music, charts, opinions


Julión Álvarez

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)”

Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK

gerardo birthday

NorteñoBlog doesn’t always Pick to Click, but when I do… sometimes I get it wrong and type “Click to Pick.” This made searching for the previous year’s worth of Picks INTERESANTE.

The Pick to Click began as a shameless ripoff from Charles Pierce’s must-read liberal politics blog at Esquire, as did a couple other, possibly subtler NorteñoBlog tics. (Spot them all! Both! Whatever!) It’s a useful way to highlight the song I enjoy the most in a particular post, so that you the loyal reader don’t have to wade through a pool of Banda MS’s tears to reach the good stuff. Of course, if you enjoy the delectable bouquet wafting from Banda MS’s tears, you can always Click what I don’t Pick, though you’ll run the risk of turning Banda MS happy and then they might run out of Art. Besides current singles, the following list includes some older singles and current album tracks.

Most Picked at three apiece: NorteñoBlog’s probable artists of the year Alfredo Ríos “El Komander” and Marco Flores y #1 Banda Jerez. Banda Cuisillos, Noel Torres, and Chuy Lizárraga each scored two Picks. So did Los Gfez, Pancho Uresti, and Ariel Camacho, though one Pick from each of those three was in a “featured” role. Besides norteño and banda, the list includes cumbias and puro sax stomps, reggaeton and ABBA-schlager, Jenny and the Mexicats and Pitbull, and covers of Johnny Cash and — first up — Shania Twain. Happy Clicking!
Continue reading “Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK”

Desfile de Éxitos 10/24/15

will smith

It’s not quite our one-year anniversary — that’ll come next week — but NorteñoBlog has been at this funny business for 51 weeks and in all that time, Billboard‘s Latin charts have always contained a song by either Gerardo Ortiz or El Komander. UNTIL NOW. Well, really until two weeks ago, when Komander’s “Malditas Ganas” dropped off the chart. “Malditas Ganas” entered the chart back in May, hi-fiving Ortiz’s “Eres Una Niña” as it sauntered out and paving the way for Ortiz’s “El Cholo” a week or three later. (NorteñoBlog doesn’t need your fancy “fact checkers.”) And now “Ganas” and “Cholo” are both gone, and NB’s heart is empty, and… ooh, what’s that! New Chuy Lizárraga!

Please note: it’s entirely possible that both Banda MS and Julión Álvarez have been on the charts the entire length of the NB’s existence, much like well-known Methuselan beard “Propuesta Indecente” (116 WEEKS!), but frankly, that last bit of data gathering has plum tuckered me out and I would like to listen to some songs now.

The Hot Latin Top 10 is a complete reshuffle of a month ago. (NOBODY. EVER. GOES. IN. and NOBODY. EVER. COMES. OUT.) So we’ll just skip down to #11, where Bomba Estéreo have repurposed their excellent single “Fiesta” to include a rap by new Bomba Estéreo superfan Will Smith. This isn’t Smith’s first visit to the Latin charts: “Men In Black,” “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” and “Wild Wild West” were all monster hits that received Latin airplay and broke the Hot Latin top 40 back when the Hot Latin chart allowed for such things. (Weirdly, “Miami” doesn’t seem to have received the same bienvenido.) This may, however, be the first time someone has tried to rhyme “mamacita” with “beer-a.” Let’s hope it’s the last. Smith’s other intriguing line is this odd bit of post-coital pride: “Woke up behind her/ No gas in me, I’m a Tesla.” Yo homes, smell you later!
Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 10/24/15”

¡Nuevo! (starring Banda MS, Clave Nueva, y más)


Billboard magazine, 2009:

In forming Banda MS, manager/producer Fernando Camacho says he wanted a group that would play downhome party music, including corridos. But the danceable [novelty] material, besides being easier to promote at some corrido-shy stations in Mexico, is especially popular on morning radio shows. “They use them to wake people up,” Camacho says.

