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Regional Mexican Songs

Who Invented “Regional Mexican”?

septima poster

Los Tigres play norteño, and so does Intocable —
Unless they play Tejano, un punto contestable.
The bandas all play banda; mariachis, mariachi.
Puro sax spews merry tears, norteño’s Pagliacci.
Cumbias are acoustic, when they’re not electric.
Singers may get richer, once they get eclectic.
Christian Nodal will tell you he plays “mariacheño,”
Y finalmente everyone starts playing sierreño.

Billboard‘s first Regional Mexican singles chart in 1994 contained a synth-heavy blend of technocumbias, technobandas, romantic grupero baladas, and one mariachi song. The chart was one of three new radio charts, along with Pop and Tropical/Salsa, that electronically surveyed Spanish-language stations across the U.S., a technology-driven update to the magazine’s never-ending effort to record which songs audiences heard most.

The “Regional Mexican” chart surveyed 70 stations whose playlists focused on — you guessed it — regional Mexican genres. That is, banda came from Mexico’s west coast, while Tejano began around the U.S./Mexico border region. Mariachi was an old, rural style specifically cultivated by Mexico’s intellectual elite to present a sophisticated and tourist-friendly cultural face. Grupera music was an abomination from the rank pits of hell, or maybe Acapulco.

kqqkThese disparate genres had a lot in common. Musically, the bands and their fans shared some core folk repertoire and an affection for polka and cumbia rhythms; socially, they shared the experience of being a largely working-class minority in a foreign land. But the genres were still pretty disparate. Of the 70 radio stations in that initial survey, 27 were in Texas, the home of Tejano music, and another 27 were in California, where L.A.’s KLAX had recently gotten huge playing banda music. My research is ongoing, but I’d be very surprised if, in 1994, KLAX’s playlist had more than a couple songs in common with Houston’s KQQK “Tejano 106.”

So “Regional Mexican” was a radio format that varied dramatically from city to city, based on the audience that lived within earshot. We’ll save for another day the question of how the format became standardized across the country. (If you can’t wait, Melanie Morgan breaks it down here.) Today’s question is, who invented the term?

As near as I’ve found (and it’s almost too obvious to be true), the answer is someone at Billboard — but if they knew they were coining a term, they didn’t trumpet the fact. Continue reading “Who Invented “Regional Mexican”?”

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Desfile de Éxitos 1/19/19

t3r airport

Puerto Rican trapstar Bad Bunny has pulled a Drake this week, clogging up Billboard‘s Hot Latin chart with 10 tracks from his debut album X 100pre. (The highest charting is, whaddya know, a duet with Drake.) NorteñoBlog has long admired Sr. Bunny’s charisma and barber while having almost no use for his music. The greatest insult? He’s Despacitoing norteño music into near nonexistence on Hot Latin. Regional Mexican acts account for only nine of the top 50 songs, one less than Bunny himself. The Blog tells you all this to explain why our Desfile de Éxitos format has changed. You can only type “Bad Bunny” so many times before the Donnie Darko flashbacks become too intense to deal with.

What follows are three mini-lists. First up are the three regional Mexican songs that appear only on the Hot Latin chart, i.e. not on Billboard‘s Regional Mexican Songs radio chart. As you’d expect, since radio factors less into their success, these three songs all have enormous YouTube streaming numbers. As you might not expect, they’re all by sierreño bands. One possible conclusion: sierreño is for cool internet kids. The next list is the Regional Mexican radio top 10: mostly banda, a couple cumbias, and one apiece of sierreño and mariacheño. The third list — of one song this week — is music outside the radio Top 10 that also appears on Hot Latin.

