music, charts, opinions


Germán Montero

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”

Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK

gerardo birthday

NorteñoBlog doesn’t always Pick to Click, but when I do… sometimes I get it wrong and type “Click to Pick.” This made searching for the previous year’s worth of Picks INTERESANTE.

The Pick to Click began as a shameless ripoff from Charles Pierce’s must-read liberal politics blog at Esquire, as did a couple other, possibly subtler NorteñoBlog tics. (Spot them all! Both! Whatever!) It’s a useful way to highlight the song I enjoy the most in a particular post, so that you the loyal reader don’t have to wade through a pool of Banda MS’s tears to reach the good stuff. Of course, if you enjoy the delectable bouquet wafting from Banda MS’s tears, you can always Click what I don’t Pick, though you’ll run the risk of turning Banda MS happy and then they might run out of Art. Besides current singles, the following list includes some older singles and current album tracks.

Most Picked at three apiece: NorteñoBlog’s probable artists of the year Alfredo Ríos “El Komander” and Marco Flores y #1 Banda Jerez. Banda Cuisillos, Noel Torres, and Chuy Lizárraga each scored two Picks. So did Los Gfez, Pancho Uresti, and Ariel Camacho, though one Pick from each of those three was in a “featured” role. Besides norteño and banda, the list includes cumbias and puro sax stomps, reggaeton and ABBA-schlager, Jenny and the Mexicats and Pitbull, and covers of Johnny Cash and — first up — Shania Twain. Happy Clicking!
Continue reading “Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK”

¡Nuevo! (starring Banda MS, Clave Nueva, y más)


Billboard magazine, 2009:

In forming Banda MS, manager/producer Fernando Camacho says he wanted a group that would play downhome party music, including corridos. But the danceable [novelty] material, besides being easier to promote at some corrido-shy stations in Mexico, is especially popular on morning radio shows. “They use them to wake people up,” Camacho says.

And that was the last time anyone would accuse Banda MS of keeping people awake.

banda msJajaja! NorteñoBlog loves to kid Banda MS, because the 16-piece ensemble of well-embouchured lovermen invariably responds by curing NorteñoBlog’s insomnia with a soothing romantic ballad. Over the past half-decade, MS has gone from starring in a trendpiece about novelty songs — the Billboard headline was “Looney Tunes” — to being the most consistent hitmaking banda balladeers on the U.S. Latin charts. Their polite waltz “Háblame de Ti” spent a couple months inside the top 10 of the Hot Latin chart, which measures a combination of radio play, sales, and online streaming. Before that it was the polite backbeat of “No Me Pidas Perdón.” I tend to forget these songs seconds after they’re over, but judging by the rabid audience responses on their new live album En Vivo: Guadalajara – Monterrey (Lizos), I’m the only such cretin. Banda MS cedes entire verses to the audience, and the audience doesn’t disappoint. This indie album by former major-label stars is #1 on the Latin Albums chart, and with all that audience energy, I can grudgingly see why. And hey — any album that includes “Hermosa Experiencia,” “Me Gustas Mucho,” and “El Mechón,” that debut novelty hit from six years ago, can’t be all bad.

Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Banda MS, Clave Nueva, y más)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 5/29/15


Say what you will about the new Calibre 50 ballad — and no, I cannot prove that some nefarious Disa executive forced them to play the song while submerged in gelatin, although the first time I watched the video I thought the music had been screwed and chopped — but at least it knocked their previous ballad “Contigo” off the chart. (Don’t worry, “Contigo” is still huge in El Norte.) In fact all the new Mexican radio hits this fortnight are ballads, which makes Picking to Click a more difficult proposition than usual. But NorteñoBlog is not completely devoid of romance! NorteñoBlog knows the desires that wrack the heart! And you know who else knows how to rip out his heart for all to see? German Montero, that’s who! So give a listen to “Me Seguirás Buscando,” where Montero promises to keep searching… and searching… to provide you with complete satisfaction. Judging by his overwrought performance, the search might entail self-strangulation and vocal nodes, but if that´s what it takes…

In El Norte chart news, El Komander goes top 10 Hot Latin for the third time with “Malditas Ganas.” Billboard also reports that his ballad “El Papel Cambio,” which we encountered on the Mexican charts earlier this year, is lurking down in the U.S. 40s. The U.S. seems to lag a few months behind Mexico in our love for El Komander songs. NorteñoBlog has no ready explanation for this, since it´s certainly not true of every artist — see both countries´ immediate embrace of Recodo´s “Mi Vicio Mas Grande.” Komander does seem to do better with streaming than he does with radio play, so maybe his more ramshackle sound is a tougher sell for U.S. radio programmers?
Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 5/29/15”

¡Nuevo! (starring Marco Flores, El Komander, y mucho más …)


We’ve admired before the vitality of Marco Flores‘s dance moves and his voice, a gallo-rific crow that cuts through anything in its path. (Don’t confuse him with the Marco Flores who sort of sounds like Seal.) This week with his #1 Banda Jerez, Flores releases Soy El Bueno (Remex) in the U.S. Through 10 songs, the band’s energy never lapses. Three of the album’s songs have already charted in either Mexico or El Norte: “Soy Un Desmadre,” a duet with Banda Tierra Sagrada, also appears on their latest album; the title song won’t leave my head; and Espinoza Paz’s “El Pajarito” comes in versions both “sin censura” and, presumably, censura. Flores and Banda Jerez have been around since 2005 or so; in a Billboard from that time, Leila Cobo wrote:

