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Joan Sebastian

¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Los Hijos de Hernández y más)

lalomoralaurita

lalo-moraThis week in the “norteño legend covers the Great Ranchera Songbook” department, we find Lalo Mora, formerly of the ’70s duo Lalo y Lupe and the ’80s band Los Invasores de Nuevo León. Mora’s been making solo music on labels big and small for a while now, and on his latest, Un Millón de Primaveras (Mora), he’s hired a banda to help him dig through some classics. The horn charts are decent and Mora’s grizzled voice settles into the tunes with effortless authority, but you’ve probably heard these songs done better elsewhere. NorteñoBlog directs you to Joan Sebastian‘s country-with-horns take on the title track, which he wrote; and to Vicente Fernández‘s trembling and magisterial version of “El Ultimo en la Fila,” which Sebastian also wrote. Lest you think the entire Great Ranchera Songbook sprang from Joan Sebastian’s tear-stained pen, Mora also sings “Cartas Marcadas” and some other decidedly non-Sebastian tunes. The album’s technically accomplished, but I never need to hear it again: NO VALE LA PENA.

leonardo-aguilarLeonardo Aguilar has lucked into some decidedly less accomplished banda charts on his debut album Gallo Fino (Machin) — if you wanna hear clarinets cloy hard, check out this single from a couple years ago. No matter: I like Aguilar’s album better than Lalo Mora’s. Continue reading “¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Los Hijos de Hernández y más)”

Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (diciembre 2016)

cumbre-nortena

It is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. When we last checked in with the New Mexican quintet Anexo Al Norte, they were pursuing perfection with fellow New Mexican Beto Ronquillo. That pursuit failed, so they’ve settled for a limp Christmas cumbia on Blas Records, “Parodia Botas de Navidad,” unfortunately NOT a parody of “The Christmas Shoes” (aka “Los Zapatos de Saxmas”). Announcing your song as a parody is never a good move, especially when the song isn’t funny, but sax player Iván Murillo almost makes up for it with his groovy syncopated takes on “Jingle Bells.” In the song, Santa brings the boys in the band a bunch of instruments, along with the titular botas and a mixing board. One of them falls asleep with the mixing board, which is sure to mess up his levels. In the video’s high point, the band leaves a bowl of tamales out for Santa Claus, a tradition I will now force upon my own family. (NO VALE LA PENA)

no-hay-quintoAs you’d expect, the Dallas saxtet La Energia Norteña has far more energy. They’ve just released their fifth album for the Azteca label, an ode to saxual endurance entitled No Hay Quinto Malo. And, because the fifth time’s the charm, the album debuted at #1 on Billboard‘s Latin Album chart. Lead single “Hoy Me Toca Perder” (aka “Hoy Me Toca de Dar Saxo Oral”) is a maudlin thing, with string cues and a video full of meaningful looks and lonely rooms, though it does afford Israel Oviedo a chance to wail in full Clarence Clemons mode. Better is “Me Ganó la Calentura” (aka “Calor Saxual”), which sounds more like winning, even though its chord progression gives it an undercurrent of heartache.

But NorteñoBlog is most partial to their cover of Joan Sebastian‘s straight-up country song, “El Taxista.” (“El Saxista”? Too easy.) Written by Sebastian’s son José Manuel Figueroa, its melody soars through a tale of lovelorn despair, told from a stoic taxi driver’s point of view. In other words it’s perfect for this genre, where jaunty beats and riffs try to ignore their songs’ anguish every day of the week. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (diciembre 2016)”

100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015

calibre 50 mejor

The hyper-abundant compilation album is one of the more bewildering aspects of the Regional Mexican music industry. There are a LOT of them — witness this Allmusic list of more than 50 Conjunto Primavera comps since 1995, released on eight different record labels. Lately some music-writer friends and acquaintances have observed a dearth of compilation albums in recent years, given listeners’ ability to cherrypick their own songs on streaming sites. NorteñoBlog does not dispute this observation; I’ll only add that the compilation market in Regional Mexican is still going strong. This year saw four new Primavera comps, on two different labels. Who’s buying these things? Don’t they already own all these songs?

Without answering these questions, NorteñoBlog presents this list of 100 single- (or, in the case of Sony’s Frente a Frente series, double-) artist comps released on CD in 2015. It doesn’t include multi-artist comps like Fonovisa’s annual Radio Éxitos: Discos Del Año series. This list is incomplete; I’m pretty sure I could find more by scouring the catalogs of indie labels Select-O-Hits and D&O.

