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Intocable

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”

Julio Tiene Calor

Pg13-Mens-soccer-celebration

Thanks to you, a loyal coalition of corrido heads and puro sax devotees, NorteñoBlog enjoyed its most-clicked month yet in julio. Here are the posts that got the most attention, both current articles and old ones:

Current Posts:
1. Trap is Hyphy and Hyphy is Trap (¡Nuevo!)
Hyphy Music Inc. is still going strong; Martin Patrón’s Trap Corridos is rad.

2. NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Abril – Junio
12 tunes worth hearing; NorteñoBlog will totally update the YouTube playlist sometime in the next decade.

3. Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (julio 2016)
Sax riffs and terrible puns comin’ at ya!

4. Desfile de Éxitos 7/9/16
Intocable sets a chart record; the blog continues to marvel at how much the kids love Los Plebes del Rancho.

5. Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 7/8/16
Songwriter’s Showcase underrates the new Recodo single.

Old Posts:
1. Explosion Norteña: Beto’s Revenge
Manuel celebrates the inimitable flow of Beto Cervantes, lead MC of Explosion Norteña.

2. Top 5 W.T.F. Corrido Moments!
More intersections of rap and corridos: Manuel counts ’em down.

3. Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/23/16
La Iniciativa and Banda Los Recoditos team up for a tongue-twisting tune about wingmen and the women they share at the club.

4. 100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015
Seriously, who buys these things?

5. Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño
Almost a decade ago, Los Amos and friends went hyphy; WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

¡Gracias por leer!

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”

Desfile de Éxitos 7/9/16

lopez castro

What’s this? The Singles Jukebox wrote about J Balvin’s “Bobo” and the next day it went to #1 on the Hot Latin chart? Those are some mighty impressive powers of persuasion/prognostication/poincidence we’ve got. Too bad it’s such a generic song. (My dumb joke review, which nonetheless taught me a useful idiom: “David Brooks no le llega ni a la suela de los zapatos.”) But with three songs in the top 30, Balvin continues to dominate this chart. His new one, “Safari,” features Pharrell murmuring the hook in Spanish and fewer chords than even “Bobo,” but its smooth and hypnotic cumbia beat almost snuck it up to Pick to Click status. Especially since it’s a slow week for banda and norteño debuts. The praise, it is so faint.

¡Pero! If you scan the lower reaches of the Hot Latin top 25 and top 50, you’ll see another act improbably continuing to dominate after several months: Los Plebes Del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, the Sierreño trio that’s fronted by teenager José Manuel Lopez Castro, named for its previous deceased frontman Ariel Camacho, and secretly led by the flabbergasting chops and rhythmic imagination of tubist Omar Burgos. And they continue to dominate even after “DEL Negociante” — their most distinctive song, a corrido ode to their label boss — has fallen off the charts. Los Plebes land four songs inside the top 50 this week, more even than Sr. Bobo. They’re primarily an online phenomenon, their popularity driven by streams and downloads more than radio play. Like their music, their videos mix antiquity with novelty — young lovers with iPhones standing among really old Mexican buildings, for instance, or the band hanging out in Lopez Castro’s high school practice room, dressed in their caballero suits. (Not unlike the choir kids who hide inside the local high school practice rooms, wearing their Megadeth t-shirts.) Listening again to their album Recuerden Mi Estilo, which includes all these songs, I’m struck less by its sameiness and more by the endless intricate rhythms unfolding between the requinto and the tuba. So Pick to Click status this week goes to “El Mentado,” a padrino-y-negocios tune where Burgos screams, revs, and otherwise abuses his axe while never leaving the rhythmic sway.

Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 7/9/16”

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”

Intocable y Daddy Yankee en la Jukebox

Donald-Trump-unificado-Daddy-Yankee_CLAIMA20150925_0320_28

Esta semana: dos Picks to Click anteriores!

En 2016, el mejor solo de acordeón es posiblemente en los manos de Ricky Muñoz. En la radio, esas 16 medidas de “Tu Ausencia” contrastan con todo que está cerca, incluso mis propios dedos. Mis gorditas pequeñas se muevan como perezosos. Escribir para el Singles Jukebox, Leonel Manzanares nos dió un sinopsis util de Intocable (“the Steely Dan of Tex-Mex”), todavía una banda importante y divertida.

Escribí:

For the second time in a decade, Ricky Muñoz cries out “me faltas tú” in the chorus of a song; and just like last time, René Martínez bashes his batería with cheerful indifference to his friend’s bereftitude. I just finished reading The Giver so I’m a little tender, but for all the heartbreaking details in the lyrics — color giving way to gray, the absence of dew and breath — the most striking moments are pure communal musical joy: Hotshot accordion duking it out with distorted guitar. Cadences stretched past their expected stopping points. Muñoz’s inexplicable ability to scan the word “inexplicablemente.” The rhythm section that keeps finding new ways to lope. And finally, “eeeYAHW!!!!”

******

¿Por qué nadie se gusta “Shaky Shaky”? (Excepto Cassy Gress; gracias, Cassy. Shaky shaky.) Pobre Daddy Yankee. Sí, él es “repetitivo,” pero LA VIDA es repetitivo. Ergo Daddy Yankee representa la vida… y el terremoto… y el aficionado de booty en todos nosotros.

