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Jenni Rivera

El Fantasma, Calibre 50, y glitter rainbow hologram Jenni Rivera (Desfile de Éxitos 7/8/19)

calibre 50

First up, from the YASSS SLAIN QUEEN file: July 2 would have been the late Jenni Rivera‘s 50th birthday, so her estate celebrated by releasing “Aparentemente Bien,” a ballad she was working on before her 2012 plane crash. Thanks to some skilled studio reconstruction, you can hear the song in banda, mariachi, and pop versions. It’s OK. Inspired, no doubt, by the heavy metaphysical symbology of the Thor movies, the banda video depicts a rainbow butterfly morphing into an onstage Jenni hologram. NO VALE LA PENA

And now, BILLBOARD’S TOP 5 REGIONAL MEXICAN SONGS:

1. La Adictiva Banda“El Amor de Mi Vida” (#40 Hot Latin)
This lovey-dovey Horacio Palencia ballad is very boring, so the Blog’s SEO Optimization Team has asked that I make the most of things by reporting that La Adictiva’s singers are Isaac Salas and Guillermo Garza, the latter of whom shares a first name with Guillermo del Toro, producer of the forthcoming film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The movie looks cool; this song, also recorded by sierreño quartet Alta Consigna, is NO VALE LA PENA.

encantadora fantasma2. El Fantasma“Encantadora” (#33 Hot Latin)
Now we’re talking. The man-myth-legend’s “Tu amor es que respiro” lyrics are hard to distinguish from Palencia’s, but the vaquero born Alexander García plows through all that sap like he’s racing his banda to the merch table. This song does NOT appear on García’s latest good album El Circo (Afinarte), on which the banda players routinely sound like they’re trying to trip their boss with their horns. Both album and single are VALE LA PENA. Also Pick to Click!

3. Calibre 50“Simplemente Gracias” (#20 Hot Latin)
Edén Muñoz remains one of the format’s most interesting lyricists, on a purely formal “watch me take pleasure in making these metaphors scan” level. When his band plays his ballads, they still sound like they’re gasping for breath. The Blog recommends their brand new, skippy hard luck tale “Chalito,” but this one is NO VALE LA PENA.

4. Banda Los Recoditos“Perfecta” (#29 Hot Latin)
This is the third song in a row to use el cielo and las estrellas as romantic metaphors. It seems they are endless. La mujer’s beauty is endless. This particular metaphor’s usefulness is not endless. This song feels endless. NO VALE LA PENA

5. Banda MS“Por Mi No Te Detengas” (#27 Hot Latin)
Wait a minute! Faithful reader, the Blog hasn’t yet directed you to my listicle for the Minneapolis City Pages: 10 times Banda MS, the world’s biggest brass band, didn’t totally blow. This single isn’t one of those times. NO VALE LA PENA

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NorteñoBlog’s 41 Esencial Songs Since the Year 2000

jenni-rivera-diva-de-la-banda

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”

Desfile de Éxitos 5/5/18 (starring Chiquis y Jenni Rivera, Marilyn Odessa, y más)

marilyn odessa

Last weekend NorteñoBlog attended the MoPOP Pop Conference in Seattle, held inside that big blob of Frank Gehry-designed metal that sits in the shadow of the Space Needle. As part of the roundtable panel “Suburban Intersections” (schemed with Annie Zaleski and Anthony Easton, moderated by Karen Tongson), I presented a paper called “Como Los Vaqueros: How Young Regional Mexican Performers Construct, and Deconstruct, Masculinity.” You’ll see it here soon; but while you wait for instructions on how to deconstruct masculinity, here’s my recipe for deconstructed green bean casserole, a perennial Thanksgiving hit, but also good for gardening season:

1. Deep fry long snapped green beans, red onion rings, and whole button mushrooms. (I recently discovered Tyler Florence’s “Fronion Rings” batter, which incorporates frozen fries and xanthan gum and stays crispy way longer than the standard Joy of Cooking batter.)

2. Make sage mayonnaise. (I recommend James Peterson’s method of extracting chlorophyll from spinach and using the chlorophyll as food coloring. It’s a way more appetizing shade of green than regular food coloring, plus you can say you EXTRACTED CHLOROPHYLL FROM SPINACH.)

