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Los Titanes de Durango

El Jerry con La Gorrita es El Barco (¡Indies A-Go-Go!)

gerardo coronel

With more and more precisely coiffed muchachos hopping onto the Sierreño bandwagon, it’s easy to forget that some of them were Sierreño when Sierreño wasn’t cool. Case in point: Gerardo Coronel, a 21-year-old Michoacánder who was recording the stuff for the Twiins label (also home to El Komander) back in 2014, when the world was busy falling for Ariel Camacho, whose untimely death in 2015 lit a fuse under the style’s popularity. If you like Camacho, you’ll dig Coronel — he sings with a similar effortless romanticism, mixes up corridos with romantic tunes, and his videos are full of thoughtful squints into the distance, which, let’s face it, is the sexiest bad boy pose. (Or, as my wife keeps asking me, “What are you looking at?”)

el jerryCoronel’s new album El Jerry (Rancho Humilde) is a wonderful mix of guitar-tuba virtuosity and shaggy dog accordion waltzes, with subdued brass hitting the upbeats. Some hasty cartel googling reveals the title mafioso may be one Gerardo Treviño Robles of the Gulf Cartel, but “El Jerry” is clearly an aesthetic ploy for Coronel to come off as a swaggering badass. His band affords him that luxury. Or rather, his bands — there are a couple different ones on this album, and he seems to perform with a third lineup, none of whose names I can find. (Maybe if you have a CD booklet in front of you…?) Whoever they are, the lead requinto and accordion players are having all kinds of fun, and the rhythm sections excel at setting up a variety of breezy grooves. NorteñoBlog directs you to the kiss-off “Te Deseo Lo Mejor,” in which Coronel offers to teach his ex’s new pendejo “la forma correcta” to make love to her. His series of video tutorials is forthcoming. VALE LA PENA

nueva rebelionLong time readers may remember that, back in 2014, NorteñoBlog was all in for La Nueva Rebelión, a rocking five-piece whose bassist plays a custom axe shaped like an assault rifle. I may have compared them to the Minutemen; in my defense, I was not the only critic to arrive at that comparison. True to form, I slept on their 2016 release La Gorrita y Que Suene la Rebe (Puro Party). On cursory listen, it doesn’t have anything as world-exploding as “Me Hicieron Mas Fuerte”; but, you know, Picasso just had the one Guernica. In their best songs, this is still a band trying desperately to pull as much music as possible from their poor instruments. Their new single “La Gorrita” is a good example: six verses following the titular beanie-wearing dude from cartel hub to hub, each verse played differently, with unpredictable fills and accents jumping at you like faces in a crowd. Pick to Click!

el barcoThe quartet Los Titanes de Durango has been having fun lately, first fooling a DEA official into believing the singer’s Dad was El Chapo, then scoring the best hit about getting pulled over for speeding since “99 Problems” — although Los Titanes were going 280 in a 110, and therefore having way more fun than Jay-Z, who was only going 55 in a 54. Their latest album is El Barco (Titanica), on first listen a likeable stylistic jumble of 16 songs, from love polkas to backbeat rock. The title waltz is a rare go-getting corrido that doesn’t seem to be about the drug trade. It’s just about how we’re all ships, man. Their big dumb cumbia “Esto Se Va Descontrolar” convincingly depicts that enlightened state of drunkenness where you realize you’ll puke if you sing anything besides a single note, over and over again.

Lo Mejor de 2016: Where the Action Is

The Grammys and the Mexican government would very much like Mexico’s musical output to consist of genteel roots music. Fortunately, NorteñoBlog’s annual playlist 2016 VALE LA PENA shows that Mexican-American musicians have other ideas.

Our playlist has El Komander singing about immigration in two very different, equally urgent songs: once from the vantage point of a mother whose son is missing, and once as a proudly binational drug dealer. The playlist includes a defiant statement of national pride from Los Inquietos and Marco Flores. There are love songs from guitar bands, brass bands, accordion bands, sax bands, and synth bands.  El Bebeto and Banda Tierra Sagrada stop by to plug liquor; Fuerza de Tijuana celebrates two real-life American narcos. The guys in Los Titanes de Durango drive way too fast. La Rumorosa curses a terrible boyfriend; Intocable mourns absent amor with distorted guitar and a smoking accordion solo. At the top of the list, El Armenta offers a low-fi Lynchian nightmare of a cumbia about his girlfriend’s dog. All in all, it’s as energetic and varied as any single-genre playlist you’re likely to find.