And that was the last time anyone would accuse Banda MS of keeping people awake.

banda msJajaja! NorteñoBlog loves to kid Banda MS, because the 16-piece ensemble of well-embouchured lovermen invariably responds by curing NorteñoBlog’s insomnia with a soothing romantic ballad. Over the past half-decade, MS has gone from starring in a trendpiece about novelty songs — the Billboard headline was “Looney Tunes” — to being the most consistent hitmaking banda balladeers on the U.S. Latin charts. Their polite waltz “Háblame de Ti” spent a couple months inside the top 10 of the Hot Latin chart, which measures a combination of radio play, sales, and online streaming. Before that it was the polite backbeat of “No Me Pidas Perdón.” I tend to forget these songs seconds after they’re over, but judging by the rabid audience responses on their new live album En Vivo: Guadalajara – Monterrey (Lizos), I’m the only such cretin. Banda MS cedes entire verses to the audience, and the audience doesn’t disappoint. This indie album by former major-label stars is #1 on the Latin Albums chart, and with all that audience energy, I can grudgingly see why. And hey — any album that includes “Hermosa Experiencia,” “Me Gustas Mucho,” and “El Mechón,” that debut novelty hit from six years ago, can’t be all bad.

Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Banda MS, Clave Nueva, y más)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/8/15

marco flores

NorteñoBlog has pretty much made its peace with boring ballads about corazones and the hombres who break/nurse/fondle them, so this week’s Mexican Top 20 comes as a pleasant surprise. Most of the new songs are fast! Or at least midtempo, which often sounds like “fast” around this lot. (When Arrolladora’s devious mujer destroyed their collective soul, she also apparently destroyed their ability to play faster than 60 bpm.) Almost every inch of this new batch is perfect, from the bottom to the top:

At #20, Leandro Ríos, of superfun rhyming exercise “Debajo del Sombrero” fame, is now a no-good cheating bastard. But he’s really tortured about being caught “Entre Ella y Tú,” so that’s gotta count for something, right? Oh wait — HE’S NOT TORTURED AT ALL. As long as you’re content with the amount of Leandro you’re getting, what’s the problem? The jaunty accordion gave him away.

Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/8/15”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 8/7/15


A crowded field of contenders met this week, selling themselves to a fickle public by trying to outshout their rivals. As they took their places on the public stage, arranged according to their polling numbers, some sported relatively fresh faces while others had clearly been here before. Broadcast to the masses, they broached the familiar topics of family values and the plight of the working class. They touted their hardscrabble origins and titanic work ethics. One challenger had amassed unimaginable wealth and made certain everyone in the audience knew it. The contenders spared no expense, and certainly no words, in their attempt to move one step closer to claiming the world’s most powerful and coveted title.

I refer, of course, to NorteñoBlog’s prestigious Pick to Click.

There are eight new songs, to be exact, since the last time we checked the Mexican radio charts five weeks ago. I’m afraid I can’t assign their singers one-to-one correspondence with the… unique field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. president. Although both groups contain mostly men — in this thought experiment, the part of Carly Fiorina will be played by Los Horóscopos — the Mexican radio stars are not, so far as I can tell, frightening power-mad scaredy cats. Here are their strong suits, from lowest polling to highest:

At #20, Diego Herrera sings a tribute to the families who’ve stood behind their famous norteño singing sons. This could have lapsed into sap, but Herrera is a masterful singer who lands each of his many words with precision and dexterity. Plus he uses the word “chingones” over and over. (Since I don’t think Miss Manners has covered it, this Latina article dissects how appropriate the word is for polite company. Opinions vary!)

At #19, the man with the continent’s best voice, Julión Álvarez, sings about love (as he does) in one of his better recent tunes, a fast banda. He’s also the only person I know who has convincingly sung the word “irremediablemente.”

Los Tucanes and their rich friends Código FN are at #18, singing a corrido about the big name bandas who play their fancy parties, where the liquor bottles flow like spit valves and muchachas dangle from arms. How did our hosts get all their money? Don’t ask questions!