3. Now that I write it out, you probably wanna switch the order of those two steps.

4. Serve! Dip! Eat!

jenni chiquisWhile at the conference, I caught a fascinating presentation by Yessica Garcia Hernandez, a doctoral candidate at UCSD who’s done extensive work studying Jenni Rivera fandom. You can read some of her papers, for the prestigious likes of NANO and the Journal of Popular Music Studies, here. During the Q&A she pointed out that for true fans, Jenni has never died. We find evidence of that claim on this week’s radio chart, where a duet between Jenni and her daughter Chiquis on the skippy banda tune “Quisieran Tener Mi Lugar” sits at #28. It is a vigorous chingado of los haters.

marilyn no seAnd, surprise surprise, the Riveras aren’t the only women on the radio this week. At #37 we find Becky G’s heartwarming paean to sexy older dudes, “Mayores,” off the top of my head the only instance of a non-regional song lingering on Mexican regional radio after it’s fallen off the all-encompassing Hot Latin chart. And at #31 we find Marilyn Odessa, aka Marilyn, with the snoozy (but well-sung) banda ballad “No Sé.” Marilyn is on Lizos Records, home to the equally snoozy (but huge) Banda MS. Like Chiquis, Marilyn also has a famous Mom, the pop singer Marisela; you can watch the two madres perform together here. And apparently there was some sort of social media dispute between Marilyn and Chiquis, although they seem to have cleared that up.

ANYWAY, Marilyn is poised for success. “No Sé” was written by the ubiquitous Horacio Palencia, and her previous album Boleto Al Infierno (Music Eyes 2014) was produced by the even more ubiquitous Luciano Luna, so she’s got connections in high places. If Lizos can spin YouTube gold out of the stupefyingly dull Banda MS, there’s no limit to how the company could help an act with an actual personality.

chiquis entreToday’s Pick to Click goes to none of the above. Rather, the Blog hands the coveted award to a different Chiquis song from her new album Entre Botellas (Sweet Sound). “Los Chismes” is a cover of a good-time chinga-los-haters polka from another deathless icon, Chalino Sanchez. In the original, Sanchez complains about the gossips who keep disparaging his wife-to-be: She’s ugly! She’s too skinny! (“¡Dicen que eres flaca!”) Being a caballero in love, Sanchez pays them no mind. (Well, besides going to the trouble to write a song about them.) Chiquis turns the song into a big banda cumbia duet with Lorenzo Mendez, and gets him to flip a couple lines in the second verse. In Mendez’s telling, the gossip folks are complaining that Chiquis is a “gordibuena,” a term for a beautiful full-figured woman that Chiquis has proudly claimed for herself. “If I wanted a flaquita,” sings Mendez, “I’d die of hunger.” “You know what’s good,” replies Chiquis, who delivers all spoken asides with her eyebrow raised a mile high. Come for the horny cumbia; stay for the body image empowerment and what might be Chiquis’s best performance on record.

These are the top 50 Hot Latin Songs and top 40 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published May 5.
Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 5/5/18 (starring Chiquis y Jenni Rivera, Marilyn Odessa, 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”

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”

¡Nuevo! — starring Chiquis Rivera

tlmd_jenni_rivera_chiquis

Imagine trying to live up to the legacy of Jenni Rivera. There’s never been anyone like her. Her personality — commanding, ribald, sexy, romantic, hilarious — burned through every note of her music. Her songs became inseparable from the public persona she shared on TV; and her sharp business acumen, the will that drove her to succeed, became integral to hearing her. Her success in a male-dominated field added to her complexity. She made herself into an object of longing and fear to both women and men. To aspire to Rivera’s level of command was to welcome the terror of never getting there.