THIS, Grammy voters, is where the action is.

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vicente-un-aztecaEven as NorteñoBlog congratulates living legend Vicente Fernández on winning his third Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) (But Not Including Grupero ‘Cause That Shit Suuuuuuuux), we gotta note that this particular win is lame in a very Grammy-ish way. Continue reading “Lo Mejor de 2016: Where the Action Is”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/23/16

cuisillos

Sorry for the relative radio silence; NorteñoBlog has lately been norteñobogged down in real-life work and living changes. But you know where the radio ISN’T silent? (Wait for it…)

That’s right: in Mexico, where faith in the police is sky high and noted Chapo trollers Los Titanes de Durango can talk themselves out of speeding tickets by Knowing A Guy. I refer of course to their speedirific “Rumbo a Maza,” already a small hit in El Norte and a previous Pick to Click, now at #18 on la patria’s radio chart.

Also big on the radio this (and every) week are ballads stained with tears. At #17, the nomenclaturally gifted Bandononona Clave Nueva de Max Peraza demand “Dime Cómo” from the mujer who broke their collective heart. The only sadsacks sadder are Banda Cuisillos at #12, who demand “Utilízame” from the mujer who keeps getting her heart broken by some douchebag. (In the circus-themed video, said douchebag is a smoldering trapeze artist. Trigger warning: SAD CLOWNS ENSUE!) NorteñoBlog often enjoys Cuisillos, who veer wildly from ’80s-style pomp banda to raucous drinking songs, but the generic ballad “Utilízame” doesn’t utilize their strengths.

The real action is at #15, where the Calibre 50 splinter group La Iniciativa has teamed up with the swanky bros in Recoditos for a tongue-twisting tune about wingmen and the women they share at the club. (Standard translation caveats apply.) Like “Dime Cómo” and “Utilízame,” not to mention three of Taylor Dayne’s first four singles, “Convidela” issues demands; like Dayne, the combined norteño+banda ensemble actually sounds urgent about it. I’m also a big fan of throatiness in my banda singing, and Ariel Inzunza and Luis Angel Franco turn the tune into a total throat-off. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 6/23/16”

Parade (Desfile de Éxitos 4/30/16)

huracanes-del-norte-estrenan-video
Life could be so nice…

Controversy over Gerardo Ortiz‘s “Fuiste Mia” video continues this week, as it returns to YouTube in a version designed to make you and your computer blue. The video, you’ll recall, opens with a scene of Sr. Ortiz and the most beautiful girl in the world sharing a kiss in the shower, getting soft and wet 2gether. In the next scene, Ortiz catches her starting to work it with another man, asks the eternal question “Why you wanna treat me so bad?”, and shoots that dude in the head atop the bed, leaving him dead on it. The video ends with the beautiful ones on the outs, Ortiz shoving her into the trunk of his sporty little automatic, and, tick tick bang, blowing her up. Scandalous! This time, in a delirious attempt to make the video less dark, the action is obscured by a big “Gerardo Ortiz” logo that refuses to gett off the screen, but all these plot points remain plain as Morris Day.

Arguments for and against the video have gone round and round. Critics, seeing in this video a sign ‘o’ the times, have accused Ortiz of exploiting Mexico’s chaos and disorder, and treating glibly the country’s violence against women. In a press conference, Ortiz countered with the “baby I’m a star” defense — he’s only acting, the video is pure fiction, and it’s his job to push the envelope to the max. Cynics might note that the song itself is a standard “when you were mine” love song — it’s fine but not exactly jam of the year — and that this arbitrary video is a mismatch for the song’s style. As a publicity move, the video is an undisputed, if underwhelming, success: the new “Fuiste Mia” video has racked up 1.6 million views and last week hit #20 on the ladder of the Latin pop life, Billboard‘s Hot Latin chart. This week it drops to a new position at #30. (Ortiz’s other chart hit this week, “¿Por Qué Terminamos?”, peaked at 7.)