At #17, the members of La Estructura, a relatively new quartet/quintet, are weary. Their gauntlet of negotiating the nightlife and trying to win back a pretty mujer has tuckered them out. As the tubist blarts out sad counterpoint the lead singer stops traffic to block his ex’s SUV and plead his case. Improbably, this works.

Mariachi Pedro Fernández is at lucky #13 with a cover of Leandro Rios’s excellent rhyming exercise/claim to hardcore ranchero roots, “Debajo Del Sombrero.” The song remains great, but Fernández’s take sounds too smooth, even perfunctory, as though he and his well tooled mariachi machine are racing through it.

Up at #9, Fidel Rueda insists, over speedy banda, that he is not el mandadero, for whom he is sometimes confused by assholes. Rather, la moneda está volteada, y Rueda es él que manda. Merely for serving as a furious rebuke to some of those frightening power-mad scaredy cats, this would be a front-runner for Pick to Click status. Turns out it’s a fine song, too. I’ll entertain a motion from the floor.

I mean, you knew it wasn’t gonna go to those Sebastianes or Arrolladora ballads, they just kept crying all over the place.

(BTW, the top 3 songs remain unchanged from five weeks ago. Meet the new jefes, same as the old jefes.)

These are the Top 20 “Popular” songs in Mexico, as measured by monitorLATINO. Don’t confuse “Popular” with the “General” list, which contains many of the same songs but also “Worth It,” “See You Again,” “Cheerleader,” and a Kalimba song that strums along forgettably.

1. “Aunque Ahora Estés Con Él” – Calibre 50
2. “Piensalo” – Banda MS
3. “Por Qué Terminamos” – Gerardo Ortiz
4. “Para Qué Pides Perdón” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón
5. “Después de Ti ¿Quién?” – La Adictiva Banda San Jose
6. “¿Cómo Te Llamas?” – Banda La Trakalosa
7. “Por Si No Recuerdas” – Banda Los Sebastianes
8. “Me Interesa” – Alfredo Ríos El Komander
9. “Ya No Soy El Mandadero” – Fidel Rueda
10. “Por Si Estas Con El Pendiente” – Voz De Mando

11. “Mi Vicio Mas Grande” – Banda El Recodo
12. “Tu Mami” – Chuy Lizarraga
13. “Debajo del Sombrero” – Pedro Fernández
14. “No Te Voy a Perdonar” – Grupo Cañaveral ft. Maria Leon
15. “Abrázame” – Pesado
16. “Diferentes Niveles” – Claudio Alcaraz
17. “Retiro Lo Dicho” – La Estructura
18. “Suena La Banda” – Los Tucanes de Tijuana ft. Código FN
19. “Pongamonos de Acuerdo” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda
20. “Fregones Mis Viejos” [aka “Chingones Mis Viejos”] – Diego Herrera

“Yo Pongo Las Reglas” – La Poderosa Banda San Juan
“Si No Te Hubiera Conocido” – Bobby Pulido
“50 Mentadas” – Banda Rancho Viejo
“Broche De Oro” – Banda La Trakalosa
“Me Toco Perder” – Banda Los Recoditos
“El Amor de Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez
“Sal De Mi Vida” – La Original Banda El Limón
“Confesion” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón

Julión Álvarez y El Komander en La Jukebox


Desafortunadamente, manejé a St. Louis cuando mis colegas a The Singles Jukebox escribieron sobre el cantante favorito de NorteñoBlog, Julión Álvarez, y su canción “El Amor De Su Vida.” Lloré lágrimas amargas. Julión Álvarez lloró lágrimas amargas también, porque ese es su trabajo.

Brad Shoup:

You know, I gotta stop weighing the vocals against the intro. The brass arrives like waves of reinforcements before a defense is even established, and that’s enough. Álvarez passes off shakiness as emotion, but he’s rescued time and again by a sympathetic rhythm section and a boisterous set of horns.

