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María Belem

¡Feliz 2016! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2015!)

2016-copia

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.

(An appropriate YouTube playlist to accompany that claim.) Continue reading “¡Feliz 2016! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2015!)”

¡Nuevo! (or, Is “El Karma” the new “Louie Louie”?)

cohuich bus

For corrido bands, “El Karma” is quickly becoming what “Louie Louie” was to ’60s garage rockers or “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” was to D.C. hardcore bands: the song you play to prove your mettle and/or prove you’re metal. This was true even before Ariel Camacho’s death propelled the song to mythic status and #1 on the Hot Latin chart earlier this year. Last year Camacho, Noel Torres ft. Voz De Mando, Revolver Cannabis, and two of this week’s bands all recorded versions of the song, and last week the Ivan Archivaldo impersonators in Grupo Maximo Grado released their own take. “El Karma” has several things to recommend it to aspiring nihilists. Its story and takeaway lesson are badass; its minor-key B section sets it apart from the corrido pack; and it works as well with rowdy bandas as it does with unsmiling small ensembles. Nadie de la parca se puede escapar — so we might as well dance, right?

banda culiacancitoThe 17 or so members of Banda Culiacancito were last seen cutting a live album of duets with the norteño band Revolver Cannabis and the late corridista Ariel Camacho, and their version of “El Karma” is a muy borracho thing, far removed from Camacho’s stolid solo rendition. Their new album Termina de Aceptario (DEL/Sony) returns to just Culiacancito and their horns, with a rollicking single called “Lastima de Tu Cuerpo.”

septima bandaLast year La Séptima Banda cut their own version of “El Karma,” a cover of competing borrachera and verve. They titled their whole album after the song, in fact — El Karma: Puros Corridos (Hyphy). Their major label debut Segurito Segurito (Fonovisa) is out this week, and it’s already yielded one minor radio hit with the big, bouncy “Bonito y Bello.” “B’y’B” is NOT puro corrido; its swanky melody reminds me Adriel Favela’s “Cómo Olvidarla,” which in turn reminded me of Tower of Power or something, but maybe you should check for yourself.

panchito arredondoPanchito Arredondo does not, to my knowledge, have a cover of “El Karma” floating around, but I’ll tell you what is floating around: the guy’s sense of pitch. His second album Mayor de la Vagancia (Hyphy) should be required listening for aspiring TV singing contestants; in places it’s as painful as Madonna’s high notes in “Into the Groove.” But like Madonna, Panchito’s saved by energy and sympathetic backing musicians who generally succeed in hustling him away from the long notes. On the song “El Polacas,” those musicians include the young band Grupo H100, who are also on Hyphy but who are not themselves hyphy. (Thinkpiece forthcoming.)

maria belemMaría Belem should not be confused with the telenovela María Belén aka María Belém. (I was briefly confused.) Her low budget videos “¿Te Acuerdas?” and “Yo Te Decido” came out last year and have been largely ignored, a shame for songs with such robust energy. Now comes her debut album Orgullo de Tierra Caliente (Prodisc), as cheerful an album as I’ve heard this year, even when Belem is lamenting “Que Triste Navidad.”

banda cohuich“Yo Te Decido” would be this week’s Pick to Click if I hadn’t come across this cumbia album that may or may not be a compilation, Banda Cohuich‘s No Te Equivoques (Pegasus). The cover advertises the exito “Son Kora Kau Te Te Kai Nie Ni (Dialecto Huichol),” Huichol being an indigenous Mexican language, “Son Kora” being a relentless jerking propulsion machine with brass, gang vocals, and a slippery synth line (I think). Quickie Youtube research reveals that several of these songs existed several years ago, but also that Banda Cohuich consistently rocks, especially on the speedy mucho-syllabic electrocumbia “Chicos iLu.”

OTHER SEEMINGLY NEW ALBUMS OR REISSUES:

El Rey Pelusa – Irresistible
La Fe Norteña de Toño Aranda – Entre la Espada y la Pared (Goma)
Los Junior’s Klan – Contragolpe (RCA)
Grandes Exitos de Los Terrícolas (NVO)
Rossy War y Su Banda Kaliente – Soy Diferente (INDEPENDIENTE)

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