jesus ojedaElsewhere, Jesús Ojeda drops to #42 with his own video wet dream. Songwriter Jesús Sauceda — who assures me via emale that he is NOT Jesús Ojeda, 3121 online bios to the contrary — enters at #47 with Los Huracanes’ “Amarte Es Hermoso.” Los Titanes‘ previous Pick to Click “Rumbo a Maza” — remember? the one where they get caught speeding jesus saucedain their little red white Corvette but then talk their way out of the ticket and go free? — holds steady at #49. If you’re anxious for a new chart entry worthy of NorteñoBlog’s coveted Pick to Click status, we’re still waiting for someone to release it. Trust me, I feel for you.

(Adios, you sexy mf; te amo corazón.) Continue reading “Parade (Desfile de Éxitos 4/30/16)”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Enero – Marzo

el armenta

Please excuse the note of shame in NorteñoBlog’s voice, but 2016 has gotten off to a more… focused start than last year. On the list (and YouTube playlist!) that follows, you’ll find no bands devoted to cumbia, no musicians from outside la patria, and — despite my doubtless inadequate searching — only one woman. (Karla Luna snuck on at the end, with a song that might end up growing on me. And Helen Ochoa‘s album deserves a listen.) What we’ve got here is nine norteño songs and six banda tunes by dudes who are pretty open about their lusts — if not for las mujeres, then for power and fancy wristwatches. But their music is no less compelling, because within those confines live several worlds of possibility.

El Armenta‘s big dumb cumbia (#1), Remmy Valenzuela‘s power ballad (#8), and Banda Pequeños Musical‘s pan flute monstrosity (#15) are all romantic banda songs that find vastly different paths to greatness. Or near greatness. The same thing happens on the norteño side. Though everyone’s working the same genre turf, Adriel Favela‘s guitar-saturated version of a new corrido standard (#3) couldn’t sound further from the Intocable love song (#10) with the distorted electric guitar and the show-offy accordion solo, as precise and memorable as a prime Van Halen break. Regional Mexican music pitches a bigger and more inventive tent than half the U.S. political system. Speaking of which, I sort of feel like El Armenta’s video, in which grotesque rubber-faced men enact an inexplicable ritual while carrying big sticks, gives us a terrifying preview of June’s Republican convention. At least nobody dies from the sticks.

1. El Armenta“El Perro Se Soltó” (Armenta)
Of all the big dumb banda cumbias I’ve heard this year, “El Perro” is the best, with horns and clarinets blaring all over the place and a churning beat that doesn’t quit until the perro in question barks at the end. The sound’s a little clipped in the head-scratcher of a video, which only adds to the Lynchian daytime nightmare feel of the whole endeavor. Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2016: Enero – Marzo”

Desfile de Éxitos 4/9/16

los titanes

NorteñoBlog returned from Easter break to a special treat — and no, I’m not talking about the controversial, NSPT “Fuiste Mia” video where Gerardo Ortiz catches his mujer with another dude, shoots the dude, helps said mujer into the trunk of his car, and then lights the car on fire. If you’re thinking, “That sounds like a 15-year-old Eminem song” — you’re right! It’s basically the plot of “Kim” (and, to a lesser extent, “Stan”), only none of that drama actually occurs in the lyrics of “Fuiste Mia,” itself an anodyne but pretty obsession anthem. This video raises complex moral questions. Is depicting femicide in a music video more arbitrary, and therefore less defensible, than depicting the same crime in song? Is the “Fuiste Mia” video less hypocritical, and therefore more defensible, than that Séptima video where the singer sells his cheating mujer into slavery, only to end with a Muy Especial message against “la trata de blancas”? NorteñoBlog will consult with our team of ethicists and get back to you approximately, oh, never.

You see, I’m too excited about this other treat: Billboard has expanded its website’s Hot Latin Songs chart from 25 songs to 50 songs! (I’m pretty sure it’s always 50 songs long in the magazine.) It’s too soon to tell whether this is a one-week oversight, a permanent change, or a joyful seasonal rite meant to commemorate the 50 days of Eastertide feasting. One thing I can tell: you’re not as excited as I am. Here’s why you should be.

