music, charts, opinions


Regulo Caro

Who Plays on the New Gerardo Ortiz Album?

The mystery is solved! Allmusic appears to have acquired a physical copy of Hoy Mas Fuerte the same time NorteñoBlog did, and we’ve learned that Ortiz drew his small band from the usual stable of Del Records session pros: Pablo Molina on tuba, Aaron Gonzalez on bass, Lorenzo Fraire Reyes on bajo sexto, and Luis Navarro on drums. But Allmusic did omit some crucial players, notably the guy who most owns the sound of Fuerte: accordionist Marito Aguilar. Fuerte isn’t necessarily VALE LA PENA, but it’s worth hearing at least once for Aguilar, whose fingers are all over the place and constantly coming up with new ideas. He’s played with Ortiz on previous albums; he’s played on good albums by Regulo Caro and Adriel Favela; and he’s been one of the few reasons to pay any attention to Luis Coronel.

If you get excited by fly-on-the-recording-studio-wall videos and scenes of professional musicians overdubbing and “punching in,” you are to be pitied above all others you should totally watch this video of a session for Ortiz’s 2012 album, El Primer Ministro.

NorteñoBlog’s other discovery: “¿Por Qué Terminamos?”, the only Fuerte song I walk around humming, the one that sounds like a Luciano Luna ballad, IS IN FACT a Luciano Luna ballad. (Luciano Luna and Joss Favela, to be exact.)

Desfile de Éxitos 5/16/15


The charts, and thus NorteñoBlog’s life, are in tumult this week. This is a good thing! Though of course, just looking at the top 10, you might be fooled into thinking the chart remains a tepid pool of stagnancy and age. King Romeo’s blockbuster hit is closing in on two years of proposing indecencies to its poor neighbors, one of whom happens to be King Romeo’s NEW blockbuster hit. (“Propuesta Indecente” has always been at war with “Hilito”?) And yes, the Julión Álvarez ballad going top 10 on Billboard‘s Hot Latin chart is some weak sofrito — but, on the other hand, it’s Julión Álvarez. NorteñoBlog likes him. Just a week ago, he dropped the official video for “El Amor De Su Vida,” and already it’s got three and a half million views. I won’t begrudge him his success with necking music, and I encourage him to release “El Aferrado” as a single cuanto antes.

Further down the list, things get more interesting. Ariel Camacho’s “Te Metiste” is up to #14 overall and #12 on Regional Mexican airplay; not bad for a posthumous ballad played by a sparse, deliberative trio configuration used by nobody else on the radio. El Komander’s “Malditas Ganas” continues to climb, and two songs that are new to the overall list — Enigma Norteño’s racing quartet tune “Calla Y Me Besas” and La Séptima Banda’s swanky, Tower of Power-ish “Bonito Y Bello” — bring as much energy as the songs they replace. Down on the Regional Mexican airplay chart, Recodo’s “Mi Vicio Más Grande” is their skippiest hit in who knows how long.

The Pick to Click is another one that’s new to the airplay chart: “Debajo Del Sombrero” by Leandro Rios ft. Pancho Uresti, whose new career seems to be guesting on everyone else’s songs. It’s two guys talking big to the father of their beloved, trying to convince him their humble ranchera ways render them worthy of his daughter’s affection. It also takes as much pleasure in the act of rhyming as any random song by Sondheim. Although, going through my Spanish rudiments, I’m disappointed the song doesn’t take place in enero, and why doesn’t our heroic caballero own a perro?

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published May 16.

1. “El Perdón” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
2. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (93 WEEKS OLD)
4. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
5. “Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#2 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
6. “Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#1 RegMex)
7. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
8. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B
9. “Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
10. “El Amor De Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#3 RegMex)

11. “Nota de Amor” – Wisin + Carlos Vives ft. Daddy Yankee
12. “Sigueme y Te Sigo” – Daddy Yankee
13. “Me Sobrabas Tu” – Banda Los Recoditos (#6 RegMex)
14. “Te Metiste” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho (#12 RegMex)
15. “Pierdo la Cabeza” – Zion & Lennox
16. “Solita” – Prince Royce
17. “Malditas Ganas” – El Komander (#7 RegMex)
18. “Lejos De Aqui” – Farruko
19. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval (#5 RegMex)
20. “Dime” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#14 RegMex)

21. “Un Zombie A La Intemperie” – Alejandro Sanz
22. “Calla y Me Besas” – Enigma Norteña (#4 RegMex)
23. “Inocente” – Romeo Santos
24. “Perdido En Tus Ojos” – Don Omar ft. Natti Natasha
25. “Bonito Y Bello” – La Septima Banda (#10 RegMex)

“Juntos (Together)” – Juanes

8. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando
9. “Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro

11. “Que Aun Te Amo” – Pesado
13. “Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” – La Maquinaria Norteña
14. “Como Tu No Hay Dos” – Los Huracanes del Norte
15. “Cuando La Miro” – Luis Coronel
16. “Mayor De Edad” – La Original Banda El Limón
17. “Que Tal Si Eres Tu” – Los Tigres Del Norte
18. “Mi Vicio Más Grande” – Banda El Recodo
19. “Debajo Del Sombrero” – Leandro Rios ft. Pancho Uresti
20. “El Quesito” – Omar Ruiz”

