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Juan Gabriel

¡Feliz 2017! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2016!)

new-years-eve

Well, that was a terrible year, wasn’t it? But as disappointment turns to fear, fear into love, and love to resistance, let’s remember why you came to NorteñoBlog in the first place: accordions and tubas, cumbias and corridos, gritos and gallos, all racing around at breakneck speeds and knocking shit over.

Here are some of the most-clicked items from the blog’s most clicked year. Thanks for reading!

beto-with-fireBeto Cervantes D.E.P.
Juan Gabriel might have been the most iconic musician in Mexico, but for certain music fans — the kind who run internet searches for the details of sordid deaths — Beto Cervantes’ untimely death in September came as a shock. Or maybe not. Roughly one fifth of NorteñoBlog’s 2016 visitors came to read Manuel’s 2015 article on Beto, which covered his previous assassination attempt as well as some of his best songs.

tomen-notaEl Karma Karma Karma Comes Back to You Hard
Speaking of dead corrideros, Ariel Camacho continued to intrigue internet listeners. His own songs and those of his band, Los Plebes del Rancho, racked up enormous numbers of internet streams and had a stubborn presence on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Songs chart for most of the year. NorteñoBlog looked the Sierreño wave in the articles ¡Pisteando! (featuring Chuy Zuñiga), Wristwatch Porn and White Slavery (ft. “Tomen Nota”), and Attack of the Teen Idols. Buncha people also clicked on 2015’s Who Played It Better: Ariel Camacho or These Dudes?

los-inquietos-del-norte-requisito-americano-feat-marco-flores-y-la-numero-1-banda-jerezTrap Is Hyphy and Hyphy Is Trap
Speaking of stubborn, the twin phenomena of hyphy norteño (existence iffy) and the Hyphy record label (going strong!) continued to fascinate. NorteñoBlog covered both in the 2015 article Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño, and happily learned about Martín Patrón‘s hardcore “trap corridos” in the above linked Trap Is Hyphy and Hyphy Is Trap. We also heard from a band of hyphy-not-hyphy progenitors in Marco Flores y Los Inquietos Saluden a Su Madre.

el-americanoTop 5 W.T.F. Corrido Moments!
Speaking of corridos, Omar Ruiz‘s song “El Americano,” re-recorded with the kickass band Fuerza de Tijuana, became an unexpected U.S. radio hit and sent people to Manuel’s above-linked 2015 article, where you can see Ruiz singing the song to its subject, Boston narco George Jung. And, perhaps feeling guilty about all these corrido articles but nonetheless digging the new Tucanes tune, Josh wondered How Do We Hear Violent Corridos?

100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015
But it wasn’t all corridos! The article above looked at the curious prevalence of Regional Mexican compilation albums, even though such albums seem to be dying in the rest of the music industry. We also looked at the histories of the Mexican radio market in Houston and, in a still-popular 2015 article, Chicago. And if you ever wondered what’s behind the Houston Rodeo’s “Go Tejano Day” — well, here you go.

sergio-floresAlso — and be sure to pour one out for the late George Michael, who inspired the name of this feature — Yo. Quiero. Tu. Saxo.

La Fiebre de Juan Gabriel (Desfile de Éxitos 9/17/16)

juan-gabriel

In the least surprising news since House Speaker Paul Ryan tossed his scruples into the Potomac and signed a legislative blood pact with Donald Trump, su padrino el diablo, this week’s Billboard Hot Latin chart finds itself dominated by the late Juan Gabriel. He’s got 10 of the top 50 songs, from recent work (his cover of CCR’s “Have You Seen the Rain” and a couple duet remakes) to standards like “Amor Eterno” and “Querida,” his highest placer at #4. The more I hear “Querida,” the more I’m convinced that it — and not Limahl’s “Neverending Story” — was the greatest song of 1984. Gabriel definitely has the bigger vocal range, but the song’s semi-improvised crescendo makes you work for its pleasure; it’s not a pure shot of mind-numbing knee-wobbling endorphin like Giorgio Moroder’s synths and chord changes. Fortunately, pleasure isn’t a zero-sum game! That said, there must only be one Pick to Click:

The magazine reports that most of Gabriel’s chart traffic comes from streams and sales. Indeed, while I’ve heard some Gabriel songs on the radio — “No Vale La Pena” (ironically?) brightened my day — his impact there is too diluted to affect the radio charts. Billboard also reported a 566% increase in JuanGa music on the radio, from 2,000 spins to 13,000 in the week following his death — which, if my math checks out, translates into approximately 26-to-30 million “audience impressions.”* Impressive! But to find its way onto a radio chart, a particular song would need to hog one tenth of those impressions to itself, and Gabriel’s fecundity made that unlikely. He simply had too many songs that people loved and wanted to hear.