1. More songs! Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 4/9/16”

Desfile de Éxitos 12/19/15: Debajo Los Puentes

carnaval on bridge

The song sitting atop this week’s radio chart is an oddity. Banda Carnaval’s “Te Cambio El Domicilio,” a spritely pitching of woo with soaring vocal harmonies and a clever title conceit (“don’t change anything, baby, ’cause I’mma make you change your address” — I’m paraphrasing), has been climbing Billboard‘s Regional Mexican chart for 17 weeks, finally hitting #1 last week. But it still hasn’t gone top 25 on the Hot Latin chart, which measures downloads and streams alongside radio play. This is the first Regional Mexican #1 this year that hasn’t cracked the Hot Latin 25, and most of those songs have gone top 10 on the big chart during their most popular radio weeks. Basically, if a song’s receiving that much radio play and it has an online presence — Youtube video, availability at streaming sites and download stores — it’s gonna represent on Hot Latin.

What’s more, the video for “Domicilio” — in which the young men of Carnaval pitch their woo in front of a number of high-end urban settings, including Guadalajara’s extremely pointy Puente Matute Remus — has been viewed 25 million times in the past four months… which, I dunno, seems like it should be enough to drive the song into the company of King Romeo and Viceroy Nicky Jam? For comparison, Remmy Valenzuela’s lovely inquiry into the madness of love, “¿Por Qué Me Ilusionaste?”, is middling at #12 Regional Mexican this week. Its video dropped a week later than Carnaval’s, and so far it’s garnered 6.5 million fewer views, but the song is at #18 Hot Latin. Granted, I have no idea how much either video has been viewed in specific weeks or how much they’ve sold online. All I know is Remmy’s song has less radio play and fewer overall Youtube hits than Carnaval’s song, but Remmy’s on Hot Latin and Carnaval isn’t.

This isn’t some huge cosmic injustice or anything; basically it’s me pointing a dowsing stick at Billboard and trying to divine their proprietary chart formulas. Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 12/19/15: Debajo Los Puentes”

Los Titanes Fake It So Real They’re Beyond Fake

the-latest-video-purportedly-showing-fugitive-mexican-drug-lord-el-chapo-partying-isnt-what-it-seems

UPDATE: Los Titanes’ singer has spoken about the mistaken identity:

“We wanted a character that looked like ‘El Chapo,'” Sanchez Ayon said. “We interviewed actors. But it turns out my dad is short, we put the baseball cap on and put him in the video. We didn’t mean to cause a problem.”

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Remember: in this new media economy, we bloggers are the cutting edge of journalism!

A video that surfaced Thursday purportedly showing “the most wanted man in the world,” Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, is actually cellphone video from the set of a music video portraying the famed Mexican drug lord.

The allegedly “leaked” video, published by El Blog Del Narco, shows a group of more than a dozen men, many heavily armed and some wearing military fatigues, at a party with a band playing music and a man performing dressage with a horse.

Dressage? A heavily armed paramilitary force?? I’m surprised nobody mistook the guy for Mitt Romney announcing his presidential bid at a border patrol rally. The Chapo likeness was good enough to fool — with reservations — one former DEA official:

“Based on several factors, there is a very strong possibility — I would say 90 to 95 percent — that it’s (El Chapo) in the video,” Vigil said in a phone interview with mySA.com on Thursday before the video’s origin was revealed. “I don’t know who else it could be.”

So apparently there are El Chapo impersonators in the world, and in the name of verisimilitude Los Titanes de Durango hired one for their “Ando Arremangado” video, and some alternative footage made its way from a phone to a narco site, and then precariously close to official investigation channels. If Los Titanes were angling for some free publicity and a good story to tell at parties, they succeeded. I wonder if the DEA has a file on them now.

It’s no secret that part of norteño music’s thrill comes from its proximity to real-life narco activity. Remember my man Juan Carlos: “Everybody thinks that they know the people [in the songs]. When we’re drunk, we sing a lot of Mexican narcocorridos… We feel good ‘cause maybe one person is from Sinaloa, so it makes you proud of those people.” Whether that proximity is real or implied varies from case to case, and most narco singers live quiet suburban lives and simply put on an act for their fans. So it’s no surprise that Los Titanes would depict themselves hanging out with El Chapo. And no matter who initiated this video leak, maybe it makes them feel more badass — they’ve faked it so real they’re beyond fake.