Some items of interest: Continue reading “100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015”

¡Nuevo! (starring Maquinaria Norteña, Los Horóscopos, y más)

puro sax maquinaria

maquinaria nortenaIt is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. This week the máquinas de saxo in La Maquinaria Norteña drop their eighth (I think) album, Ya Dime Adiós (Azteca/Fonovisa) (alternate title: Break Up Saxo), from whence comes their top 10 airplay hit “Para Qué Amarte.” Maquinaria hail from both Chihuahua AND Zacatecas, doubling their potential fan base, and they’re solid and reliable polkaderos with a really good logo. On first listen, though, this album isn’t saxing it up for me like the next one:

dimeloThe puro Zacatecans in La Inquietud Norteña venture into minor key territory for the title single to their latest album, Dimelo (AGLive) (alt title: Vamos a Hablar Sobre el Saxo). Singer Hugo Avellaneda wails high and clear, sax and accordion skate across the song with as little apparent effort as spinning Olympians, and whoever’s playing the polka bass gets his R&B licks in. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Maquinaria Norteña, Los Horóscopos, y más)”

Desfile de Éxitos 8/22/15

maximo grado

NorteñoBlog is un poco freaking out this week, because if you look way down at Billboard‘s Regional Mexican airplay chart, you’ll see Roberto Tapia has a new single called “No Valoraste.” Unfortunately Tapia hasn’t finished the video yet, nor has the song hit any of the streaming services I’ve checked, so I have no idea what “No Valoraste” sounds like. NorteñoBlog doesn’t always enjoy Tapia, but when I do, I prefer his pop singles. And it’s not just me! My son, who’s kind of rockist but also digs Kidz Bop and EDM-pop, normally hates when I turn on the Spanish language radio stations, but as we pulled into Grandma and Grandpa’s driveway the other night we found Tapia’s monster hit “Mirando al Cielo,” and he was grooving. It actually delayed our triumphant race to the grandparents’ door, as we sat in the car and seat-danced. Um, Pick to Click!

So Tapia’s latest will either be profoundly great or profoundly disappointing, is what I’m saying.

Thank heavens for “Mirando al Cielo,” from whence cometh our help, because this week’s charts are slim pickings. The best newish tune is by Banda MS: “Piénsalo” is the higher of their two songs inside the Hot Latin top 20, and it’s uncharacteristically fast, if not too special. MS typically hits with the stickiest of treacly ballads, and these concoctions have brought them untold fame and Youtube hits. Their older top 20 hit this week, “A Lo Mejor,” has gotten some click-baity help from Remex’s big-budget novela video, in which infidelity and mistaken identity somehow result in stabbing and crashing cars. Desafortunadamente, to make sense of all that you have to listen to “A Lo Mejor.”

Elsewhere, Joan Sebastian’s epic death bump evaporates as we say adios to his four revived hits; La Séptima Banda score a second decent airplay hit, though it’s no “Bonito y Bello”; Pitbull continues to be awesome; and people evidently continue streaming “Propuesta Indecente,” now at 107 weeks on the chart. Think about that. When “Propuesta Indecente” came out, NorteñoBlog’s guinea pig WAS NOT YET ALIVE. (“Propuesta Indecente” has always been at war with alfalfa hay and cilantro.)

After speaking with a big Máximo Grado fan the other day, I fear NorteñoBlog may have given short initial shrift to that group’s really pretty good “Unas Heladas,” currently at #14 airplay. So here it is, en realidad, this week’s Pick to Click:

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published August 22.

1. “El Perdón” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
2. “La Gozadera” – Gente de Zona ft. Marc Anthony
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (107 WEEKS OLD)
4. “Te Metiste” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho (#2 RegMex)
5. “Ginza” – J Balvin
6. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B
7. “El Amor De Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#5 RegMex)
8. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
9. “Malditas Ganas” – El Komander (#4 RegMex)
10. “La Mordidita” – Ricky Martin ft. Yotuel

11. “Aunque Ahora Estes Con El” – Calibre 50 (#1 RegMex)
12. “Sigueme y Te Sigo” – Daddy Yankee
13. “Perdido En Tus Ojos” – Don Omar ft. Natti Natasha
14. “Mi Vicio Mas Grande” – Banda El Recodo (#6 RegMex)
15. “Piénsalo” – Banda MS (#8 RegMex)
16. “Cuál Adiós” – La Bandononona Clave Nueva de Max Peraza (#3 RegMex)
17. “El Taxi” – Pitbull ft. Sensato & Osmani Garcia
18. “Me Voy Enamorando (Remix)” – Chino & Nacho ft. Farruko
19. “A Lo Mejor” – Banda MS (#18 RegMex)
20. “El Cholo” – Gerardo Ortiz (#7 RegMex)