Gabriel is far and away the best-charting dead singer this week. Continue reading “La Fiebre de Juan Gabriel (Desfile de Éxitos 9/17/16)”

Juan Gabriel D.E.P.

JUAN_GABRIEL_2014_Thumb

Juan Gabriel has been trading on his lifelong success for the past couple years, but you can’t say he was coasting when he died last Sunday. On August 19th he’d embarked on a tour, playing his final show a week later at the Los Angeles Forum, capacity 17,500. In some ways he was more popular than ever. On Billboard‘s Top Latin Albums chart, he had just scored a record fourth #1 album in the past 18 months with Vestido de Etiqueta por Eduardo Magallanes, an album of ornate remakes of his old songs. (The new intro for the already elaborate groover “No Quiero” now approaches full blown symphonic pomp rock — you expect to hear Christopher Lee start talking about dragons.) The other chart toppers included the two volumes of Los Duo, where Gabriel sang duets of his catalog with a panoply of pan-Latin stars from across different genres.

That’s where NorteñoBlog caught up with Gabriel: in a video that’s easily as mind-melting as any by Peter Gabriel, a new version of JuanGa’s 1980 12-bar-blues “La Frontera.” Crossing whatever musical borders you care to name, it features the continent’s best singer Julión Álvarez, the new Zelig of reggaeton J. Balvin, a four-bar breakdown for tuba and funk guitar, an impeccably tiled studio wall, a whole lotta eyeliner, and an uncredited gospel choir. (“I knew that if God was listening, he was listening to African American music,” Gabriel once told the LA Times.) You owe it to yourself:

But keeping JuanGa’s story in the present does a disservice to a man whose life and music affected millions of people. He was an unfathomably prolific writer, like Dolly Parton or Prince, and just as beloved a performer of his own material; a robust challenger of his fans’ sexual hang-ups, like Dolly Parton and Prince with their own fans; and he could transform regional genres into universally beloved national pop music, like — you guessed it — Bruce Springsteen. (Also Dolly and Prince.)

Here’s what some better JuanGa fans have written: Continue reading “Juan Gabriel D.E.P.”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/2/16

pequenos

ALERTA DE SPOILER: The following may reveal important plot twists from the latest Trakalosa video, a 10-minute saga called “Supiste Hacerme Mal.” (It’s at #7 this week.) Don’t say NorteñoBlog didn’t warn you.

(In other news: yes, Trakalosa videos now merit spoiler alerts.)

The latest radio hit by Edwin Luna and his banda Trakalosa de Monterrey is a study in domestic strife and scandalous romance. Basically, a young woman is planning to marry the two-timing novio of her wedding planner, whom said novio has been treating with cold distance. When the two women discover they love the same man at a reception tasting event, drama happens. So much drama. Edwin Luna turns in a characteristically intense, nostril-flarey performance as the novio in question; novela actriz Yulianna Peniche shows more range as the wedding planner. We’re already familiar with Luna’s boundless ambition — he’s started putting his name in front of his band’s — and scandalous romantic life — short take: Luna left his wife and son for the actress who directed this video, Alma Cero — but I’m not sure how much this not-entirely-flattering video trades on Luna’s IRL circumstances. Do fans see art imitating life?