ONLY ON HOT LATIN

fuerza regidaFuerza Regida“Radicamos En South Central” (#32 Hot Latin)
This sierreño gangsta nonsense is one high-living negocios signifier after another — I count appearances from Compas Tino and Chino, a bottle of Buchanan’s, and an X6 and a white Corvette, along with some good old-fashioned cocaine. The band is really good at switching from midtempo waltz to fast waltz on a dime, so that’s something. Now if they just learned to add backup vocals to their product placements, maybe they wouldn’t sound like they’re trapped in a cement bunker, playing under threat of torture. NO VALE LA PENA

t3r gerardoT3R Elemento ft. Gerardo Ortiz“Aerolinea Carrillo” (#33 Hot Latin)
The lead track from T3R’s 2018 album The Green Trip is ostensibly an ode to Pablo Escobar and his well-structured airborne narcotics business. It’s actually an ode to how cool it is to get high on a plane and sing about gangster shit. In the video, Kristopher Nava, the McLovin’ of the corridos verdes movimiento, chills in an airport lounge wearing a t-shirt that reads “Cookies” and refusing to enunciate. Sergio Cardenas, the band’s Cuban bassist, harmonizes beside him. Gerardo Ortiz plays a commercial airline pilot who smokes up in the cockpit and over-enunciates, well aware of the lurid cargo he’s transporting in his plane’s overhead compartments. Everyone nods a lot. Unlike Fuerza Regida, everyone here is in a good mood and knows the song they’re playing is patently dopey. VALE LA PENA y PICK TO CLICK

arrankeGrupo Arranke“A Través del Vaso” (#39 Hot Latin)
“Una Para Mi Chiquitita (y Una Más Para My Sad Cowboy Hat That Reeks of Authenticity, Even Though My Song Comes From the Horacio Palencia Song Factory)” (Sierreño Versión)
NO VALE LA PENA

TOP 10 REGIONAL MEXICAN SONGS

1. Christian Nodal“No Te Contaron Mal” (#11 Hot Latin)

2. Los Angeles Azules ft. Natalia LaFourcade“Nunca Es Suficiente” (#9 Hot Latin)

3. Regulo Caro“El Lujo de Tenerte” (#35 Hot Latin)

4. Banda El Recodo ft. David Bisbal“Gracias Por Tu Amor” (#44 Hot Latin)

sebastianes5. Banda Los Sebastianes“A Través del Vaso” (#14 Hot Latin)
“Una Para Mi Chiquitita (y Una Más Para the Underwear Models in the Video)” (Banda Versión)
VALE LA PENA

virlan garcia6. Virlán Garcia“Quiero Reintentarlo”
Virlán is horny as all get out, so it took an unusual triumph of will for him to keep this from becoming a slow jam. His sierreño band skips along, jaunty and desperate. Congas burble and the tuba line snaps at Virlán’s promises to kiss every corner of your body. VALE LA PENA

7. Banda MS“Mejor Me Alejo” (#25 Hot Latin)

8. Raymix“¿Dónde Estarás?”

9. El Fantasma“Dolor y Amor”

10. Banda Los Recoditos“Te Darán Ganas de Verme”

ALSO ON BOTH CHARTS

calibre14. Calibre 50“¿Por Qué Cambiaste De Opinión?” (#50 Hot Latin)
Exactly what you expect from a Calibre ballad: a death march of self-righteous indignation aimed at a fickle mujer, from the dudes who just humble-bragged about going “Mitad y Mitad” with two different women. With his fondness for six-syllable rhymes, Edén Muñoz delights in language more than most of his songwriting cohort, and “No vayas a llorar, que nadie te va abrazar” is a cold kiss-off — but their self pity is dull enough without the band deflating before your ears. NO VALE LA PENA

Desfile de Éxitos 6/9/18 (starring Los Ángeles Azules, Intocable, corridos verdes, y más)

intocable smoke

The corridos verdes boomlet has coughed up a number of giggle-inducing phenomena. With his weedy voice, affected swagger, and perpetually nascent mustache, Kristopher Nava of T3R Elemento (#30 at U.S. Regional Mexican radio) is the genre’s McLovin; his different videos show him hobnobbing among indifferent high school girls and the kushy environs of club VIPs. Meanwhile, the mysterious El De La Guitarra (#26 and #40 Hot Latin, #20 at radio) performs as a diabolical smiley face, and if anyone can remember his real name, they’re not telling.

