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Los Tigres Del Norte

Archivos de 1996 (starring Jennifer y Los Jetz, Los Tigres, y más)

jennifer-pena

The Regional Mexican charts of 1996 held four separate genres. One of them was the deathless norteño of Los Tigres and Los Huracanes; the other three were in various stages of decline.

The technobanda of Bandas Machos and Maguey still thrived, but in a few years would be eclipsed by acoustic banda. Helena Simonett’s book Banda lays out the commercial leapfrogging these two styles played with one another throughout the ’90s.

Tejano fans were still mourning Selena — see #7 below — but they were also welcoming newcomers like Jennifer Peña y Los Jetz (see the Pick to Click, below) and Bobby Pulido (see the terrible song right below her). There were, however, rumblings on the horizon. San Antonio and Dallas were suffering from too many Tejano bookers flooding the market, one promoter told Billboard‘s Ramiro Burr. Some bands complained that clubs were replacing live bands with DJs. Burr would spend the next several years chronicling the decline of the Tejano genre as a commercial force, though it still exists for a small but fervent fanbase.

The third synth-based style, grupo music, also still exists, but its commercial mojo would peter out more abruptly. Marco Antonio Solís had just left Los Bukis and was scoring a bunch of solo Hot Latin #1 hits that sounded way more pop than the rest of his cohort. (See #2 below.) Bronco would retire in 1997, leaving Los Temerarios and Los Mismos to care for the genre. I think. NorteñoBlog’s disinterest in grupo music remains strong and resolute.

[EDIT: I just checked and Los Temerarios were still scoring big hits in 2004, and possibly later, so maybe the petering was more gradual.]

These were the Top 15 Regional Mexican songs, as published by Billboard on November 9, 1996: Continue reading “Archivos de 1996 (starring Jennifer y Los Jetz, Los Tigres, y más)”

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”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 8/26/16

beto zapata

Much has changed on the Mexican airwaves since NorteñoBlog last tuned in over a month ago. The former #1 song, a heartbroken sob story of romantic grief and brassy bereftitude by Arrolladora, has given way to a different heartbroken sob story of romantic grief and brassy bereftitude, this time by Banda MS. And everyone knows that Arrolladora ballads are ace slow jams with rhythm sections full of coiled tension, while MS ballads drip like the discharge from festering sores. It’s all there in the music!

dos monedasFurther down, two Remex Records acts have replaced themselves on the radio with remakes. The more notable is ace flarer-of-nostrils Edwin Luna and his banda of second fiddlers, La Trakalosa. Given our troubled and uncertain times on both sides of the Great Wall of Trump, NorteñoBlog finds comfort in watching Luna grimace his way through another extravagant video meant to highlight his perennially nascent acting chops. (He acts in both color and black and white!) No hay nada nuevo bajo el sol. “Dos Monedas” was previously a hit for Ramón Ayala, and it was written by Jesse Armenta — You know him! He wrote some political barnburners for Los Tigres, including “El Circo,” thus winning himself a chapter in the book Narcocorrido — and it’s another heartbroken sob story.

Only this sob story is not at all romantic; it’s closer to “The Christmas Shoes” or some shit. The narrator is an abusive drunk. One cold and wintry night he sends his son out to beg for money to support the family booze fund. The next morning he opens the door to find sonny boy dead, both frozen and starved, holding in his small frozen starved hands the “dos monedas” of the title. All our children should be so dedicated! The narrator, no fool, sees a moral in this story, as does Edwin Luna, whose unconvincing portrayal of the drunk ends by approximating sadness. But Luna over-emotes his songs like nobody else, a good thing, and the arrangement makes this the cheeriest tune about filicide since “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” ¡VALE LA PENA! Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 8/26/16”

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”

Archivos de 2001: Los Twiins Break Through

los twiins

Lovelorn bounces and classic fanfares, old hats and new jacks, and early work by one of the most influential production duos of the past two decades, any genre: these were Billboard‘s top 10 Regional Mexican songs on May 19, 2001.

1. “No Te Podias Quedar”Conjunto Primavera (#4 Hot Latin)
The pride of Ojinaga, the gas-guzzling romantics of the road, Primavera scored their fifth Hot Latin top 10 with this soppy contribution from their go-to songwriter Jesús Guillén. Sometimes songwriters just find a niche, and Guillén was put on this earth to write soaring climaxes for the cavernous throat of Tony Melendez, the continent’s best singer before Primavera’s output dropped off and Julión Álvarez came along. The song itself barely exists.

