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José Manuel Lopez Castro

¡Controversy! ¡Polémica! (Who’s On the Mexican Radio?)

marco-flores-dancing

Controversy! ¡Polémica! NorteñoBlog’s favorite dancer Marco Flores (aka Marco A. Flores) y su Banda Jerez (aka #1 Banda Jerez, or simply La Jerez) are back on the Mexican airwaves with “Los Viejitos” at #17, an amped up waltz that takes an insanely complex approach to both rhythmic subdividing and cultural appropriating.

los-viejitos-400x400The song, you see, plays on the traditional Danza de los Viejitos, danced for centuries by the indigenous Purépecha people in the highlands of Michoacán. Flores lives two states to the north in Zacatecas, but because he bows to Terpsichore in all her forms, he’s opened his new video with a not necessarily accurate re-enactment: five guys in flamboyant stooped-old-man costumes walk a circle, “helped” by members of La Jerez, who keep looking underneath their ponchos but seem otherwise respectful. The slow, trad fiddle music of la Danza stops abruptly, La Jerez kicks into its waltz, Flores flails his limbs, and the stooped old men spring to life, emboldened by this rad new beat. There’s a long, proud history of affectionately tweaking the Olds by replacing their slow rhythm with a new, faster rhythm — recall the Clash’s “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” or Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings.” Flores seems to be operating on the same impulse here.

¡No tan rápido! says Michoacán’s secretary of indigenous people, Martín García Avilés. (Let’s just note how great it is that a Mexican state has its own secretary of indigenous people.) García Avilés calls the video an insult to native traditions nationwide. Flores and La Jerez are denigrating the Purépecha people and subjecting them to ridicule, he says, and they should take down the video. Flores expresses surprise, countering that he’s trying to rescue and exalt la Danza and bring it to the attention of younger generations. NorteñoBlog, watching a video of an actual Danza, asks warily, “Aren’t the dancing fake old men supposed to be funny? At least a little bit?” Not that I plan to start making video parodies of indigenous dances any time soon. Tumblr would have a collective aneurysm. But I’m curious to know how Flores’s video reads to other people who’ve grown up with la Danza de los Viejitos. Offensive? Funny?

Anyway, as I mentioned, the rhythms in this thing are also stellar — bar by bar, the band divides the basic pulse into either two or three, with Flores subdividing those beats into even smaller and faster bits during the choruses, his accents landing in unexpected places. Limbs flail accordingly. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “¡Controversy! ¡Polémica! (Who’s On the Mexican Radio?)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/28/16

marcello-gamiz

The best recent song to hit the Mexican radio top 10 is probably the #4 hit “Al Rescate,” the latest in the ongoing cry for help disguised as a brass band, Banda Los Recoditos. Having set aside a nice piece of land for themselves in the “ayyyy chiquitita I’m drunk and it’s your fault” territory, Luis Angel Franco and company seem content to mine that turf for whatever they can find, for the rest of their lives — which probably won’t be long, given the volatile state of their collective liver. Typically, their horn chart is accomplished and stuffed with counterpoint, and El Flaco is the most charismatic guy at the bar, savoring some strategically placed high notes that sound like they were written for his voice. VALE LA PENA, even if you’ve heard 20 other Recoditos songs just like it.

Also solid is the song sitting at #5, La Adictiva’s brassed up take on another “ayyyy chiquitita I’m drunk and it’s your fault” song: “Que Caro Estoy Pagando.” Formerly a hit in El Norte for Sierreño heartbreakers Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, the song transitions to its new instrumental setting with stately melodic leaps intact, though I do miss the scratch in José Manuel Lopez Castro’s voice. VALE LA PENA.