21. “Back It Up” – Prince Royce ft. Jennifer Lopez & Pitbull
22. “Baddest Girl In Town” – Pitbull ft. Mohombi & Wisin
23. “Duele El Amor” – Tony Dize
24. “Calentura” – Yandel
25. “Solita” – Prince Royce

¡Adios!
“El Perdedor” – Joan Sebastian
“Me Gustas” – Joan Sebastian
“Un Idiota” – Joan Sebastian
“25 Rosas” – Joan Sebastian
“Pierdo la Cabeza” – Zion & Lennox

—————–

9. “Un Desengaño” – Conjunto Primavera ft. Ricky Muñoz
10. “Confesion” – Arrolladora

11. “La Revancha” – La Trakalosa de Monterrey
12. “Me Sobrabas Tu” – Banda Los Recoditos (#5 RegMex)
13. “Bonito Y Bello” – La Séptima Banda
14. “Unas Heladas” – Grupo Máximo Grado
15. “Cajita de Cartón” – Intocable
16. “Suena La Banda” – Los Tucanes de Tijuana ft. Código FN
17. “No Valoraste” – Roberto Tapia
19. “Veneno” – Duelo
20. “Se Va Muriendo Mi Alma” – La Séptima Banda

¡Adios!
“Vete Acostumbrando” – Larry Hernández
“Debajo Del Sombrero” – Leandro Rios ft. Pancho Uresti
“Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#5 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
“Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#9 RegMex)

Desfile de Éxitos 8/8/15

DUELO VENENO VIDEO

Receiving an epic death bump on last week’s Hot Latin chart was singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer-equestrian Joan Sebastian, who recently succumbed to cancer at age 64:

On Hot Latin Songs, 11 of Sebastian’s tracks enter[ed] the chart — the most concurrent titles an act has ever had on the list. And, all of them are in the top half of the tally, including four in the top 10. One of his most memorable hits, “Un Idiota,” re-enters at No. 2 powered by 1.9 million weekly streams and 2,000 digital downloads sold in the week ending July 16 (up 2,306 percent according to Nielsen Music). “Un Idiota” originally peaked at No. 22 in 2001.

Note that none of these songs showed up on the Regional Mexican Songs airplay chart; Sebastian’s songs likely received more airplay than usual, but that bump didn’t coalesce around any one song. “Un Idiota” would have been a good candidate: two verses and choruses of gentle acoustic remorse, including spoken passages and a big “te AAAAAmo” chorus, it captures Sebastian’s knack for sounding traditional and poppy at once. (Alacranes Musical’s version displays a similar knack, although, as with every duranguense song, it requires that listeners shed any preconceptions about the emotional capacity of peppy synth polkas.) Listening to the smattering of Sebastian’s re-charting songs, it’s hard not to be impressed by the breadth of his catalog — the man could create pop ballads, uptempo synthpop, pedal steel country, mariachi, and Tejano with equal authority. His songs have begun drifting off the Hot Latin chart this week, so click on a few before they’re gone.

When we last encountered Duelo’s not-at-all-sexist tale of a heartless, icy, poisonous, murdering, dream-killing mujer, I wished it sounded more venomous. I have since shed my preconceptions about form following function and direct you to “Veneno,” this week’s Pick To Click and an excellent Tejano midtempo with a killer opening riff. (I can’t be the only one who hears Def Leppard’s “Hysteria.”) Singer Oscar Ivan Trevino regrets the venom flowing through his veins but sounds resolved to suck it out. Don’t try that at home.

Other nubes include a fine Tejano ballad from Conjunto Primavera ft. Intocable’s Ricky Munoz, although singing in the vicinity of Primavera’s Tony Melendez remains a fool’s errand; a fine Tejano midtempo from Intocable themselves; and Trakalosa’s “La Revancha,” whose melodramatic eight-minute video has things to say about Fate and Class and What Makes A Man Start Fires, or at least Beef Up And Kill Other Dudes. Driven by airplay and a new video with lots of slow-motion horses, Ariel Camacho’s elegiac “Te Metiste” climbs to #2 Hot Latin. Could he score his second posthumous #1?

In sadder news, Calibre 50’s latest boring ballad, already a big hit in Mexico, enters both charts. If history is any guide we’ll be changing the station on it for a while.

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published August 8.