2. “Y Llegaste Tú”Banda El Recodo (#6 Hot Latin)
In 2001, after 60 years of playing brass band shows to adoring but limited audiences, Recodo was enjoying the public’s newfound vogue for banda music and their first gold album. A couple years earlier, they’d begun hiring producer brothers Adolfo and Omar Valenzuela, aka Los Twiins, aka the bankrollers of El Movimiento Alterado later in the decade. (El Komander still records for them.) The brothers had their identical fingers on the pulse of the youth, and in this song they led Recodo toward a sound that blanketed the airwaves all year, and then for years afterward — a newly written Noel Hernandez song that sounded trad yet vibrant, with a arrangement that turned contrasting instrumental sections into hooks. Plus, “We’ve learned how to really tune the banda,” said Omar, “which [in the past] maybe wasn’t really done.” Progress! Pick to Click!

los tigres paisano3. “Me Declaro Culpable”Los Tigres del Norte (#13 Hot Latin)
Sad limericks of lost love — with sax! Continue reading “Archivos de 2001: Los Twiins Break Through”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 5/3/16

bien servida

Welcome to the Mexican charts, where change, as my cosmetic podiatrist likes to say, is afoot. Although it’s been several weeks since NorteñoBlog tuned in to the Mexican radio, the rate of turnover feels much quicker there than in El Norte. For example, check out the norteño and banda songs that have been hanging around the charts the longest:

U.S. Hot Latin:
#19 – “Ya Te Perdí La Fe” by Arrolladora, 26 weeks
#4 – “Solo Con Verte” by Banda MS, 25 weeks
#13 – “Broche de Oro” by Trakalosa, 24 weeks
#14 – “Tomen Nota” by Adriel Favela ft. Los Del Arroyo, 20 weeks
#19 – “DEL Negociante” by Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, 20 weeks

Mexican Popular:
#8 – “Tragos de Alcohol” by El Komander, 14 semanas
#13 – “Préstamela a Mí” by Calibre 50, 14 semanas
#17 – “El Borrachito” by Julión Álvarez, 14 semanas
#7 – “Espero Con Ansias” by Remmy Valenzuela, 13 semanas
#12 – “María” by Pepe Aguilar, 11 semanas

I know what you’re thinking: the Mexican list is way better, and not just because you’re sick of all the U.S. songs after five months! You’re right, but that quality judgment is probably just a coincidence. (And one that doesn’t account for NorteñoBlog’s fave wristwatch porn jam “Tomen Nota.”) You might also be thinking these two charts aren’t equivalent, because Hot Latin measures radio plus streams plus downloads, whereas the Mexican Popular chart only measures radio. Verdadero; but if you check out Billboard‘s radio-only Regional Mexican chart, the U.S. songs have charted for roughly the same amount of time, give or take a week, plus you find Adictiva’s certified 37-weeker “Después de Ti, ¿Quién?”, a real tantric filibuster. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 5/3/16”

How Do We Hear Violent Corridos? (Desfile de Éxitos 3/12/16)

los tucanes

Thanks to Los Tucanes de Tijana, NorteñoBlog has been forced into another installment of our occasional feature HASTY CARTEL GOOGLING. This long-running quintet of corrideros is nothing if not consistent, and they’re back at #20 on the Regional Mexican airplay chart with “Panchito El F1,” a pro forma cartel ballad ripped from the headlines by their prolific songwriter Mario Quintero. The story concerns a real life honcho of the Gulf Cartel in Zacatecas. Until recently he operated under the nombres de cartel “Panchito” and “F1,” but was captured along with coworkers in May. The federales also confiscated some of the cartel’s heavy weaponry, including four grenade launchers and four AK47s. (No andan cazando venados con esa mierda, amirite?) The song is Panchito’s origin story: when ordered to kill someone else’s family, he refuses. As a penalty, his own family is kidnapped and tortured, but he gets them back. (I think; standard gabacho translation caveats apply.) The corrido also mentions a different Gulf Cartel honcho named Comandante Hamburguesa. Since this Hamburgler appears to be still at large, NorteñoBlog will leave his Hasty Cartel Googling up to you!

Does current Mexican law permit narcocorridos on the radio? This recent article suggests “Panchito El F1” is probably banned from Mexico’s airwaves because it “publicly supports criminal actions.” (I’m sure the Gulf Cartel is wondering why membership is down.) As we saw in our last round of Hasty Cartel Googling, this ban is not absolute: La Séptima Banda recently charted with the wafer-thin character study “El Hijo del Ingeniero,” based on the party habits of a real life cartel scion. But that’s a party song. “F1” has violence and weaponry and is not the sort of thing the Mexican government wants impressionable muchachos to hear. You know, all those muchachos who listen to the radio but don’t know how to work Youtube.