But that’s the chart that measures “Audiencia.” The real action is over on the “Tocadas” chart, where — I’m guessing — we see adventurous radio programmers in smaller markets testing the waters for more VALE LA PENA songs like:

Los Horóscopos’ “Qué Chulada de Papucho”: Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/28/16”

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”

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 Los Plebes, Los Tucanes, y más)

cuisillos

Pura Rienda SueltaIt 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. The Zacatecan-I-think quintet Luis Ruiz y la Embarcacion de la Musica Norteña has just released their second album Pura Rienda Suelta (Goma) (alternate title: Cuidado Con La Bestia Saxy), and on first listen it stands out from the puro sax pack. Por ejemplo, accordion and sax hang out on a repetitive minor-chord riff in their single “Me Enamoré” (sequel title: “Tuvimos Saxo”). In a subgenre that’s almost oppressively chipper, minor chords count for plenty. But even on chipper tunes like Regulo Caro’s oft-covered “La Buchona” (alternate title: “Labios Saxys”), Ruiz’s clarion voice sells the songs. He’s got a way of making the most heartfelt pleas sound tossed-off. Thumbs up indeed, Sr. Ruiz.

los plebesImprobably (and not at all saxily), Los Plebes Del Rancho de Ariel Camacho are climbing closer to the Hot Latin top 10 with their single “DEL Negociante,” written by their DEL Records labelmates Revolver Cannabis. Like “Me Enamoré,” “DEL” boasts a memorable minor-key riff. Unlike “Me Enamoré,” it features the teenaged José Manuel Lopez Castro pinch hitting for previous lead singer Ariel Camacho, who died a year ago, and he’s singing a song about their label boss, Angel Del Villar. This is both crass and wonderful. After Jimi Hendrix died, imagine his rhythm section renamed themselves “Experience Hendrix,” hired the fresh-faced Neil Young as a frontman, and scored a hit with “Lonely at the Top (Reprise),” written by Randy Newman in honor of Reprise Records boss Frank Sinatra. And then they recorded a whole album! While we’ll never know the results of that particular thought experiment, we can hear Recuerden Mi Estilo (DEL), which sounds pretty good. Lopez Castro lacks the immediate charisma of his predecessor, but tubist Omar Burgos has more than enough to share. Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Los Plebes, Los Tucanes, y más)”

Desfile de Éxitos 1/23/16

larry hernandez

While NorteñoBlog was away from the charts over Christmas, something unexpected happened. The listening public, perhaps because they were feeling unusually decent, STOPPED LISTENING TO “PROPUESTA INDECENTE.” Or at least they listened to it less. And because King Romeo’s ballad had spent more than one year on the Hot Latin chart, and because it had lately dropped to #5, and because Billboard writes you off the Hot Latin chart after a year if you drop below #5 — OUR LONG NATIONAL INDECENCY IS OVER!!!!! “Propuesta Indecente” ended its record 125-week chart run the week of January 2. We extend a hearty congratulations to King Romeo and all those who have swooned in his name.

(Alternate lead: “Propuesta Indecente” was destroyed January 2 when a small band of resistance fighters blew up its thermal oscillator, destabilizing the star-killing juggernaut and exiling King Romeo to his recording studio. In a prepared statement the King said, “Don’t worry, I’ll build another one,” and then chuckled with craven glee.)

Maybe coincidentally, the week of January 2 saw an enormous number of Regional Mexican songs climbing the Hot Latin chart: 14 out of the top 25, to be exact. (Usually the top 25 contains around 10 or 11.) Since that week the number has dropped to 13, many of which are holdovers from last year, but there are a few interesting things happening. Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 1/23/16”

Desfile de Éxitos 11/7/15

del negociante

Since Billboard‘s Latin charts tend to turn over slower than car engines during Chicago winters, the scene doesn’t look much different than it did two weeks ago. All titles in the Top 10 remain the same, with more than half of them occupying the exact same positions. The presidential primary campaign chart tenure of King Romeo’s indecent proposal has reached 118 weeks, and there are only six new songs, four on the big chart and two on the Regional Mexican airplay chart. Plus — and this makes NorteñoBlog howl hot tears of pain — both of Pitbull’s songs, “El Taxi” and “Baddest Girl In Town,” have left the Top 25. Beep beep, sir; beep beep.

But! As you know, NorteñoBlog has a bit of a thing for the late Ariel Camacho, whose “Te Metiste” is still sitting pretty at #7 Hot Latin without placing on the Regional Mexican chart, meaning people continue streaming and/or downloading the heck out of it. (Probably streaming.) Other songs in this predicament: Arrolladora’s “Confesión” and Recodos’ “Mi Vicio Más Grande,” both of which boast expensive-looking novela-lite videos.

In what is possibly an elaborate Day of the Dead scheme, there’s more Camacho chart action bubbling debajo. Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 11/7/15”

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