rolling oneAnd then there’s the new joint from Lenin Ramirez ft. T3R Elemento: “Rolling One,” #38 at radio. The song is fine, a rolling norteño waltz with lots of guitar solos compensating for a paper-thin melody. The video is perhaps the highest AF artifact ever filmed. As in, the people who made the video were obviously baked. The video is clearly aimed at people who are stoned. It’s possible that simply watching the video gives you a tropical contact high. (For instance, you might start quoting terrible Beach Boys songs.) Consider that it contains the following elements, inexplicable unless we consult noted cannabis afficionado Occam, last seen using his razor to slice traffic tickets into makeshift rolling papers:

1. A golden assault rifle bong;
2. Numerous mind-blowing shots of people escaping the bounds of the black letterbox bars (IT’S LIKE 3-D ONLY NOT);
3. Lenin Ramirez’s paisley sun-god shirt, itself a mind-altering substance;
4. Especially when he and four bikini-clad, blunt-smoking women ride horses down the beach;
5. Several shots with scratchy or digitally distressed film (IT’S LIKE FOUND FOOTAGE ONLY NOT);
6. A freakin’ tololoche on a boat;
7. A visit to Lenin Ramirez and Kristopher Nava’s industrial cannabis greenhouse;
8. Slow-mo reverse footage of bikini-clad women sucking smoke back into their mouths (IT’S LIKE SPECIAL EFFECTS ONLY NOT);
9. What appears to be a henna tattoo of a wolf;
10. Lyrical shoutouts to marijuana, 420, OG Kush, Colorado, etc., which — as anyone who’s ever been high, or been around high people, knows — is all the high can talk about.

Everything about this video screams both, “Whatever, man, it seemed like a good idea at the time,” and, “Dude, remember that time we were so wasted?” VALE LA PENA, because as I said it’s got lots of guitar solos.

virlan garciaDrowing his sorrows with a different drug, at #39 on the radio we find the new sierreño weeper from hatless 20-year-old lothario Virlán García, who asks the pitiful musical question “En Donde Esta Tu Amor?” Since his mujer left his bed unattended, he’s been searching for her up and down the premises of his stately mansion, chasing her aroma with un vaso de tequila caliente, and — if we can believe the video — hiding all his furniture under dropcloths. NOT UNLIKE HOW THE ORNATE FURNITURE OF HIS HEART HAS BECOME HIDDEN AND USELESS, under the… er… DROPCLOTHS OF MUJER-LESS ANHEDONIA. In the video’s closing scene he sits at the edge of his in-ground swimming pool, singing softly to himself, his tequila vaso apparently bottomless. For his next video, Garcia will either accidentally drown or return inside, to wander among his dusty belongings and go full Havisham. NO VALE LA PENA

NorteñoBlog is ambivalent about many subjects — the usefulness of Octavio Paz’s macho metaphors, the necessity of blogging on a regular basis, the social and musical value of excellent music videos about cockfighting. But nowhere is the Blog’s ambivalence more felt than on the topic of Intocable.
Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 6/9/18 (starring Los Ángeles Azules, Intocable, corridos verdes, y más)”

Los Tigres, Los Inquietos, Bronco, and other romantics on the Mexican radio

ulices dancing

Welcome back to the Mexican radio charts! This week, in a startling change of pace, NorteñoBlog finds the Mexican airwaves awash in amor and sentimiento. Rather than fight this impulse by singling out the odd song about lavish lifestyles or dancing horses or whatever, the Blog has decided to embrace it. I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that you open your cold dead heart to at least one of the touchy feely offerings listed below.

uliceschaidezAt #7 we find “Que Bonito es Querer,” the latest declaration of sierreño amor from Ulices Chaidez y Sus Plebes. The chorus is a decent minor-key circle-of-fifths thing, not unlike “Autumn Leaves,” that allows Chaidez to show off his smoky upper register. The rest of the song would be better if it had any hint of a beat. The video is some straight-up Disney castle cosplay, stuffed with decorum and meaningful gazes and painstakingly plotted ballroom dances — you know, all the places where love goes to die flourishes. Chaidez’s bandmates and sombrero are as absent as princess farts. NO VALE LA PENA

