treasure. The man draws out his singing and even his spoken interludes until the words congeal into a sticky mass. They say he aspirates agave nectar.

me-deje-llevar-christian-nodalOther entries previously lauded by NorteñoBlog include man-myth-legend El Fantasma at #17, and whirling fount of Terpsichore Marco Flores doing his devil dance at #19. At #14 we find the latest mariacheño-or-whatever romantic ballad from Christian Nodal, still sounding older than his teenaged years. In “Me Dejé Llevar,” the title track of his overrated 2017 debut album, Nodal laments getting carried away by passion for a mujer, which seems to have made him possessive and scummy. The music doesn’t sound like possessive scumminess; it’s his patented mix of dull, syncopation-free guitars with swoony horns, strings, and accordion. The video, though, is a primo cultural artifact. First we see the macho caballero with hat, cigar, and sturdy country mansion; then we’re whisked behind the scenes into some abstract phantasmagoria of amor, where the now hatless Nodal and a nearly naked mujer enact the ritualized dance steps of love inside a neon square, floating amid darkness. THE DARKNESS OF THE CABELLERO’S OWN HEART, you suggest? The Blog won’t argue with you, except to say: NO VALE LA PENA.

Better is the song at #11. “Sentimientos” is a likeable minor key cumbia from Alicia Villarreal’s 2017 album; it’s both a cover of Villarreal’s 20-year-old Grupo Limite hit, and a duet with her fellow mexicana María José. In both their studio rendition and in this live video, Villarreal and José work up a mariacheño head of steam like Nodal never dreamed. There’s just as much string/accordion swooning, but a much kickier beat and the knowing winks that appear when you find yourself in your 40s, mooning “Ahhhh…. FEELINGS.” Pick to Click!

ese-400x400If these newfangled stylistic blends aren’t your thing and you long for some straight-down-the-middle chapado-a-la-antigua norteño, look no further than #20
Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alicia Villarreal, Christian Nodal, Joss Favela, y más)”

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Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alfredo Olivas, Los Inquietos, y más)

zapateado endemoniado

la rueda de la fortunaContinuing the sad theme of Albums NorteñoBlog Slept On In 2017, we turn to the fifth-or-so release from prodigious 23-year-old singer-songwriter-accordionist Alfredo Olivas, La Rueda de Fortuna (Sahuaro/Sony Latin). The Blog first encountered Olivas in the pre-Blog morass of 2013, when he appeared as a teenager on Hyphy Records’ cheapo compilation Hyphy Music Inc. Presenta El Corrido VIP 1era Edición. Comparing him and his cohort to punk rockers, and misspelling his name, I wrote, “Olvidas creates thin slashes of song, sometimes with one instrument insistently out of tune, tuba and accordion prancing around one another like bird of paradise evading some jungle cat, if that ever happens.” (I think I’d been watching a bunch of Planet Earth.)

Since then, Olivas has been sounding like more of a pro. He’s written a ton of songs — according to Wiki, over 1,000 during his life — and has lately turned away from the narcocorridos of his youth into more reflective and romantic work. Which isn’t to say he’s stodgy. “El Paciente” was one of 2017’s best singles, a soaring deathbed meditation whose energetic horn charts were set to “burble.” For his accordion songs, his band tackles different rhythms like Intocable, moving beyond the typical polkas and waltzes into grooves that approach rock. And his lyrics tend to be more interesting than typical for this genre, where song themes tend to stick to “I’m so in love with you,” “You unfaithful whore,” or “I’m such a big shot.”

antecedentes de culpaSee, for instance, the song sitting at #13 in Mexico. (Blog note: it’s since climbed to #4, but I’m too lazy to change the chart below.) In “Antecedentes de Culpa,” a guy has a drunken argument with his mujer, wakes up hung over, and regrets the whole thing. I’m not even sure what they’re arguing about, but it hardly matters; the argument dredges up a host of insults that sting worse than the subject of disagreement. It’s a precise, subtle portrait of how two lovers can choose exactly the right words to wound one another. (Standard translation caveats apply.) The music, naturally, is all swinging and sunshine, the band ruefully shaking their heads while their leader tries to talk his way out of his regret. Special props to Olivas’s drummer for leavening his beat with some cool snare rolls and subdivided cymbal work, and to the bassist for playing hooks. Pick to Click!

Also notable:
Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alfredo Olivas, Los Inquietos, y más)”

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

LUCERO-HASTA-QUE-AMANEZCA-17-FEB-17022017-193312

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)”

Los Ritmos de Remex Records

montez

When NorteñoBlog last caught up with Remex Records, the YouTube telenovela factory that fronts as a powerhouse indie label, its star Edwin Luna had just begun floating trial balloons for a coup solo career. Flaring his nostrils with serious artistic intent, Luna had recently begun separating his name from that of his banda, La Trakalosa de Monterrey, and… acting in their 20-minute music videos. Surely before long they’d separate? Amid rancor and acrimony? Two competing bandas criss-crossing the continent with increasingly side-eyed arrangements of “Mi Padrino El Diablo”?