chiquis ahoraAt Billboard Angie Romero offers a track-by-track analysis of Chiquis Rivera‘s new album Ahora (Sony), along with an interview. Not having read Chiquis’s tell-all memoir, NorteñoBlog isn’t fully up to speed on all the difficulties of growing up with Jenni Rivera for a Mom. But I fully sympathize with the daunting task of needing to make music in her wake. “‘I don’t think that I sing like Celine Dion, but I’m not a horrible singer,’ Chiquis tells Billboard. ‘I was watching a video the other day of my mom when she was first starting. She grew into this monster onstage, she really dominated it, but it wasn’t always like that. People forget that.’” Exactly! Chiquis has a fine voice and there’s plenty to like about her songs, especially fast ones like the singles “La Malquerida” and “Completamente.” She gets into some swanky electro-pop like “Paloma Negra,” a duet with Julio Reyes that also serves as a backhanded tribute to Mom (Romero says Rivera previously dedicated the Mexican standard to Chiquis after they had a major falling out). Chiquis’s music stands in Rivera’s unavoidable shadow, but it frequently acknowledges that shadow, a Jenni hallmark: don’t try to separate life and art! And in her forward-thinking mix of banda and pop, Spanish and English, Chiquis points her own way out.

VALE LA PENA

¿Qué Estamos Escuchando?

One of my formative critical influences is Richard Meyers’ book The Great Science Fiction Films (Carol Publishing Group). This mysterious book, which I bought at a theme park and have never seen elsewhere, covers sci-fi/fantasy/horror movies from 1975 to 1983. Its copyright date — no kidding — is 1962. As I write this, book on my lap, it occurs to me that the book might not actually exist; or maybe Meyers saw all the movies and then went back in time to write it; or possibly I’m Richard Meyers. Big old mindfuck, in other words.

In the intro, Meyers/Langhoff writes, “Although we malign many films in the coming pages, we really love all science-fiction films…” I could say much the same thing about norteño albums, as I bet most genre fans could say about their stomping grounds. Even the worst norteño album (I’ll nominate a certain live set by LOS! BuiTRES! without bothering to look up its specifics), the emptiest wasted hour of cartel crap or romantic sludge, tells you something about the good stuff. You can learn something from anything. Or at least glean a good sentence or two. Here’s Meyers on the 1977 Christopher Lee flick End of the World: “Nuns start turning back into clawed and tentacled monsters who attack innocent bystanders for a few minutes until a serene shot of the planet fills the movie screen. A second later it explodes in a torrent of plastic, dirt and water. Director John Hayes manages to stretch this inconsequential drivel over eighty minutes.”

In that spirit, let’s consider:

Various Artists – Radio Éxitos: El Disco Del Año 2014 (Fonovisa)disco 2014

Epiphanies, such as they are, from the Disco of last Año:

1. Luciano Luna writes a lot of hit songs. Five of these 20 bear his name in the writing credits — two solo and three cowrites. The best, “Te Hubieras Ido Antes,” belongs to the continent’s best singer, Julión Álvarez, who knows how to push and pull rote melodic phrases into floating conversations — I mean, they’re anguished, but still floating with the illusion of life. Chuy Lizárraga’s “Nomás Faltó Que Me Quisieras” is also good. Luna’s other three songs — by Recodo, Recoditos, and Calibre 50 — are among the low points of their parent albums.

2. Unfortunately, they don’t stand out too much on this comp, because most of these songs are ballads. I get that these songs were hits, but why pick Calibre 50’s thin attempt at a power ballad when they had at least three other, more interesting, faster hit songs last year? Shouldn’t a curated hits compilation be better than any random week of the chart it’s compiling?

3. As Luna’s rival mushmonger Espinoza Paz focuses on his solo career, he may be scoring fewer hit writing credits. He contributes only one song here, El Bebeto’s ballad “Lo Más Interesante,” a misnomer.

4. There’s only one woman here, and she’s great! She’s also dead. I have no idea what Jenni Rivera’s “Resulta” is doing on this CD. Well, OK, I have some idea. Rivera’s an icon who was arguably the center of her genre when she died, and it’s not like any woman or man has commandeered the field to take her place. (Gerardo Ortiz is trying.) This track from her 2011 album appeared on 2014’s posthumous live album, and a Youtube video of the studio version — the version on this CD — has garnered four million views. So yeah, “Resulta” is a 2014 single. Was it a radio éxito? No. But did any Latina women have éxitos on regional Mexican radio in 2014? Um… (Not for lack of trying.)

