Welcome to the Mexican radio charts*: Changing quicker than Mexican-American diplomatic relations! More exciting than the Doomsday Clock! Not even half the existential threat of those stupid made-up islands in the South China Sea!
NorteñoBlog is pleased to note that, since we last checked in, we get to enjoy nine new songs. Two are straight-up replacements for the better:
At #13, La Arrolladora Banda swaps its slow jam “Yo Sí Te Amé” for the busy merengue-flavored “Traicionera”;
and at #2, the young hotshot accordion slinger Alfredo Olivas trades the decent bluesy norteño number “Seguramente” for the skippy deathbed meditation “El Paciente,” con banda. He even works in a shoutout to the mythic Catarino, a corrido legend who fought in the Revolution and healed his wounds with his own saliva. Alfredito doesn’t fare as well in the song, but the Blog is looking forward to his next, apparently posthumous album. Pick to Click!
Their distance from the majors doesn’t seem to have hurt them. Remex bands are all over the radio and their YouTube counts sometimes resemble the budgets for Avengers movies. The one place Remex bands tend to go missing is the award show circuit, which behind all the pyrotechnics and back slapping remains a shadowy cabal of major label machinations. Although flagship banda La Trakalosa de Monterrey has shown up at the Premios de la Radio, Remex bands have rarely if ever played the Latin Grammys, probably because it would cost the label $40-to-$100,000 to send one of their acts to perform. But who cares about some dumb award when, like Joe-C, you’re down with the devil?
I refer of course to “Mi Padrino El Diablo,” Trakalosa’s excellent tale of Faustian woe. In the two years since the 18 members of Trakalosa collectively shook the hand of el diablo in song — I like to imagine a post-fútbol receiving line with murmurs of “buen juego” and a Gatorade cooler full of goat blood — they’ve grown into YouTube marvels, with frontman Edwin Luna evidently prepping for a solo career or a run at movie stardom. In his band’s melodramatic videos, now credited to “Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa” (wham!), he flares his nostrils like Kristen Stewart used to bite her lip. And she’s a big star now, so…
Trakalosa’s new album Así Cantaba Mi Padre appears to be a tribute to Luna’s late father Miguel Luna, “El Gorrión” of the duo El Palomo y El Gorrión. It’s full of classics from the Great Mexican Songbook, including first single “En Toda La Chapa,” featuring Luna’s uncle Cirilo. (You guessed it: he’s “El Palomo.”) Like most Trakalosa singles, “En Toda” is charting in Mexico, partly because it sounds thoroughly modern — the recording captures both the density of the brass and the lightness of their step, not to mention Luna’s patented oversinging — and partly because the audience for classic norteño has never gone away, even with the rise of the modern banda pop industry. (The past is never dead, etc.) Continue reading “Smells like Remex Records: Trakalosa, Atraktiva, Zancudito, Mi Padrino (yeah)”→
Regional Mexican music had as good a year in 2015 as any other style of popular music, but you wouldn’t know it from any music magazine’s year-end coverage. This Mexican-American radio format is only one small musical laboratory within the vast complex of U.S. pop; but figured by their percentages, norteño, banda, cumbia, and Tejano bands released as many great, vibrant singles and albums as their peers in other popular music subgenres. Yet good luck finding this music on year-end lists. Even at Billboard, which provides the best English-language coverage of Mexican music, the list of Top 10 Latin Albums contains only one (very good) regional Mexican album, which came out in 2014. None of the magazine’s Top 10 Latin Songs represent Mexican regional styles. (Shoutout to the New York Times’ Ben Ratliff, though, for getting Remmy Valenzuela’s “¿Por Qué Me Ilusionaste?” into the paper of record.) And never mind year-end coverage — this fun, fascinating music rarely gets covered throughout the year in mainstream publications, although NPR and Annie Correal in the Times are notable exceptions. As is The Singles Jukebox, where Josh writes and where the editors and writers share an expansive definition of “pop.”
This is pop music, dammit! MILLIONS OF AMERICANS LISTEN TO IT.
Time to run down the year-end lists! Today, an album and two singles from the “Eh, good enough” end of the spectrum:
Who doesn’t love a Sony blockbuster? Lots of people, actually. Hoy Más Fuerte (Del/Sony), the latest album from norteño’s biggest star Gerardo Ortiz, is too long — 21 songs plus five bonus versions — and it comes up shorter on memorable tunes than Ortiz’s 2013 breakthrough Archivos de Mi Vida. And yet… you throw enough money at talented people and they’re bound to have at least one good idea. The best investments here were the session work of accordionist Marito Aguilar, who brings something amazing to every song he plays, and the horn charts, which are consistently better than they had to be. (See the giddy chromatic hilarity of the banda’s take on “El Amigo”.) If you could abide the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie thanks to Johnny Depp’s acting and some well-staged action sequences, you might make it through this album. That Ortiz is even thinking in terms of norteño blockbusters might be his greatest legacy.
Pancho Uresti, the unassuming singer for Banda Tierra Sagrada, wiled his way onto two of 2015’s most iconic singles. “Adicto a la Tristeza” (Remex) is a camp masterpiece by the prolific songwriter Erika Vidrio, in which Uresti wallows with Trakalosa’s Edwin Luna in a big old vat of tears and liquor. Collecting himself for “Debajo del Sombrero”, Uresti joins Leandro Ríos to petition an unsympathetic father and win the hand of his hija, in the process singing a string of “-ero” rhymes that’ll reverberate through Spanish 101 classrooms for years to come.