At #8, the balladeers in Banda Carnaval refuse to be anyone’s “Segunda Opción,” especially the segunda opción of a no-good two-timing kiss-stealing mujer. Watch out, faithless ones! When Banda Carnaval’s clarinet players wriggle their eyebrows at you, the nausea can be overwhelming. NO VALE LA PENA

para-sacarte-de-mi-vida-275-275-1519877868They could take heartbreak lessons from Alejandro Fernandez ft. Los Tigres del Norte, who present an entire heart cauterization program in their duet “Para Sacarte de Mi Vida”, #9 this week. The Springsteens of norteño team up with the… um… Roseanne Cash of ranchera (Maybe? I mean, Alejandro’s too popular to be Shooter Jennings) for a stomp-clap-snappy pop ballad that’s atypical, at least for Los Tigres. The lyrics soar past sentimiento into dark emo/self-help guru territory, with the bereft narrators diving headfirst into their pain, killing their hearts, removing their tattoos, completely rerouting their jogging paths, all in a last-ditch effort to be reborn as some beautiful, heart-intact horse-tiger hybrid. (I paraphrase.) It’s catchy, and Los Tigres acquit themselves well in this less familiar setting. VALE LA PENA and Pick to Click:


Continue reading “Los Tigres, Los Inquietos, Bronco, and other romantics on the Mexican radio”

Desfile de Éxitos 5/5/18 (starring Chiquis y Jenni Rivera, Marilyn Odessa, y más)

marilyn odessa

Last weekend NorteñoBlog attended the MoPOP Pop Conference in Seattle, held inside that big blob of Frank Gehry-designed metal that sits in the shadow of the Space Needle. As part of the roundtable panel “Suburban Intersections” (schemed with Annie Zaleski and Anthony Easton, moderated by Karen Tongson), I presented a paper called “Como Los Vaqueros: How Young Regional Mexican Performers Construct, and Deconstruct, Masculinity.” You’ll see it here soon; but while you wait for instructions on how to deconstruct masculinity, here’s my recipe for deconstructed green bean casserole, a perennial Thanksgiving hit, but also good for gardening season:

1. Deep fry long snapped green beans, red onion rings, and whole button mushrooms. (I recently discovered Tyler Florence’s “Fronion Rings” batter, which incorporates frozen fries and xanthan gum and stays crispy way longer than the standard Joy of Cooking batter.)

2. Make sage mayonnaise. (I recommend James Peterson’s method of extracting chlorophyll from spinach and using the chlorophyll as food coloring. It’s a way more appetizing shade of green than regular food coloring, plus you can say you EXTRACTED CHLOROPHYLL FROM SPINACH.)

3. Now that I write it out, you probably wanna switch the order of those two steps.

4. Serve! Dip! Eat!

jenni chiquisWhile at the conference, I caught a fascinating presentation by Yessica Garcia Hernandez, a doctoral candidate at UCSD who’s done extensive work studying Jenni Rivera fandom. You can read some of her papers, for the prestigious likes of NANO and the Journal of Popular Music Studies, here. During the Q&A she pointed out that for true fans, Jenni has never died. We find evidence of that claim on this week’s radio chart, where a duet between Jenni and her daughter Chiquis on the skippy banda tune “Quisieran Tener Mi Lugar” sits at #28. It is a vigorous chingado of los haters.

marilyn no seAnd, surprise surprise, the Riveras aren’t the only women on the radio this week. At #37 we find Becky G’s heartwarming paean to sexy older dudes, “Mayores,” off the top of my head the only instance of a non-regional song lingering on Mexican regional radio after it’s fallen off the all-encompassing Hot Latin chart. And at #31 we find Marilyn Odessa, aka Marilyn, with the snoozy (but well-sung) banda ballad “No Sé.” Marilyn is on Lizos Records, home to the equally snoozy (but huge) Banda MS. Like Chiquis, Marilyn also has a famous Mom, the pop singer Marisela; you can watch the two madres perform together here. And apparently there was some sort of social media dispute between Marilyn and Chiquis, although they seem to have cleared that up.