By the way, the song — in which the family band proclaims itself ready for action — is good. Drums and bass settle into a hard and steady rolling rhythm while the bajo sexto sticks to the offbeats. Occasionally the whole rhythm section joins forces for some syncopated fills that land like thrown punches. The accordion lays a series of nonstop ornamentation over the top, and Sergio Sánchez Ayón sings a sturdy melody. It’s that norteño sweet spot — a simple tune played with deceptive complexity, enfolded in the paratextual layers of the video. Pick to Click; just don’t imagine you’re watching a documentary.

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 5/3/15

claudio

Last week NorteñoBlog recommended “Cerveza” by the cruel drunks in Banda Cuisillos. It turns out “Cerveza” has garnered one of the 20 biggest radio audiences in México but, due to some chart formulas I don’t quite understand at the website monitorLATINO, hasn’t yet hit the radio top 20, which measures total spins rather than estimated audience. (This could just mean it’s more popular in urban radio markets, where more people will hear its fewer spins…???)

ANYWAY, my point here is not to reveal how little I know about Mexican radio stats, but rather to direct you to two more such songs. The first is “Te Extraño Poquito” by Claudio Alcaraz y Su Banda Once Varas. It’s got breathless banda bombast and Alcaraz moving through increasingly desperate stages of post-breakup grief until, in the video, he goes Lloyd Dobbler on his ex and shows up outside her window with the entire banda. Neither ex nor neighbors call the police; rather, ex turns out the light, so everyone just gives up and goes home. Continuará…

Popular but less-spun song two is the charming “Amanece Y No Estas” by Diego Verdaguer, who splits the difference between mariachi and Jason Mraz-style hippy dippiness. No ukelele though, promise.

But today’s Pick to Click is yet another top 20 single from NorteñoBlog’s album of the year so far, Marco A. Flores’s Soy El Bueno. “Dudo” is more of Flores’s trademark Sinaloan banda played at Zacatecas speed. He uses pop chord changes but avoids sentimentality, mostly because he’s got a voice like a tornado siren playing a wax paper comb. The song lasts all of 2:48. I swear this record’s like the Ramones or someone.

Other newbies include ballads by Saul “El Jaguar” and Luz Maria, and something by Los Titanes de Durango featuring 14-year-old Jaziel Avilez. Being a sucker for such novelty and having once enjoyed Los Titanes, who despite their name play plain old norteño and not duranguense, I so wanted to like this song, but “Padre Ejemplar” goes on way too long. 40 seconds longer than “Dudo,” to be exact. Talk about self indulgence!

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 Alejandro Sanz ballad about scratchy-voiced zombies.

1. “Después de Ti ¿Quién?” – La Adictiva Banda San Jose
2. “Contigo” – Calibre 50
3. “El Amor de Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez
4. “Confesion” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón
5. “A Lo Mejor” – Banda MS
6. “Perdi La Pose” – Espinoza Paz
7. “Me Toco Perder” – Banda Los Recoditos
8. “No Fue Necesario” – El Bebeto
9. “Tranquilito” – El Chapo de Sinaloa
10. “Indeleble” – Banda Los Sebastianes

11. “Dudo” – Marco A. Flores y No.1 Banda Jerez
12. “Que te Quede Claro” – Saul El Jaguar
13. “Si Tuviera Que Decirlo” – Pedro Fernandez
14. “Padre Ejemplar” – Los Titanes de Durango ft. Jaziel Avilez
15. “La Reina” – La Iniciativa
16. “Ponte Las Pilas” – America Sierra
17. “Y Esa Soy Yo” – Luz Maria
18. “Que Tal Si Eres Tu” – Los Tigres Del Norte
19. “Un Ranchero En La Ciudad” – Leandro Rios ft. Pancho Uresti
20. “Escuchame” – Fidel Rueda

¡Adios!
“Adicto a la Tristeza” – Banda La Trakalosa ft. Pancho Uresti
“Que Aún Te Amo” – Pesado
“Me Importas” – Los Primos MX
“Malditas Ganas” – Alfredo Rios El Komander
“Todo Tuyo” – Banda El Recodo

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