With songs that bear such names as “La Cabrona” (think of a word that rhymes with witch), the 13-man troupe from Jerez, Mexico, seeks to preserve the sound of traditional banda music, yet tell it like it is.
“Our lyrics are about what’s happening and about what people talk about every day,” bandleader Marco Antonio Flores Sanchez says. “It’s what you hear in the streets. That’s the language people speak, which unfortunately, isn’t what you hear on the radio.”
Not at all. Given its naughty title, “La Cabrona” was an underground hit with limited airplay, both here and in Mexico.
Now, the band’s new single, “Billete Verde,” from the July 19 album by the same name, is also set to cause a stir of a different kind.
The track, whose title is a direct reference to dollars (“The Green Bill” is the translation), talks about those who leave Mexico for work, leaving families behind.
“And while they’re over there working, their wives are here getting all dolled up and going out,” Flores says wryly.
The story, Flores says, is one played and replayed every day in his neck of the woods. And that, he adds, is what Banda Jérez is all about. The group, which has several members still in their teens, wanted to return to the essence of banda, distancing itself from the more pop-leaning sound that several groups have now adopted.

One such pop-leaning group is Arrolladora, whose members play instruments built entirely of rose petals. One of their singers went rogue in 2008, and this week, Germán Montero releases Regresa (Sony), featuring the single “La Historia de un Ranchero.” Montero sounds like an old-school ranchera guy, even if he dresses like he gets all his mustangs from Ford. Maybe that’s why he broke with his more genteel colleagues.

Saul “El Jaguar” Alarcón’s Mi Estilo de Vida (Fonovisa) has already spawned one hit, “El Estilo Mafia,” featuring the nomenclaturally gifted La Bandononona Clave Nueva de Max Peraza. The next single is a ballad, “Que Te Quede Claro,” with the requisite backbeat built out of horns. El Jaguar has one of the better logos in the biz (see above).

For their 20th aniversario, Intocable goes double live (!!!) with XX (Fonovisa). THIS is now the highest profile regional Mexican release of 2015 so far, simply because most hardcore music fans know that a band called Intocable exists. Like, it comes up on the first screen of Spotify new releases. Doesn’t look like it contains their shoulda-crossed-over smash “Te Amo (Para Siempre),” but it did occasion Cobo to interview the band’s founder, Ricky Muñoz, which in turn led to this useful bit of taxonomy:

Cobo: Tejano music, as you’ve pointed out, was huge not only in Texas but all over the country at the time. But you weren’t playing Tejano, were you?

Muñoz: Tejano music was a bunch of keyboards. We were a band from Texas playing accordion music. Our first records were labeled “Tejano,” but our music is more traditional Mexicano.

Traditional Mexicanos Grupo Exterminador return with the ominously titled Es Tiempo de Exterminador (Independent). But these guys have lighter hearts than their name and scowls let on; imagine the Raid bottle with a smiley-skull logo. In a 2011 Spin magazine, Chuck Eddy wrote:

When the tempos pick up, this norteño novelty act is a hoot: Exterminador’s hookiest hits apparently concern a deer (“El Venao”) and a shark (“El Tiburon”), and the former’s video demonstrated an antler dance to match. There’s also an interpretation of “Wiggle It,” 2 in a Room’s 1990 hip-house hit, complete with hamboning accordions and call-andresponse kids.

We’ll see whether Tiempo produces anything so entertaining, but the video for romantic ballad “Como Una Bala” is set at a lovely waterfront locale and everyone seems in good spirits, even (especially?) when they’re rejecting the singer’s advances.

In cumbia releases that may or may not be compilations, we have Gerardo Morán’s El Más Querido (Meta/ Music Service). OK, Morán is from Ecuador, as is D’Franklin Band, in whose videos he appears. But what is cumbia if not a spirited rebuff to international boundaries? Both those D’Franklin Band songs appear on Querido without apparent “featuring” credits, so I am officially Confused, but listening to them has also renewed my zeal for life. Go figure.

Other albums:
Banda La Mentira – 20 Cumbias… Reventon Lagunero (Discos Cristal)
Luis y Julian – 16 Exitos De… Vol. 1-3 (Discos Roble)
Javier Solís – He Sabido Que Te Amaba (RHI)
Grupo Miramar – Fundadores de un Estilo Unico (Music Art Productions Inc.)

And the vault scrapers at AJR Discos/Select-O-Hits have released a whole bunch of hits compilations for some nth-tier acts, including Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon and Chayito Valdéz.


Espinoza Paz goes mariachi and (I’m guessing) muy censura with “Perdí La Pose” (Anval/Don Corazound). His writing career may be solid, but the solo career seems adrift.

Adrift is one thing, ramshackle is something else. I could listen to Alfredo Rios El Komander play his loosey goose corridos all day, and “Detras Del Miedo” (Twiins) won’t break the streak.

Possibly from an upcoming album, Calibre 50’s “Aunque Ahora Estes Con El” (Disa) returns them to the wilderness of thin and uninspiring ballads.

And finally, two indie bands with saxophones are competent but not much else:
Pokar – “Sí Me Tenias” (?)
Conjunto Conste – “Como Le Digo” (??)

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