Sr. Shoup, Julión Álvarez es auténtico en su emoción y su “shakiness,” su shakiness es muy hermoso, y tú, Sr. Shoup, deberias buscar pequeñas cantidades de emoción en tu corazón… SI ES QUE EXISTEN. :):)

(“El Amor De Su Vida” = NO VALE LA PENA, btw. Sin embargo…)

Fortunadamente volví a casa para escribir sobre El Komander y “Malditas Ganas”:

Sr. Ríos isn’t quite the last man standing from El Movimiento Alterado, the over-the-top genre of horror corridos milked dry by L.A.-based Twiins Enterprises. He is, however, the only Twiins artist who can reliably command a million quick Youtube hits, so that’s what he does: he’s released a single a month in 2015, none indulging in the old ultraviolence, each its own special variety of ramshackle. Komander can’t exactly sing, as you discover when you encounter one of his ballads, an uncomfortable experience like stumbling across a jalopy wheezing to its final resting place in a junkyard. But he excels at plaintive self-referential ramshacklery like this, his January single; the whirligig swing-your-partner-into-the-walls ramshacklery of “Fuga Pa’ Maza,” his March single, is even better. This is all an illusion; his band is deceptively tight, the aural equivalent of the old wobble-the-pencil-so-it-looks-rubbery trick. All this ramshactivity has been… accumulating up to the release of July’s album, sure to contain the most virtuosic collection of mouthpiece farts the world has ever heard.


Desfile de Éxitos 5/30/15

corridos progresivos

On Tuesday the celebrated prog-corridista Gerardo Ortiz released his fifth album, Hoy Más Fuerte. Yes, prog: Ortiz insists he plays “corridos progresivos” and this new album goes on way too long. Unfortunately, Fuerte is NOT an instrumental concept album devoted to cartel bosses, along the lines of Rick Wakeman’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII. (“We are honored to release a recording of this magnitude,” said A&M’s 1973 ad in The Village Voice; I bet Del and Sony feel the same way about Gerardo.)

The album’s first single, though, is an ode to “El Cholo,” the work handle of incarcerated Sinaloa Cartel honcho Orso Gastélum Ivan Cruz, captured in March for the second time after escaping prison back in 2008. Ortiz already released the first verse of this song as a teaser back in January, when El Cholo was still at large, but it’s fun to imagine the guy bragging from inside his new prison suite — “Aquí van a respetar!” Canny timing and, since it’s the only new norteño song on the lifeless charts, this week’s Pick to Click! Despite my misgivings about the album, “El Cholo” is a pretty good song, with drums set to churn and an accordion that can’t quit spitting out licks. They make it all sound so easy.

In other news, probable best singer on the continent Julión Álvarez scores his fifth Regional Mexican Airplay #1 with a middling romantic ballad, and “Propuesta Indecente” notches its 95th week on the Hot Latin chart. I’m pretty sure that makes “Propuesta Indecente” older than my orange cat, now a fully grown terror who picks on my other 14-year-old gray cat. (Orange cat has always been at war with gray cat.) Go sing the song to someone you love, and maybe it’ll go away. If not, someone you love will.

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published May 30.

1. “El Perdón” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
2. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (95 WEEKS OLD)
4. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B
5. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
6. “Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#3 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
7. “El Amor De Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#1 RegMex)
8. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
9. “Sigueme y Te Sigo” – Daddy Yankee
10. “Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#2 RegMex)

11. “Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
12. “Me Sobrabas Tu” – Banda Los Recoditos (#5 RegMex)
13. “Nota de Amor” – Wisin + Carlos Vives ft. Daddy Yankee
14. “Pierdo la Cabeza” – Zion & Lennox
15. “Malditas Ganas” – El Komander (#4 RegMex)
16. “Te Metiste” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho (#17 RegMex)
17. “Perdido En Tus Ojos” – Don Omar ft. Natti Natasha
18. “Solita” – Prince Royce
19. “La Gozadera” – Gente de Zona ft. Marc Anthony
20. “Lejos De Aqui” – Farruko