ANYWAY, Marilyn is poised for success. “No Sé” was written by the ubiquitous Horacio Palencia, and her previous album Boleto Al Infierno (Music Eyes 2014) was produced by the even more ubiquitous Luciano Luna, so she’s got connections in high places. If Lizos can spin YouTube gold out of the stupefyingly dull Banda MS, there’s no limit to how the company could help an act with an actual personality.

chiquis entreToday’s Pick to Click goes to none of the above. Rather, the Blog hands the coveted award to a different Chiquis song from her new album Entre Botellas (Sweet Sound). “Los Chismes” is a cover of a good-time chinga-los-haters polka from another deathless icon, Chalino Sanchez. In the original, Sanchez complains about the gossips who keep disparaging his wife-to-be: She’s ugly! She’s too skinny! (“¡Dicen que eres flaca!”) Being a caballero in love, Sanchez pays them no mind. (Well, besides going to the trouble to write a song about them.) Chiquis turns the song into a big banda cumbia duet with Lorenzo Mendez, and gets him to flip a couple lines in the second verse. In Mendez’s telling, the gossip folks are complaining that Chiquis is a “gordibuena,” a term for a beautiful full-figured woman that Chiquis has proudly claimed for herself. “If I wanted a flaquita,” sings Mendez, “I’d die of hunger.” “You know what’s good,” replies Chiquis, who delivers all spoken asides with her eyebrow raised a mile high. Come for the horny cumbia; stay for the body image empowerment and what might be Chiquis’s best performance on record.

These are the top 50 Hot Latin Songs and top 40 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published May 5.
Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 5/5/18 (starring Chiquis y Jenni Rivera, Marilyn Odessa, y más)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alicia Villarreal, Christian Nodal, Joss Favela, y más)

jose villarreal

As promised, Edwin Luna and his perpetually nascent acting chops appear at #10 on this week’s busy Mexican radio chart with the giggle inducing “Fíjate Que Sí.” Actually, it might only induce giggles if you watch the video, let’s see here… [Listens to the song in another tab.] JAJAJAJA! Oh, Edwin Luna. You are an international camp treasure. The man draws out his singing and even his spoken interludes until the words congeal into a sticky mass. They say he aspirates agave nectar.

me-deje-llevar-christian-nodalOther entries previously lauded by NorteñoBlog include man-myth-legend El Fantasma at #17, and whirling fount of Terpsichore Marco Flores doing his devil dance at #19. At #14 we find the latest mariacheño-or-whatever romantic ballad from Christian Nodal, still sounding older than his teenaged years. In “Me Dejé Llevar,” the title track of his overrated 2017 debut album, Nodal laments getting carried away by passion for a mujer, which seems to have made him possessive and scummy. The music doesn’t sound like possessive scumminess; it’s his patented mix of dull, syncopation-free guitars with swoony horns, strings, and accordion. The video, though, is a primo cultural artifact. First we see the macho caballero with hat, cigar, and sturdy country mansion; then we’re whisked behind the scenes into some abstract phantasmagoria of amor, where the now hatless Nodal and a nearly naked mujer enact the ritualized dance steps of love inside a neon square, floating amid darkness. THE DARKNESS OF THE CABELLERO’S OWN HEART, you suggest? The Blog won’t argue with you, except to say: NO VALE LA PENA.

Better is the song at #11. “Sentimientos” is a likeable minor key cumbia from Alicia Villarreal’s 2017 album; it’s both a cover of Villarreal’s 20-year-old Grupo Limite hit, and a duet with her fellow mexicana María José. In both their studio rendition and in this live video, Villarreal and José work up a mariacheño head of steam like Nodal never dreamed. There’s just as much string/accordion swooning, but a much kickier beat and the knowing winks that appear when you find yourself in your 40s, mooning “Ahhhh…. FEELINGS.” Pick to Click!