NorteñoBlog does not support banning violent corridos from the radio, because banning violent corridos from the radio is silly. Corrido bans are the ineffective smokescreens of an utterly failed war on drugs. Better to focus on the corruption that prevents Mexico from thoroughly prosecuting its criminals. Better to alleviate Mexico’s poverty, or to deal with drug-addicted El Norte; these are the blights that have driven Mexican people to the cartels. (A possibly optimistic statistic: “A 2012 study by the Mexcian Institute of Competitiveness (IMCO) figured if the U.S. legalized marijuana, Mexican drug cartels would lose 30 percent of their revenue.”) There are no simple solutions; but whatever the solutions might be, neoliberal outrage over suppressing free speech is a secondary issue.

So here’s the real question when it comes to songs like “F1”: What do people hear in violent corridos, and why? Continue reading “How Do We Hear Violent Corridos? (Desfile de Éxitos 3/12/16)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16

lafourcade

First off, NorteñoBlog congratulates friends of the blog Los Tigres, Natalia Lafourcade, and most charming man alive Pitbull on their recent Grammy wins. Los Tigres’ very good Realidades won for “Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano),” a category that included no Tejano albums but whose name testifies to the lingering power of the Tejano voting bloc. Or at least to the outspoken crankiness of the Tejano voting bloc. (I assume there’s still a Tejano voting bloc.) Lafourcade’s fine Hasta La Raíz tied with Pitty Wap’s intermittently banging Dale for “Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album.” NorteñoBlog woulda picked Maquinaria Norteña for Regional and Bomba Estéreo for Rock/Urban/Alternative — after all, the Bombas excel in all three areas — but these were still respectable and relevant choices.

Next, NorteñoBlog congratulates Espinoza Paz for writing lots of decent, non-sappy songs recently. Paz is capable of biting hilarity — see Marco Flores’s “El Pajarito” and Los Horóscopos’ “Estoy Con Otro En La Cama.” He can also concoct musical experiments that look deceptively simple, like Arrolladora’s “Cabecita Dura” — 120 straight syllables without pause or apparent breath! — and straight up banda bangers like Roberto Tapia’s new single “Vale La Pena.” (That video seems to have fallen off a truck, so watch it while you can.) Back in 2009, after he’d won his second straight BMI songwriter of the year award, Billboard‘s Leila Cobo interviewed Paz, a former migrant worker who doesn’t read music.

Cobo: How would you describe your music?

Paz: Commercial.

True enough; and like most professionals he’s had some bad days at the office, especially in solo work like “Sin Esencia,” a pensive smell-the-fart guitar ballad. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16”

Archivos de 2004 (starring Grupo Climax, Alicia Villarreal, y más)

Grupo_Climax

Sometimes when you’re feeling whimsical/bored/done with dishes, you just decide to research the chart statistics of Grupo Climax. Or I do — I may be atypical. One thing leads to another, za za za, and so here are Billboard‘s top 10 Regional Mexican airplay songs from July 17, 2004, the week Climax’s only notable hit enjoyed its highest chart placement. Hot Latin chart placement is in parentheses.

Note that in 2004, the Hot Latin charts were still strictly based on airplay: “A panel of 99 stations (40 Latin Pop, 16 Tropical, 51 Regional Mexican) are electronically monitored 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week.” (Today they also incorporate sales and streams, but there remain breakout charts like Regional Mexican that measure only airplay.) This accounting method placed five RegMex songs inside the Hot Latin top 10, a percentage we never see today; but it also meant the Hot Latin top 25 contained 10 regional Mexican songs, pretty typical by today’s standards.

1. “Qué de Raro Tiene” – Los Temerarios (#2 Hot Latin)
Trembly-eyebrowed synth-pop grupero brothers go nostalgic with an album of ranchera covers, including this Vicente Fernández cover that would top the Hot Latin chart. Gustavo Angel unleashes his throat and sounds right at home in this style. (Be sure to check out their AllMusic bio for a fascinating look at how the brothers started their own label and challenged Fonovisa, only to eventually be swallowed by the giant.)

2. “Dos Locos” – Los Horóscopos de Durango (#5 Hot Latin)
“The Durango Gang Busts Out of Chicago,” read the Billboard headline on June 12, shortly after this song had topped the Regional Mexican chart. Los Horóscopos had been a working banda for 30 years before their enterprising leader Armando Terrazas decided to put his daughters, the multi-instrumentalists Vicky and Marisol, up front. This sad polka cover of Monchy & Alexandra was cut from the same bachata cloth as their cover of Aventura’s “Obsesion,” and it hits one of duranguense’s sweet spots — floaty heartache over nonstop oompahs. (The other sweet spot is clattery barely-constrained synth-tuba chaos, but that didn’t chart as much.) Continue reading “Archivos de 2004 (starring Grupo Climax, Alicia Villarreal, y más)”

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