Thankfully we’re not there yet. Singer and banda are still united and scoring bi-national hits as Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa, with a thriving production company — Editraka — that hosts fitness classes. (Their “flared nostril burpees” are killers.) But Luna is also experimenting with some solo tunes of his own. Rest assured they are terrible.

edwin-luna-amor“Es Tiempo de Amar” is his bid for a big unifying national pop ballad. The video has Mexicans of every age singing about love and brighter tomorrows, some lavish hand gestures, inspiring words on pieces of cardboard (more Love Actually than “Subterranean Homesick Blues”), and a closing quote from Madre Teresa de Calcutta. (You were expecting maybe Sor Juana?) There’s nothing norteño about it, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if Luna knew how to sing non-norteño songs with any semblance of a personality. There’s also nothing topical about it, unless you hear the line “Es tiempo de… recuperar lo perdido” as a call for the Mexican government to fix the country’s kidnapping problem, along the lines of Intocable‘s “Día 730.” But, as we’ve seen recently, governments have enough trouble reacting to even overwhelming gestures of dissent. Subtlety in this case is NO VALE LA PENA.

What’s that? Hawaiian noises? Continue reading “Los Ritmos de Remex Records”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (1/6/17)

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It’s been six weeks or so since NorteñoBlog checked in with Mexico’s airwaves, so you might think all the songs would be different. ¡Qué sorpresa! Apparently as the year nears its end, the music industry’s release schedule slows down across the continent. Fewer than half the songs have disappeared from this normally fast-changing chart. Among the new ones:

nada-de-nada— At #9, Pepe Aguilar has invited his daughter Ángela sing backup on the lickety split banda tune “Nada de Nada,” written by José Luis Roma of the bro band Río Roma. It’s an impressive band workout, with tuba and percussion burbling along like synth polyrhythms and the horns draping sweeping melodic lines over everything. It’s also a fine meta-song about how the singer has writer’s block in the face of his lover’s anhedonia. (At least, her anhedonia towards him.) Both singers undersell the song, making it one of banda music’s rare Big Smart Cumbias. Aguilar acquits himself well for releasing one of 2016’s most overrated albums, and gets himself a second Pick to Click:

— Speaking of Picks to Click, Joss Favela is in at #16 with his previous champ “No Vuelvas a Llamarme.” It’s one of the ace songwriter’s top-shelf tunes, even if the chords borrow from Gerardo Ortiz’s “Archivos de Mi Vida” (and probably lots of other songs). The interplay between accordion and rhythm section is on point and, whaddya know, the words — about how Favela’s always too busy to take your calls — are funny. Add it to your shiny new Best Singles of 2017 lists post haste. VALE LA PENA

edwin-luna— At #8 we find the latest Very Important Video in Edwin Luna‘s crusade to become a famous actor, fill the world with brotherly love, and get real boned. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (1/6/17)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 8/26/16

beto zapata

Much has changed on the Mexican airwaves since NorteñoBlog last tuned in over a month ago. The former #1 song, a heartbroken sob story of romantic grief and brassy bereftitude by Arrolladora, has given way to a different heartbroken sob story of romantic grief and brassy bereftitude, this time by Banda MS. And everyone knows that Arrolladora ballads are ace slow jams with rhythm sections full of coiled tension, while MS ballads drip like the discharge from festering sores. It’s all there in the music!

dos monedasFurther down, two Remex Records acts have replaced themselves on the radio with remakes. The more notable is ace flarer-of-nostrils Edwin Luna and his banda of second fiddlers, La Trakalosa. Given our troubled and uncertain times on both sides of the Great Wall of Trump, NorteñoBlog finds comfort in watching Luna grimace his way through another extravagant video meant to highlight his perennially nascent acting chops. (He acts in both color and black and white!) No hay nada nuevo bajo el sol. “Dos Monedas” was previously a hit for Ramón Ayala, and it was written by Jesse Armenta — You know him! He wrote some political barnburners for Los Tigres, including “El Circo,” thus winning himself a chapter in the book Narcocorrido — and it’s another heartbroken sob story.

Only this sob story is not at all romantic; it’s closer to “The Christmas Shoes” or some shit. The narrator is an abusive drunk. One cold and wintry night he sends his son out to beg for money to support the family booze fund. The next morning he opens the door to find sonny boy dead, both frozen and starved, holding in his small frozen starved hands the “dos monedas” of the title. All our children should be so dedicated! The narrator, no fool, sees a moral in this story, as does Edwin Luna, whose unconvincing portrayal of the drunk ends by approximating sadness. But Luna over-emotes his songs like nobody else, a good thing, and the arrangement makes this the cheeriest tune about filicide since “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” ¡VALE LA PENA! Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 8/26/16”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 7/8/16

luna leyenda

Welcome back to Songwriters’ Showcase, the apparently semiannual feature in which NorteñoBlog checks out the new songs on Mexico’s radio chart and, upon realizing those songs are gateways to the Actual Void, decides it would be way more interesting to research who wrote the songs instead. The winners, as always, are you the readers.