1. “El Perdón” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
2. “Te Metiste” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho (#1 RegMex)
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (105 WEEKS OLD)
4. “La Gozadera” – Gente de Zona ft. Marc Anthony
5. “Ginza” – J Balvin
6. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B
7. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
8. “Un Idiota” – Joan Sebastian
9. “Malditas Ganas” – El Komander (#2 RegMex)
10. “Me Gustas” – Joan Sebastian

11. “El Amor De Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#6 RegMex)
12. “25 Rosas” – Joan Sebastian
13. “Mi Vicio Mas Grande” – Banda El Recodo (#3 RegMex)
14. “Pierdo la Cabeza” – Zion & Lennox
15. “Me Sobrabas Tu” – Banda Los Recoditos (#5 RegMex)
16. “Sigueme y Te Sigo” – Daddy Yankee
17. “La Mordidita” – Ricky Martin ft. Yotuel
18. “Perdido En Tus Ojos” – Don Omar ft. Natti Natasha
19. “El Perdedor” – Joan Sebastian
20. “El Cholo” – Gerardo Ortiz (#4 RegMex)

21. “El Taxi” – Pitbull ft. Sensato & Osmani Garcia
22. “Me Voy Enamorando (Remix)” – Chino & Nacho ft. Farruko
23. “Solita” – Prince Royce
24. “Aunque Ahora Estes Con El” – Calibre 50 (#9 RegMex)
25. “Duele El Amor” – Tony Dize

¡Adios!
“Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#5 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
“Nota de Amor” – Wisin + Carlos Vives ft. Daddy Yankee
“Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#9 RegMex)
“Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
“Back It Up” – Prince Royce ft. Jennifer Lopez & Pitbull
“Como Antes” – Tito “El Bambino” ft. Zion & Lennox

—————–

7. “Cuál Adiós” – La Bandononona Clave Nueva de Max Peraza
8. “Piénsalo” – Banda MS
10. “Un Desengaño” – Conjunto Primavera ft. Ricky Muñoz

11. “Bonito Y Bello” – La Septima Banda
12. “Unas Heladas” – Grupo Máximo Grado
13. “Debajo Del Sombrero” – Leandro Rios ft. Pancho Uresti
14. “La Revancha” – La Trakalosa de Monterrey
15. “Suena La Banda” – Los Tucanes de Tijuana ft. Código FN
16. “Cajita de Cartón” – Intocable
17. “Confesion” – Arrolladora
18. “Veneno” – Duelo
19. “A Lo Mejor” – Banda MS
20. “Vete Acostumbrando” – Larry Hernández

¡Adios!
“Que Tal Si Eres Tu” – Los Tigres Del Norte
“Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” – La Maquinaria Norteña
“Como Tu No Hay Dos” – Los Huracanes del Norte
“Calla y Me Besas” – Enigma Norteña

La Buena, La Mala, y Las Feas

Joan-Sebastian

NorteñoBlog went on vacation at the worst possible time, because while I was gone, IT ALL WENT DOWN. Not with the music. Except for El Komander (¡VALE LA PENA!), very few notable albums came out in the past few weeks; we’ll catch up with albums and singles in the coming days. No, I’m talking about las personas en las noticias:

LA BUENA:

Joan Sebastian’s discography is a mile long. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist not only wrote over a thousand songs, from ranchera to synthpop, but he wrote and produced entire albums for other singers. This is how NorteñoBlog has encountered him in the past: as the man behind Vicente Fernandez’s irresistible “Estos Celos” and Graciela Beltrán’s “Robame Un Beso.” Sebastian was famously “el poeta del pueblo,” riding his horse on stage and representing for his gente, and that meant giving the people what they wanted, mixing up regional styles with pop sounds from El Norte and acting in the novela Tú y Yo. And then there’s this delightful factoid about the man born José Manuel Figueroa:

Mr. Sebastian’s Facebook page says that he changed his name to Juan Sebastian in 1977, and that he turned the “u” in “Juan” into an “o” on the advice of his sister, a numerologist.

Maybe a commenter can explain how that math works?

I’m still catching up with him, and probably will be for a long time. RIP

Also while we were gone, Banda El Recodo became the first banda to play on Spanish TV. If I’m surprised they hadn’t done so already, does that reveal my cultural chauvinism? This is just more evidence that the term “Latin music” makes absolutely no sense as a genre, because it tells us nothing useful about the music in question, what it sounds like, or who listens to it. Surely somewhere in the world, someone is lumping together Wiley and George Jones as “English music” — but that doesn’t make the idea any less nonsense.