Remex has compiled both songs along with some other Uresti, both solo and duets, onto A Lo Grande, a decent album that’s not as spectacular as I’d unreasonably hoped.
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”→
Three months ago on our Top Singles list, NorteñoBlog was concerned about a lack of chart hits and puro sax music. Worry no more! There’s a bit less variety on this list than before, in part because I devoted the month of agosto to a project that prevented me from trawling for indie singles. (More on that project soon.) But the states of California, Chihuahua, Texas, Tijuana, and Zacatecas all represent below, along with ever-present Sinaloa.
(First quarter singles are here; second quarter singles are here.)
1. Marco A. Flores y Su Numero Uno Banda Jerez – “Amor de la Vida Alegre” (Garmex)
Mexican radio hit
Flores, who also made NorteñoBlog’s favorite single six months ago, is like the Ramones with better beats, Rae Sremmurd if they were fast, early Madonna with a better voice. He makes termite art of the most gnawing and forward-thinking sort. He spends half this song crowing over just drums and tuba.
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.
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.
This quarter’s list contains fewer radio hits than last quarter’s — only four out of 11 — but don’t worry! Both radio and Youtube continue to inundate us with all kinds of great music under the banner of “regional Mexican.” Below we’ve got cumbia from the underrepresented state of Nayarit, violin-driven dance music from the underrepresented state of Oaxaca, a brass banda from Jalisco who dresses in indigenous garb and doesn’t play corridos but sometimes plays piano pop, Linda Ronstadt-style pop country from Nuevo León, Chicago’s hometown heroines Los Horóscopos hitting Mexican radio and giving everybody cuernos, aaaaand (as usual) a whole lotta Sinaloa. NorteñoBlog has apparently been sleeping on the states of Chihuahua and Zacatecas, though, as I’ve dug up zero hot new singles to represent their puro sax styles. Better luck next quarter!
2. Laura Denisse – “Sigo Enamorada” (Fonovisa)
Denisse has a big clear voice in the vein of Linda Ronstadt, and she’s been singing a mix of banda and pop since she was a kid in the ’90s. The big brass riff here is simply a series of repeated notes, but the players articulate and syncopate like swaggering jazz cowboys.
4. Grupo El Reto ft. Alta Consigna – “La Parranda Va a Empezar” (Gerencia 360/Sony)
This quartet belongs to la corriente escuela of corridistas who sing about corruption while their corrosive tubists imitate machine gun fire. Corre! The quartet Alta Consigna also has a tuba in the band, so you’ve got two tubists and a requinto (I think?) playing furiously over everything.
5. Banda Cuisillos – “Cerveza” (Musart/Balboa)
This isn’t even my favorite Cuisillos song of 2015 — that’d be this swinging piano-driven non-single — but these Jaliscanos do indulge several of NorteñoBlog’s weaknesses: two different singers trying to outdo one another in the passion department, brass alternating with guitar, and deplorable sexism.
Mexican radio hit
6. Leandro Ríos ft. Pancho Uresti – “Debajo Del Sombrero” (Remex)
This not-so-humble ranchera ballad takes as much pleasure in the act of rhyming as any random song by Sondheim. Although, going through my Spanish rudiments, I’m disappointed the song doesn’t take place in enero, and why doesn’t our heroic caballero own a perro?
U.S. and Mexican radio hit
7. Banda Costado – “Pinotepa” (Talento)
This is a way different sound than we usually enjoy here: lots of percussion, tuba bassline, wild violin, and singers. Many independent lines and very little chordal harmony, in other words.
8. Banda Culiacancito – “Lastima de Cuerpo” (Del/Sony)
If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know one of my favorite musical effects is rapid fire barrages of syllables that never seem to end and make me feel totally inadequate about my grasp of español. Prolific songwriters Geovani Cabrera (Regulo Caro, Calibre 50) y Horacio Palencia (todos) deliver. Knock yourself out with a trombone slide!
9. Los Gfez – “Hasta Tu Dedo Gordito” (Remex)
I implore you not to google images of dedos gorditos unless you get off on toe injuries. No judging. I should mention that the quartet Los Gfez, last seen joining Diego Herrera on a likable Mexican hit, start their search for the mystery dedo fast and, through the magic of time changes, find a way to get faster.
10. Noel Torres – “No Andan Cazando Venados” (Gerencia 360/Sony)
Torres’s arrangement of “Venados” sounds like he’s adapting Ariel Camacho’s unusual instrumentation. He takes stripped down passages of requinto guitar solos over lurching tuba, the same dynamic you find in Camacho’s repertoire, and alternates them with full banda sections. Horns replace rhythm guitar. The result is both serious and silly (ay, esos clarinetes), a fitting tribute that also fits with Torres’s swagger.
Miguel – “Coffee”
AB Soto – “Cha Cha Bitch”
Sam Hunt – “House Party”
Markus Feehily – “Love Is a Drug”
Honey Cocaine – “Sundae”
Chemical Brothers ft. Q-Tip – “Go”
Brandon Flowers – “Can’t Deny My Love”
Haley Georgia – “Ridiculous”
Bobby Brackins ft. Zendaya and Jeremih – “My Jam”
Vanbot – “Seven”