In at #20, we have Intocable with the undeniably hooky yet unnecessarily petering-out “Quiéreme (Ámame),” already a hit in El Norte. The man who wrote “Quiéreme,” Luis “Louie” Padilla, has written a bunch of tunes for Intocable and others, including the band’s previous superior single “Tu Ausencia.” “Basic and hokey,” wrote Cassy Gress about that one.

intocable highwayIntocable’s new album Highway is a concept album about — what else? — life on the road. (Eventually we all record one. Don’t fight the inevitable.) It’s been lauded for its emotional complexity, musical adventure, and bedrock catchiness, but it currently annoys me in the same way Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot does: it’s a bunch of so-so songs dressed up with special studio effects, as though the band is desperately trying to prevent themselves from playing EVERY SONG THE SAME. This is especially disappointing with Intocable, because they know how to groove! Witness the beginning of “Quiéreme,” which starts tight and tense before lapsing into the familiar Intocable Lope. Or “Un Día Sin Ti” — as Thom Jurek points out, it starts out sounding like “Kashmir” before (you guessed it) settling into the well-worn Intocable Lope. The Intocable Lope possesses the gravity of a thousand suns. The songs’ melodies and chord changes lack the power or distinction to counter the Lope’s inexorable tug. “Basic and hokey” is exactly right.

At #19 we find noted Ivan Archivaldo impersonators Grupo Máximo Grado with the languid cheater’s waltz “Pensando en Ella.” Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 7/8/16”

Smells like Remex Records: Trakalosa, Atraktiva, Zancudito, Mi Padrino (yeah)

la atraktiva

It’s been a while since NorteñoBlog caught up with Remex Records, the YouTube telenovela factory that fronts as a powerhouse indie label. Run by brothers Domingo and Germán Chávez, the sons of the late DISA Records founder don Domingo Chávez, Remex recently signed a deal with the indie distributor Select-O-Hits — meaning, I guess, that they intend to stay independent for a while longer. (The younger Domingo has gone on record supporting Mexico’s corrido bans — Remex acts sometimes sing corridos, but never the bloodthirsty kind.)

Their distance from the majors doesn’t seem to have hurt them. Remex bands are all over the radio and their YouTube counts sometimes resemble the budgets for Avengers movies. The one place Remex bands tend to go missing is the award show circuit, which behind all the pyrotechnics and back slapping remains a shadowy cabal of major label machinations. Although flagship banda La Trakalosa de Monterrey has shown up at the Premios de la Radio, Remex bands have rarely if ever played the Latin Grammys, probably because it would cost the label $40-to-$100,000 to send one of their acts to perform. But who cares about some dumb award when, like Joe-C, you’re down with the devil?

I refer of course to “Mi Padrino El Diablo,” Trakalosa’s excellent tale of Faustian woe. In the two years since the 18 members of Trakalosa collectively shook the hand of el diablo in song — I like to imagine a post-fútbol receiving line with murmurs of “buen juego” and a Gatorade cooler full of goat blood — they’ve grown into YouTube marvels, with frontman Edwin Luna evidently prepping for a solo career or a run at movie stardom. In his band’s melodramatic videos, now credited to “Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa” (wham!), he flares his nostrils like Kristen Stewart used to bite her lip. And she’s a big star now, so…

trakalosaTrakalosa’s new album Así Cantaba Mi Padre appears to be a tribute to Luna’s late father Miguel Luna, “El Gorrión” of the duo El Palomo y El Gorrión. It’s full of classics from the Great Mexican Songbook, including first single “En Toda La Chapa,” featuring Luna’s uncle Cirilo. (You guessed it: he’s “El Palomo.”) Like most Trakalosa singles, “En Toda” is charting in Mexico, partly because it sounds thoroughly modern — the recording captures both the density of the brass and the lightness of their step, not to mention Luna’s patented oversinging — and partly because the audience for classic norteño has never gone away, even with the rise of the modern banda pop industry. (The past is never dead, etc.) Continue reading “Smells like Remex Records: Trakalosa, Atraktiva, Zancudito, Mi Padrino (yeah)”

¡Nuevo! (starring Helen Ochoa, Los Horóscopos, y más)

edwinyvicky

helen ochoaHelen Ochoa is very good at playing the part of the woman scorned. Whether she’s strangling her no good cheating boyfriend in reverse or simply leaning against rocks beside an ocean that mirrors her tumultuous emotional state, her portrayals unpack the many layers of scorned woman grief. Although, curiously, I haven’t found her looking sad yet. She’s funny, proud, spiteful, and above all resolute; and you can hear that resolve in her long-awaited debut album Si Yo Fuera Un Chico (Gerencia360/Sony). She first released the title single, a Beyoncé cover, two years ago. It gave her the rare chance to sing some melismas and got her noticed by the Premios de la Radio, which needed nominees for its depressingy thin “Artista Femenina Del Año” category. The new album collects her banda singles since then, along with a Noel Torres duet and a cover of the go-go boot-scootin’ boogie showstopper “Más Bonita Que Ninguna,” from a 1965 Rocio Dúrcal musical of the same name. There are nice production touches too, like the country guitar that opens “De Cama en Cama.” I’m not totally sold on the album yet, but it’s worth at least a listen, and NorteñoBlog is rooting for her. Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Helen Ochoa, Los Horóscopos, y más)”

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