Escribí:

Daddy Yankee’s “One take!” braggadocio makes him more Cee-Lo than Glenn Gould, so thank goodness DJ Urba and Rome marshaled a small army of Yankees to squawk and pop off around him. Working those “rrrrr”s and changing his delivery from one chorus to the next, Yankee twitches like a seismograph needle giddy over the destructive potential of booty.

¡VALE LA PENA!

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 3/23/16

alfredo olivas

Baby-faced Alfredo Olivas is sitting pretty at #3 in Mexico this week. You might remember Olivas from his unfortunate incident a little more than a year ago, when he was playing a concert at the Hacienda club in Parral, Chihuahua. In the middle of the concert he decided to flirt with a young lady sitting in VIP by throwing her his jacket. As everyone knows, flirting with young hotties from the stage is one of the three main benefits of being a touring musician; the other two are a preternatural ability to pull open doors while carrying heavy amplifiers, and, if you’re lucky, free nachos.

The young woman’s male companions didn’t see it this way. Alfredo’s insouciance, coupled with the fact that his thrown jacket knocked over some liquor bottles on the table, sent these young men into a murderous rage. They shot at Alfredo, injuring him and eventually killing at least one of the Hacienda’s patrons. This whole situation was exceedingly stupid, and should serve as a good reminder next time you hear some U.S. or state legislator trying to extend legal carry rights to places where people consume alcohol and get rowdy. Such places are not where you go to organize your “well regulated militia.”

Anyway, NorteñoBlog welcomes Alfredo back with a new single not included on his so-so 2015 album Privilegio. “La Sigo Y Me Sigue (Todo o Nada)” is some mid-tempo romantic waffling Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 3/23/16”

Desfile de Éxitos 3/26/16

intocable

As NorteñoBlog mentioned last time, Sierreño fever is currently spreading across the land like walkingdead-itis. This is largely thanks to the late Ariel Camacho, whose namesake guitar-tuba trio Los Plebes Del Rancho de Ariel Camacho just debuted at #1 on Billboard‘s Latin Albums chart with their first album since Camacho died a year ago. This fever has also led to a possibly unprecedented scenario on the Hot Latin Songs chart, where for the second week in a row, five of the top 25 songs are by Sierreño trios. Sure, that’s less representation than reggaeton bangers or banda ballads, but it’s still a sizable voting bloc. Think of Sierreño as the Bernie Sanders to banda’s Hillary Clinton and reggaeton’s Donald Trump. (Ted Cruz can be bachata and John Kasich can be Jesse & Joy.) Yes, think of that; and then weep.

Four of those songs are by Los Plebes themselves, enjoying(?) a long, rolling death bump that’s taking place mostly on the internet. Billboard reports that some of Los Plebes’ new videos are logging around a million streams a week, most of them on YouTube, and that Camacho himself just scored his 10th Hot Latin single since his death. (“Yo Quisiera Entrar” debuted at #41.) There’s precedent for this: Jenni Rivera, for instance, has scored eight Hot Latin hits since her death in 2012. Although most of them were minor hits,“La Misma Gran Señora” got all the way up to #9. Rivera, though, doesn’t have a banda that continues to make music in her name, so who knows how long Los Plebes can keep this going or when they’ll lay claim to their own identity.

Aside from “DEL Negociante,” the new Los Plebes singles haven’t grabbed me like Camacho’s best songs. Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 3/26/16”

Archivos de 2004 (starring Grupo Climax, Alicia Villarreal, y más)

Grupo_Climax

Sometimes when you’re feeling whimsical/bored/done with dishes, you just decide to research the chart statistics of Grupo Climax. Or I do — I may be atypical. One thing leads to another, za za za, and so here are Billboard‘s top 10 Regional Mexican airplay songs from July 17, 2004, the week Climax’s only notable hit enjoyed its highest chart placement. Hot Latin chart placement is in parentheses.

Note that in 2004, the Hot Latin charts were still strictly based on airplay: “A panel of 99 stations (40 Latin Pop, 16 Tropical, 51 Regional Mexican) are electronically monitored 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week.” (Today they also incorporate sales and streams, but there remain breakout charts like Regional Mexican that measure only airplay.) This accounting method placed five RegMex songs inside the Hot Latin top 10, a percentage we never see today; but it also meant the Hot Latin top 25 contained 10 regional Mexican songs, pretty typical by today’s standards.

1. “Qué de Raro Tiene” – Los Temerarios (#2 Hot Latin)
Trembly-eyebrowed synth-pop grupero brothers go nostalgic with an album of ranchera covers, including this Vicente Fernández cover that would top the Hot Latin chart. Gustavo Angel unleashes his throat and sounds right at home in this style. (Be sure to check out their AllMusic bio for a fascinating look at how the brothers started their own label and challenged Fonovisa, only to eventually be swallowed by the giant.)

2. “Dos Locos” – Los Horóscopos de Durango (#5 Hot Latin)
“The Durango Gang Busts Out of Chicago,” read the Billboard headline on June 12, shortly after this song had topped the Regional Mexican chart. Los Horóscopos had been a working banda for 30 years before their enterprising leader Armando Terrazas decided to put his daughters, the multi-instrumentalists Vicky and Marisol, up front. This sad polka cover of Monchy & Alexandra was cut from the same bachata cloth as their cover of Aventura’s “Obsesion,” and it hits one of duranguense’s sweet spots — floaty heartache over nonstop oompahs. (The other sweet spot is clattery barely-constrained synth-tuba chaos, but that didn’t chart as much.) Continue reading “Archivos de 2004 (starring Grupo Climax, Alicia Villarreal, y más)”

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