LA MAL:

Put on your corrido-writing pants, it’s time for an update on El Chapo!

But the music production and distribution business has changed dramatically since El Chapo’s last escape [in 2001] — meaning times have changed on the narco-corrido front, as well. Forget six months; within six hours, bands and singers had rushed songs of El Chapo’s second escape onto YouTube and FaceBook. By Sunday afternoon, bands were recording their just-written Chapo tunes in the studio, playing the songs in front of enthusiastic live audiences and releasing elaborate videos with news coverage interspersed with dramatic reenactments of the tunnel escape.

Here are Los Alegres del Barranco:

These corridos are mostly gleeful, because El Chapo is now even LARGER than larger than life, and because of the Mexican government’s uncanny resemblance to Keystone Cops.

This musical expression points bluntly to collusion and to Mexico’s failure to run a government of law and order.

As many analysts have pointed out, the escape is a major embarrassment for President Enrique Peña Nieto, who in an interview with Univision after El Chapo was captured, said that allowing another escape would be “unforgivable.”

There’s also a Frontline documentary on El Chapo, if you’re so inclined, and Cartel Land, a documentary about the autodefensas and their less defensible U.S. counterparts, the border yahoos militias. NorteñoBlog has seen neither, but I’ll report back.

EL FEO:

Archivos de 1998

banda maguey

These were the top Regional Mexican songs of July 25, 1998, as reported by Billboard. Some things to note:

If I ever again start talking about banda and norteño groups using pop chord changes like it’s a recent thing, please shoot me. Maybe just in the leg. I’ll take the hint.

On the other hand (he whispers, writhing in pain), something happened between 1998 and now. Listen to the songs by Graciela Beltrán (#5) and Banda Maguey (#3). Beltrán is straight up pop with mariachi horns; the predominant sounds are guitars strumming and playing dry little MOR licks. (The song’s parent album was arranged by Joan Sebastian (#12), who Allmusic thinks is a woman, but I’ll cut ’em slack because STE’s a better critic than I am.) Banda Maguey’s song has something like a banda horn arrangement chugging alongside synths and a rhythm section. These are first and foremost pop songs, the way we think of pop songs in the U.S.; the ensembles get some of their POP by incorporating elements of traditional Mexican styles.

Today’s banda pop flips the equation: the ensembles are first and foremost acoustic, Cornelio Reyna-style big bands, only instead of playing the traditional ranchera repertoire they play pop songs by new songwriters, using up-to-date lyrical imagery. The commutative property of banda pop tells us we still get banda pop, but the results sound, improbably, more immediate and less dated. Whoever’s responsible for the past decade or so of banda hipness — maybe thank Alfonso Lizárraga, the arranger for Banda El Recodo? (further research) — realized something important. Banda arrangements can contain as many hooks, can deliver pop songs as sparkly and indelible, as rock bands, synths, or turntables and microphones. The Sinaloan brass band is a terrific vehicle for delivering pop tunes, and maybe because it’s so well established, it paradoxically doesn’t sound like it belongs back in some different era. Kind of like a blues-rock quartet.

1. “Desde Que Te Amo” – Los Tucanes De Tijuana
2. “Tu Oportunidad” – Grupo Limite
3. “Quiero Volver” – Banda Maguey
4. “Botella Envenenada” – Los Temerarios
5. “Robame Un Beso” – Graciela Beltrán

6. “Yo Nací Para Amarte” – Alejandro Fernández
This swarthy ballad was #1 on the Hot Latin chart this week, and was therefore written about here by Jonathan Bogart.

7. “Por Mujeres Como Tu” – Pepe Aguilar
8. “Amor Maldito” – Intocable
9. “Eres Mi Droga” – Intocable

10. “Me Haces Falta Tu” – Los Angeles Azules
El Patrón 95.5 still plays this song on a semi-regular basis. I think I’ve heard the antiphony between accordion and trombones, deliberate to the point of creepiness, as part of cumbia mixes or even as interstitial music, coming out of breaks. Once you hear it you don’t forget it.

11. “Sentimientos” – Grupo Limite
12. “Gracias” – Joan Sebastian
13. “A Mi Que Me Quedo” – Los Invasores De Nuevo León
14. “Te Seguire” – Los Palominos

15. “Me Voy A Quitar De En Medio” – Vicente Fernández
Traditional mariachi from a master — listen to the way he slides into the ends of his phrases. The video’s simplicity is startling. Fernández rides his horse to the misión and sits there singing his song while a woman opens the doors. Then he stops singing and rides away, and she closes the doors.

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