ese-400x400If these newfangled stylistic blends aren’t your thing and you long for some straight-down-the-middle chapado-a-la-antigua norteño, look no further than #20
Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alicia Villarreal, Christian Nodal, Joss Favela, y más)”

Desfile de Hombres… AGAIN (starring Becky G, Aida Cuevas, Siggno, y más)

siggno (1)

The Billboard charts are boring this week, so please excuse the following disjointed rant…

As NorteñoBlog suggested last post, the Grammys’ approach to Mexican music is fairly ridiculous. The Grammys themselves are ridiculous — although if we forget that they’re supposed to be rewarding the best music, and instead see them as the dying public gasps of an increasingly irrelevant trade organization, with Neil Portnow facing down exciting existential dilemmas around every corner like Sarah journeying through the Labyrinth… well, I dunno if that helps.

aida cuevas grammyAND YET. For many musicians, especially the ones who don’t make much money, the Grammys are not ridiculous. Or maybe not merely ridiculous, but also useful. Take ranchera lifer Aida Cuevas, who won the Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano), against a field of men, for her independently released Arrieros Somos – Sesiones Acústicas. Cuevas used her untelevised Grammy moment to flaunt her charro outfit and to urge Mexican women to speak out against sexual harassment. I won’t pretend to enjoy this particular album of hers, but if we accept that both the Grammy awards and the Blog have slightly less aesthetic authority than one of those plastic duck bobbing contests at a carnival, my opinion doesn’t matter. Cuevas is a talented singer who releases her own music and received a podium. She made the most of her moment. The Mexican music world needs to let in more people like her.

So do the airwaves. If you study last week’s Regional Mexican airplay list, below, you’ll see Chiquis Rivera has dropped off, to be replaced by another token woman: Becky G, whose decidedly non-regional ode to older men, “Mayores,” somehow became the 40th most-played song on regional stations. (This week — not shown due to Blog laziness — she moves up to #22.)

Look, I know studying musicians’ chart positions is a ridiculous exercise. The charts rarely have anything to do with aesthetic quality, and observing the cultural hegemony of “Despacito” is only interesting for a day or so. But the charts do reflect who’s getting paid, and a complete absence of women tells you something unflattering about the values of the industry’s gatekeepers. What will it take to get actual norteño singers like Victoria “La Mala” or Laura Denisse onto the radio — or to get Diana Reyes or Los Horoscopos or Alicia Villarreal back on the radio?

While the Blog organizes a call-in campaign, let’s look at whose new songs are getting played. Radio station billboard anchor Gerardo Ortiz and whirling fount of Terpsichore Marco Flores have brought their VALE LA PENA Mexican hits to El Norte. Los Cardenales de Nuevo León and Los Huracanes del Norte head up the geriatric “beloved by Becky G” contingent with some straight-down-the-middle accordion lopes.

siggno que me amasBest of all: Somehow the Blog hasn’t yet noted “Que Me Amas,” a sweet love song from noted eyeliner-and-metal-t-shirt models Siggno. The song starts with “We Will Rock You”-style stadium stomping and distorted guitar, before switching to a midtempo accordion groove that splits the difference between backbeat and polka. You’ve heard Intocable pull this same trick, but Siggno does it better, becuase they keep switching back and forth. The accordion solo and closing drum fusillade are also jarringly good, enough to kick Siggno into coveted Pick to Click status:

And finally, the Blog would be remiss to not point out DJ Kass and his pesky viral hit “Scooby-Doo Pa! Pa!”, according to the Daily Mail the new “Harlem Shake” our nation deserves.
Continue reading “Desfile de Hombres… AGAIN (starring Becky G, Aida Cuevas, Siggno, y más)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alfredo Olivas, Los Inquietos, y más)

zapateado endemoniado

la rueda de la fortunaContinuing the sad theme of Albums NorteñoBlog Slept On In 2017, we turn to the fifth-or-so release from prodigious 23-year-old singer-songwriter-accordionist Alfredo Olivas, La Rueda de Fortuna (Sahuaro/Sony Latin). The Blog first encountered Olivas in the pre-Blog morass of 2013, when he appeared as a teenager on Hyphy Records’ cheapo compilation Hyphy Music Inc. Presenta El Corrido VIP 1era Edición. Comparing him and his cohort to punk rockers, and misspelling his name, I wrote, “Olvidas creates thin slashes of song, sometimes with one instrument insistently out of tune, tuba and accordion prancing around one another like bird of paradise evading some jungle cat, if that ever happens.” (I think I’d been watching a bunch of Planet Earth.)