5. I apologize for sleeping on Jorge Valenzuela’s wonderful “El Agüitado.” Mouthpiece squeal of the year! That said:

NO VALE LA PENA

¡Nuevo!

duelo xmas

New this week:

Dueto Consentido – Con El Pie Derecho (Afinarte): From the same small label as Voz de Mando, this all-string trio plays corridos whose verses seem to ripple without end. Here they are performing “El Rolex” and “El Toro Encartado” live; the bajo sexto player, for one, is having a wonderful time. Informed readers could explain their band name, which doesn’t add up: they’ve got three members. “Dueto consentido” does show up as the last phrase of Rody Felix’s and/or Jesús Ojeda’s corrido “El Gringo,” and “consentido” may be some cartel term of art, but I don’t wanna presume.

Jenni Rivera – 1 Vida, 3 Historias (Fonovisa): Rivera’s latest posthumous release contains a live CD, a CD of friends and family covering her songs, and a DVD of interviews and performances. Side note: she just won the award for Artista Feminina Del Año at the Premios De La Radio, a people’s choice deal, for the fourth straight year.

Duelo – Navidad Desde El Meritito Norte (Duelo): Breezy, seems to meet the minimum threshold of competence for once-a-year music, occasionally sounds like watery Mavericks.

Espinoza Paz – “Si Amas a Dios”: Keyboard strings, real strings, judiciously placed horns, pounding drums, and Sr. Paz sounding like he could burst into tears any moment. He offers sound advice: For the love of God, don’t break open piñatas with your bloodstained guns. Stay alert and don’t shut out the world. He may be preaching to the choir — they come in at the chorus — but whatever, I kind of like it. Then again, my wife makes me listen to a lot of Josh Groban.

¿Dónde están las mujeres?

Since tonight’s award show Premios de la Radio is a blatant moneymaker for the media barons at Liberman Broadcasting, and since it’s voted on by fans, its nominees aren’t surprising. Surprise would be antithetical to its purpose. Turn on regional Mexican radio for a half hour and you’ll hear a couple of the honorees, and that’s the point — it’s a state of The Scene. And at least one aspect of The Scene is disturbing.

No, nothing to do with corrido violence. This year’s Artista del Año nominees include El Komander, the current poster-bro for El Movimiento Alterado; Gerardo Ortiz, who’s transitioned away from Alterado into his unofficial role as poster-bro for the whole genre; and two more romantic banda acts, La Arrolladora Banda el Limón and the continent’s best singer Julión Álvarez, along with his Norteña Banda. That’s two sorta bad boys, two bandas full of good boys, and fewer women than Iowa has ever elected to national office. Among the nominees for best canción, colaboración, and corrido, there are no songs by women. If you watch the nominees for best video, you’ll at least see women in various states of undress.

What’s worse, this is an accurate state of The Scene, at least as it exists on FM radio. In the last hour, my go-to station has played Komander’s “Soy De Rancho,” Álvarez’s “Y Así Fue,” and zero women. For its Top Songs of the Week, said station lists alt-popper Ximena Sariñana’s year-old cumbia collaboration at #20, and beyond that… well, I haven’t checked all 423 songs, but Sariñana was the only female in the top 60. Where are all the women?

At the Premios, the four nominees for Artista Femenina del Año are the late Jenni Rivera, her daughter Chiquis, Ana Bárbara, and Gerencia 360’s token artista femenina, Helen Ochoa. Rivera remains an icon and a chart-topper, albeit with posthumous live albums. Ana Bárbara’s fine banda album came out at the end of 2013, like Ortiz’s album, and its first single reached #25 on the Regional Mexican chart. Chiquis and Ochoa have slight outputs so far — just two singles for Ochoa, far as I can tell — but let’s hope they’ll get bigger. Chiquis really knows how to throw herself into a song, just like Mom. Unfortunately the Premios didn’t see fit to nominate Nena Guzman, a labelmate of Ortiz who released a solid norteño album earlier this year, or previous winners and chicas malas Los Horóscopos de Durango. For all the talk of bro-country elbowing women to the margins of country radio, in regional Mexican music these days, the margins seem razor thin.

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