Several unexpected finds inside this week’s Regional Mexican top 10, not least the presence of some good banda ballads. Unfortunately, #1 isn’t one of them.
1. Banda Los Recoditos – “Perfecta” (#37 Hot Latin) Billboardreports that this is Recoditos’ fifth #1 on the Regional Mexican chart. The first three of those — the iconic breakthrough “Ando Bien Pedo,” “Mi Ultimo Deseo,” and “Hasta Que Salga El Sol” — were about how the world is ending so we should all get drunk and shout along with Luis Angel Franco. The next two — including this one — represent the dispiriting comedown, with the personality-free Samuel Sarmiento atoning for everyone’s sins. If, as I once theorized, Franco’s songs are “the Spencer’s of the banda pop mall,” Sarmiento’s ballads are the HomeGoods. NO VALE LA PENA
5. Banda Carnaval – “Olvidarte, Cómo?”
A slow-as-agave ode to love’s unbreakable hold on the memory. The first line of the chorus sums it up: “Forgetting has some degree of difficulty.” That is, this banda ballad is studied and square, it pulls its punches and never cuts loose — but simmering under all that reserve is a geyser of anguish, rattling the ground around it. You hear it in certain musical gestures, like when the lugubrious on-the-beat melody jostles back and forth with the syncopated horns, and then they come into sync for a trio of “NO”s that seem exhaled rather than sung, yet pack a tremendous rhythmic wallop. Maybe I’m overselling this thing because of the video’s bargain-basement O. Henry “don’t text and drive” message. But Banda Carnaval undersells throughout, except when they strategically don’t, earning them a big old VALE LA PENA. Continue reading “Julión Álvarez sidesteps his sanction, and other surprises (Desfile de Éxitos 7/12/19)”→
In 2018, Regional Mexican radio chilled out. Amid the ever-shifting blend of genres that comprises the format, the two “new” styles that commanded the most attention sounded remarkably blase about their surging popularity. In fact, “command” seems like the wrong word for the genres of cumbia and corridos verdes, since they were just sitting around in a smoky haze, waiting for audiences to trip over them.
As Elias Leight explained in a spring Rolling Stone feature, cumbias have been around for decades, having traveled from South America throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora over the last 70-or-so years. Turn-of-the-millennium hits from Los Angeles Azules, a swanky Mexican big band, have never outgrown their use as commercial bumper music on U.S. radio. The band’s recent resurgence culminated in a 2018 Coachella performance, dug by none other than Justin Bieber, and a current hit rearrangement of Natalia LaFourcade’s tune “Nunca Es Suficiente.” And that’s just the acoustic stuff.
The electronic technocumbia scene, pioneered by Selena and her producer brother A.B. Quintanilla in the mid ‘90s, got new energy from former nano-satellite engineer Edmundo Gómez Moreno, aka Raymix, and his unkillable singles “Oye Mujer” and “¿Dónde Estarás?” The Blog admires the mysterious modality of these singles and admits they don’t really sound like anyone else.The Blog also never wants to listen to them. Like the band Low, for whose 2018 album Double Negative I also didn’t have much time, Raymix zeros in on precisely one mood and hits his mark. It’s a feat that demands acknowledgement rather than repeated listening.
If Raymix songs seem like they might sound better stoned, corridos verdes make that theme explicit. Praised by Snoop, played mostly by young sierreño bands who weave hypnotic patterns from acoustic guitars and either bass or tuba, these songs can get sort of samey. If you thought shoutouts to narcos were getting old, or if you were having trouble differentiating weeping meditations on drinking away lost amors, wait until you hear a bunch of young dudes sing about how high they are. These guys stick to themes. Their songs are sometimes hilarious, though, and the tubists and lead guitarists occasionally stumble across moments that’ll legitimately drop your jaw, regardless of how much THC is in your blood. As with so much else, it depends which strain you get.
Corridos about smoking weed aren’t new, either, but they do represent a shift, at least in terms of mainstream radio fare. A boyband like T3R Elemento might occasionally sing about real-life narcos and the marijuana production business, but unlike the older generation of corrideros — Gerardo Ortiz, El Komander, Noel Torres — they make no pretense that they’re singing from experience or proximity. Born and raised in the U.S., T3R Elemento sings about weed from a bilingual suburban U.S. high school point of view, a vantage their video iconography reinforces. It’s similar to what we saw with the Bay Area’s hyphy movimiento a decade ago. That movement also focused on drug and alcohol consumption, with little reference to Mexico or the drug production narratives that had long dominated corridos. Call these movements “assimilation” if you want, but they represent wilder, less predictable patterns of assimilation than political discourse or radio programmers have led us to expect.
Of course, Regional Mexican radio still plays frantic dressage polkas from Marco Flores, and plenty of maudlin slow jams from the likes of Banda MS. Old narcocorridos from Los Tigres rub shoulders with new ones from El Fantasma. Frantic emotions and spirited boasts will never die; but neither will the phenomenon of getting really baked, and then singing about it.
Having accounted for trends, here are 11 Regional Mexican albums the Blog recommends, genre by genre — in several cases paired with their higher profile inferiors. Continue reading “¡Lo Mejor de 2018!”→
NorteñoBlog has held off talking about Raymix, the nombre de cumbia of 27-year-old producer-singer Edmundo Gómez Moreno, in the hope that I would start liking his music. No such luck, but the electrocumiadero’s continuing popularity — “Dónde Estarás” is #8 on Mexican radio, and his two-year-old breakthrough hit “Oye Mujer” is #1 on U.S. Regional Mexican Airplay — has forced my hand. Maybe I need to hear his repetitive, “atmospheric” synth beats echoing around an airplane hangar or something.
1. “Edmundo Gómez Moreno spent 11 months as a project manager and systems engineer helping NASA build nano-satellites in Mexico.” This amounts to one of the coolest “before they were rock stars” jobs ever, as Raymix was apparently living his best life in a real world version of Big Hero 6. Now I’m wondering if his name is a play on “Baymax.”
2. “‘I would define cumbia, whether people like it or not, as the most popular Latin genre all over the Americas and perhaps the world,’ says Héctor Fernández L’Hoeste, a professor at Georgia State University who co-edited and contributed to the essay collection Cumbia! Scenes of a Migrant Latin American Music Genre.” (The Blog is exploring interlibrary loan possibilities.) Cumbia gets plenty of play on regional Mexican radio, often in mixes or accompanying DJ patter, but its electrified version — as played by Raymix, 3Ball MTY, the Kumbia Kings, etc. — has always seemed like an outlier in the mostly acoustic, polka-based format. (Los Ángeles Azules have horns, so their enduring presence makes more sense.) Sure, bandas and norteño groups have a vast repertoire of party cumbias; on banda albums, the Big Dumb Cumbia is as reassuring a presence as the Mama Song on rap albums. But bandas speed up the cumbia’s trademark “ch-ch-ch ch-ch-ch” guiro rhythm until it smooths into something resembling a polka. The slow electrocumbia, on first hearing, seems to have more in common with tropical rhythms like dembow. Why the overlapping audience for acoustic polkas and electrocumbias?