21. “Bonito Y Bello” – La Septima Banda (#8 RegMex)
22. “Mi Vicio Mas Grande” – Banda Los Recoditos (#10 RegMex)
23. “Un Zombie A La Intemperie” – Alejandro Sanz
24. “El Cholo” – Gerardo Ortiz (#12 RegMex)
25. “Calla y Me Besas” – Enigma Norteña (#6 RegMex)

“Inocente” – Romeo Santos

7. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval
9. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando

11. “Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro
13. “Que Aun Te Amo” – Pesado
14. “Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” – La Maquinaria Norteña
15. “Como Tu No Hay Dos” – Los Huracanes del Norte
16. “Cuando La Miro” – Luis Coronel
18. “Mayor De Edad” – La Original Banda El Limón
19. “Que Tal Si Eres Tu” – Los Tigres Del Norte
20. “Debajo Del Sombrero” – Leandro Rios ft. Pancho Uresti

“El Quesito” – Omar Ruiz”
“Dime” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 5/15/15

recodo vicio

Not one but three feisty banda tunes enter the Mexican radio chart this week. NorteñoBlog has already mentioned Recodo’s “Mi Vicio Mas Grande,” which jumps from 9 to 4 and is also charting in El Norte — it bears more than a passing resemblance to Recoditos’ “Mi Último Deseo,” though the writers are different. (“Mi Vicio” boasts the unlikely fingerprints of Luciano Luna, the Diane Warren of the Sierra, apparently feeling his oats.) Chuy Lizarraga’s “Tu Mami” sounds similar, a minor-key raver.

That leaves the third, a major-key raver by former La Voz Mexico contestant and stubbly denim vision Jovanko Ibarra. His “No Le Hagamos Al Cuento” is today’s Pick to Click because it’s a decent song, sung reedily, and if you watch the video you get to look at Jovanko Ibarra. On a motorcycle!

Also new from two weeks ago are El Komander’s uninteresting “Me Interesa” and, in the top 10, La Original’s “Sal De Mi Vida.”

These are the Top 20 “Popular” songs in Mexico, as measured by monitorLATINO. Don’t confuse “Popular” with the “General” list, which contains many of the same songs but also “Uptown Funk!”, “Sugar,” “Love Me Like You Do,” and an Aleks Syntek ballad about getting So Close. Syntek gets closer than Hall & Oates did, at least.

1. “Después de Ti ¿Quién?” – La Adictiva Banda San Jose
2. “Contigo” – Calibre 50
3. “El Amor de Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez
4. “Mi Vicio Mas Grande” – Banda El Recodo
5. “Confesion” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón
6. “A Lo Mejor” – Banda MS
7. “Me Toco Perder” – Banda Los Recoditos
8. “Tranquilito” – El Chapo de Sinaloa
9. “Perdi La Pose” – Espinoza Paz
10. “Sal De Mi Vida” – La Original Banda El Limón

11. “Tu Mami” – Chuy Lizarraga
12. “Me Interesa” – Alfredo Ríos El Komander
13. “Y Esa Soy Yo” – Luz Maria
14. “No Fue Necesario” – El Bebeto
15. “Indeleble” – Banda Los Sebastianes
16. “Dudo” – Marco A. Flores y No.1 Banda Jerez
17. “Padre Ejemplar” – Los Titanes de Durango ft. Jaziel Avilez
18. “No Le Hagamos Al Cuento” – Jovanko Ibarra
19. “La Reina” – La Iniciativa
20. “Que te Quede Claro” – Saul El Jaguar

“Escuchame” – Fidel Rueda
“Un Ranchero En La Ciudad” – Leandro Rios ft. Pancho Uresti
“Ponte Las Pilas” – America Sierra
“Si Tuviera Que Decirlo” – Pedro Fernandez
“Que Tal Si Eres Tu” – Los Tigres Del Norte

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