Since then, Olivas has been sounding like more of a pro. He’s written a ton of songs — according to Wiki, over 1,000 during his life — and has lately turned away from the narcocorridos of his youth into more reflective and romantic work. Which isn’t to say he’s stodgy. “El Paciente” was one of 2017’s best singles, a soaring deathbed meditation whose energetic horn charts were set to “burble.” For his accordion songs, his band tackles different rhythms like Intocable, moving beyond the typical polkas and waltzes into grooves that approach rock. And his lyrics tend to be more interesting than typical for this genre, where song themes tend to stick to “I’m so in love with you,” “You unfaithful whore,” or “I’m such a big shot.”

antecedentes de culpaSee, for instance, the song sitting at #13 in Mexico. (Blog note: it’s since climbed to #4, but I’m too lazy to change the chart below.) In “Antecedentes de Culpa,” a guy has a drunken argument with his mujer, wakes up hung over, and regrets the whole thing. I’m not even sure what they’re arguing about, but it hardly matters; the argument dredges up a host of insults that sting worse than the subject of disagreement. It’s a precise, subtle portrait of how two lovers can choose exactly the right words to wound one another. (Standard translation caveats apply.) The music, naturally, is all swinging and sunshine, the band ruefully shaking their heads while their leader tries to talk his way out of his regret. Special props to Olivas’s drummer for leavening his beat with some cool snare rolls and subdivided cymbal work, and to the bassist for playing hooks. Pick to Click!

Also notable:
Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (starring Alfredo Olivas, Los Inquietos, y más)”

fire up video

When NorteñoBlog last noticed the West Coast sierreño quartet/quintet T3R Elemento at summer’s end, the shrift was short. Teenage lead singer Kristopher Nava “pushes his way through [debut hit single ‘Rafa Caro’] like the frantic-to-impress kid he likely is,” I wrote. Four months later, “Rafa Caro” is still hanging around both the Hot Latin chart and the radio airplay chart, and now these guys have another single on just the big chart — i.e., streaming and sales, but not much airplay yet. “Fire Up” is the new least favorite song of genteel antebellum marionette Jeff Sessions, offering as it does a Dr. Seuss-like panoply of suggestions for ingesting THC. Would you, could you, with a bong? Would you, could you, en el avión? Would you, could you, con la skunk? Saca un blunt and fire up!

underground“Fire Up” is a decent enough minor-key sierreño waltz — good harmonies during the chorus! — that it convinced me to check out the band’s 2017 debut studio album Underground (LA R/Parral). With some relief, I can announce I wasn’t sleeping on much. T3R Elemento are more interesting than good. Bilingual and multinational, they’ve got two members (requinto player Jose Felipe Prieto and acordionista Zeus Gamez) hailing from Mexico, while bassist Sergio Cardenas comes from Cuba and 17-year-old frontman Kristopher Nava is from Vegas. Produced by prolific Californian Fernando Cavazos, the album’s a mix of semi-energetic narcocorridos, for which Nava musters an overeager McLovin’ vibe, and drooly romantic ballads, which studiously avoid mustering any vibe at all. Notably, the ’50s sock hop ballad “Nos Pertenecemos (We Belong Together)” appears in both Spanglish and English versions, and fails to leave an impression either time. It’s entirely possible the whole thing sounds better if you follow Nava’s advice and get high off a doctored Swisher Sweet; I’ll let you know after I finish my Mario Kart/Unlikely Animal Friends marathon. NO VALE LA PENA

como los vaquerosThe better sierreño-laced sock hop single comes from DEL Records artists Lenin Ramirez and Ulices Chaidez. (more…)

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