Regardless of its tabloid inspiration, this isn’t another Muy Especial video in the vein of Trakalosa’s previous epic “Pregúntale” (#17), which boldly came out against wife-beating. There is no moral to be learned or lesson to be had here, unless it’s this pro tidbit for wedding planners: Always learn the name of the husband before drawing up a contract! This video is essentially clickbait, a way to drum up interest in an otherwise forgettable song (seriously, try humming a couple bars of “Supiste” — IT CAN’T BE DONE) and, I’m guessing, to boost Luna’s nascent acting career. He’s not a terrible actor, but I worry his neck tattoo will limit his choices. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/2/16”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (aka The “Downtown” of Pan-Latino Videos)

julion and juan

At NorteñoBlog we’re accustomed to seeing our fair share of videos that are, to put it politely, extraordinary. (To put it impolitely: batshit insane.) Usually these videos result from the collision of wild creativity with meager indie label video budgets: Who can forget Los Pakines de Perú’s heavily narcotized Ed Wood fever dream for “Vacia,” which featured ghostly visions of a dude in a goblin mask playing the trumpet, as well as some ex-lovebirds smearing one another with frosting? That was not a rhetorical question. PLEASE TELL ME WHO CAN FORGET THAT VIDEO, so I can consult them before I wake up screaming again tonight.

Today’s extraordinary video is something different. For one thing, it wasn’t cheap. The song that sits at #12 on this week’s Mexican radio chart features not one but three big stars, a cast of dozens (at least), a norteño band and an R&B band, and serious Fonovisa/Universal money behind it. True, not much happens in the video — it’s a performance re-enactment, not one of those Trakalosa epics where the hero spends years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit until one day the stars cross and he shivs the real villain with a crucifix in the cafeteria. (I only made up the shiv.) But at the same time, you can tell it took some doing. The abundant video cutting suggests either a multitude of takes or an editor who was way overthinking the job; and Los Pakines could finance another video with Juan Gabriel’s eyeliner budget alone.

That’s right, it’s the new song by Juan Gabriel, a remake of his 1980 12-bar blues “La Frontera,” Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (aka The “Downtown” of Pan-Latino Videos)”

¡Nuevo! (ft. Patrulla 81, Rosendo Robles)

patrulla 81

Two tiny and somewhat exciting finds this week:

The first, Patrulla 81’s A Tamborazo, aka Puro Tamborazo Duranguense No Chin%$^@%$…, is unrepentant duranguense with a couple ballads thrown in — because when you’re dancing like you’ve got chewing gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe, sometimes you need to take a break. A decade ago, when duranguense was surging and plagues of scorpions stalked Chicago’s streets, I didn’t much keep up with Patrulla. Like genre leaders Grupo Montéz, they always seemed polite and overthought, without the cool synth tuba lines and tambora blasts of their peers in Alacranes Musical. I’m not sure what’s happened to them, but they sound leaner and tougher now, with fewer cheesy synth leads, more assertive vocals, and lots of tambora. Truth in advertising! This probably means my memory’s lousy and I should revisit their older stuff. A Tamborazo came out December 17 on the BMC label, which doesn’t seem to be the same BMC Records that operates a website.

Even better is a self-released single by Rosendo Robles, “Alterado de Corazon,” a banda waltz of furious excitement and possibly sharp brass sections. Possibly tuned sharp, I should say, although the jagged horn rhythms certainly feel like whirling blades of death, the kind of things you’d contort your shoulders trying to avoid in the upper reaches of a video game. Robles is a graduate of the TV talent show Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento (TTMT), and since he apparently burns with white hot charisma I’m not sure why he’s releasing his own music, except Brave New Music Economy etc.
VALE LA PENA

Also out recently:

Juan Gabriel – Mis 40 En Bellas Artes Partes 1 & 2 (Fonovisa)

Various – Lo Mejor de lo Mejor 2014 (Sony), a general “Latin” compilation of interest for its Gerardo Ortiz tokenism — he’s the only regional Mexican performer included, further moving into that Jenni Rivera role. (They’ve both judged on TTMT, too.)

Los Cadetes De Linares & Los Invasores De Nuevo Leon – Mano a Mano (BMC), one of those split CDs that appear frequently in this genre, here confirming that the BMC label does actually exist.

Los Inquietos Del Norte – “No Dudes De Mi”, lachrymose violin balladry from a band that can be much more hyphy, even if they refuse the term. (There’ll be a hyphy thinkpiece up here soon, promise.)

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