“Todo Tuyo” – Banda El Recodo
“Se Me Sigue Notando” – Chuy Lizarraga y Su Banda Tierra Sinaloense
“Eres Tú” – Proyecto X
“Lo Hiciste Otra Vez” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón
“Qué Tiene De Malo” – Calibre 50 ft. El Komander

Desfile de Éxitos 3/14/15


The Hot Latin chart has its fourth #1 in as many weeks. It’s a fatalistic tuba and guitar corrido by a man who just died. This is unusual; but then, the concept of “normalcy” never really applies in the wake of death.

“El Karma” was Ariel Camacho’s first charting single, peaking at #16 on Hot Latin, which is why many news sources linked to it in the wake of his fatal car accident last week. Now it’s destined to remain his signature song. It’s also the first regional Mexican song to top the overall Hot Latin chart since 3BallMTY’s “Inténtalo,” if we’re counting electro-cumbias, or Arrolladora’s “Niña de Mi Corazon” if we’re not. This is mostly due to an increase in streaming and sales — but also, it was a slow week. Hot Latin compiles its tally from a top secret mix of digital sales, streams, and radio airplay. Below I’ve listed (as well as I could find) the tallies from the last four Hot Latin #1s, in the weeks that they reached the top. (Can you use the principles of detection to triangulate Billboard‘s top secret formula?)

“El Karma” – Ariel Camacho
3,000 downloads (#7 Latin Digital Songs)
1.9 million streams
4.8 million audience impressions (#9 Regional Mexican Songs)
(Note that Ricky Martin’s “Disparo Al Corazon” is #1 Latin Airplay with 10.2 million impressions.)

“Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
5,000 downloads (#4 Latin Digital Songs)
?? streams
7.7 million audience impressions (#2 Latin Rhythm Airplay)

“Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
14,000 downloads (#1 Latin Digital Songs)
?? streams (10 million-ish worldwide; not sure how many of these count)
10 million audience impressions (#1 Latin Airplay)

“Bailando” – Enrique Iglesias ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, & the word “contigo” (May 7, 2014, its first week at #1)
13,000 downloads (#1 Latin Digital Songs)
?? streams (27 million views over four weeks; #1 Latin Streaming Songs)
9.5 million audience impressions (#5 Latin Airplay)

As you can see, “El Karma” lags behind the other three in sales and radio play, and fewer people seemed to stream it than they did “Mi Verdad” or “Bailando.” I’m surprised “El Karma” streamed so little, actually, but look — it was just a really slow week. “El Karma” was the only new song in the top 25, and except for it and “El Perdon,” the top 10 looks basically the same as it did two weeks ago. Some of these songs are oooooold. (“Bailando” has always been at war with “Propuesta Indecente.”) The Regional Mexican airplay chart, where “El Karma” climbed back to #9, isn’t much better: new songs by Recodo and Enigma Norteña round out the bottom of the list. Pesado’s new-ish “Que Aun Te Amo” is good ol’ bouncy country, but if you haven’t listened to “El Karma” yet, you owe it to yourself.

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published March 14.

1. “El Karma” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho (#9 RegMex)
2. “Bailando” – Enrique ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, & the word “contigo” (I’M 50! 50 WEEKS OLD!)
3. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
4. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (84 WEEKS OLD)
5. “Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
6. “El Perdon” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
7. “Yo También” – Romeo Santos ft. Marc Anthony
8. “Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#12 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
9. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
10. “Eres Mia” – Romeo Santos (51 WEEKS OLD)

11. “Juntos (Together)” – Juanes
12. “Disparo Al Corazon” – Ricky Martin
13. “Lejos De Aqui” – Farruko
14. “Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#10 RegMex)
15. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
16. “Eres Una Niña” – Gerardo Ortíz (#8 RegMex)
17. “Piensas (Dile La Verdad)” – Pitbull ft. Gente de Zona
18. “Dime” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#5 RegMex)
19. “Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro (#2 RegMex)
20. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando (#1 RegMex)

21. “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Calibre 50 ft. El Komander (#18 RegMex)
22. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B
23. “Mi Vuelvo Un Cobarde” – Christian Daniel
24. “Lo Hiciste Otra Vez” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón (#3 RegMex) (Oh dear, this is not good. Not just sap — meandering sap.)
25. “Mi Princesa” – Remmy Valenzuela (#13 RegMex)



4. “Eres Tú” – Proyecto X
6. “No Te Vayas” – Fidel Rueda
7. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval

11. “Mi Primera Vez” – Jonatan Sánchez
14. “Se Me Sigue Notando” – Chuy Lizarraga y Su Banda Tierra Sinaloense
15. “Entonces Que Somos” – Banda El Recodo (A nada Luciano Luna ballad off Recodo’s 2013 album, now turned into a dramatic short film.)
16. “Que Aun Te Amo” – Pesado
17. “Y Vete Olvidando” – Javier Rosas
19. “Todo Tuyo” – Banda El Recodo
20. “Calla y Me Besas” – Enigma Norteña

“El Amor de Nosotros” – Duelo
“Javier El de Los Llanos” – Calibre 50

Desfile De Éxitos 1/10/15

remmy valenzuela

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published Jan. 10. Things to note:

The New Year’s hangover chart count for “Propuesta Indecente” increases to 75 weeks. While the Hot Latin top 10 seems etched in stone, 11-25 is more lively, thanks to musical rudeness if not the pace of chart turnover.

It’s been three weeks since we last checked these charts. (¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año!) On Hot Latin we say “adiós” to Ricky Martin’s song of the same name, along with songs by Luis Fonsi and Romeo Santos. (Weep not; Santos still has three others in the top 10.) In Regional Mexican, we bid farewell to Jorge Valenzuela, Los Huracanes, La Maquinaria Norteña, and La Adictiva Banda. But hey! — we sometimes like Banda El Recodo, Arrolladora, and Banda Carnaval, and they’re all here with new tunes of varying likability. So is Julión Álvarez, who’s always welcome, even if he’s brought the most boring song (“Dime”) off his latest album as a hostess gift. “It’s already been a hit in México,” he assures us, trying to impress.

Last week while we were reveling, Gerardo Ortiz’s supple bachata + banda ballad “Eres Una Niña” hit #1 on the Regional Mexican chart. This week it falls to Voz De Mando, but we can still revel. Especially since I finally listened to Remmy Valenzuela’s #18 ballad “Mi Princesa,” and it’s pretty good — cut from the ’50s doo-wop school of romance and sung with high drama. Valenzuela, you’ll remember, is a young fleet-fingered corridista, but he cleans up nice for his princesa.

Finally, Regulo Caro’s irresistible blast of smarm “Soltero Disponible” moves up to Hot Latin at #21. Its opulent, tongue-in-cheek video is sort of like Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” only with more breast bling. “Soltero” was notably the only norteño/banda song to make Leila Cobo’s list of the Best Latin Songs of 2014, which we’ll puzzle over later. (Her albums list contains zero regional Mexican, albeit lots of albums I haven’t heard.)

1. “Bailando” – Enrique ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, & the word “contigo”
2. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (I just wanna point out this song is 75 WEEKS OLD, and that maybe someone’s chart methodology needs tweaking.)
3. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
4. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
5. “Eres Mia” – Romeo Santos
6. “6 AM” – J Balvin ft. Farruko
7. “Odio” – Romeo Santos ft. Drake
8. “Y Asi Fue” – Julión Álvarez (#5 RegMex) (Is this man the best banda singer around right now? Or should we forget the qualifier?)
9. “Eres Una Niña” – Gerardo Ortíz (#2 RegMex)
10. “No Me Pidas Perdon” – Banda MS (#14 Reg Mex)

11. “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Calibre 50 ft. El Komander (#9 RegMex)
12. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando (#1 RegMex)
13. “Javier El de Los Llanos” – Calibre 50 (#3 RegMex)
14. “Que Suenen Los Tambores” – Victor Manuelle
15. “Hasta Que Salga el Sol” – Banda Los Recoditos (#10 RegMex)
16. “El Karma” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes Del Rancho (#7 RegMex)
17. “La Bala” – Los Tigres Del Norte (#4 RegMex)
18. “Mi Princesa” – Remmy Valenzuela (#6 RegMex)
19. “Tus Besos” – Juan Luis Guerra 440
20. “Quédate Con Ella” – Natalia Jiménez (Sleek! Horns + electrobeats!)

21. “Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro (#8 RegMex)
22. “Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (snoooooozzzzzz)
23. “Mi Vecinita” – Plan B
24. “Plakito” – Yandel ft. El General Gadiel
25. “Soledad” – Don Omar


11. “Entonces Que Somos” – Banda El Recodo (A nada Luciano Luna ballad off Recodo’s 2013 album, now turned into a dramatic short film.)
12. “Eres Tú” – Proyecto X
13. “Zapatillas Ferragamo” – Meño Lugo
15. “Soy Un Desmadre” – Banda Tierra Sagrada ft. Marco Flores y La #1 Banda Jerez
16. “La Indicada” – Kevin Ortíz
17. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval (What a courtly bunch of hombres.)
18. “Al Estilo Mafia” – Saul El Jaguar ft. La Bandononona Clave Nueva de Max Peraza
19. “Dime” – Julión Álvarez
20. “Lo Hiciste Otra Vez” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón (Oh dear, this is not good. Not just sap — meandering sap.)

Lo Mejor De 2014


At PopMatters you can read my list of the year’s best music — or if reverse-order lists make you feel uneasy, you can just read it here! For the PopMatters list, Matt Cibula, who’s been writing about norteño music longer than I have, added Regulo Caro’s metal-biting Senzu-Rah.

Beware: what follows may contain tubas. Also accordions, clarinets, canned gunfire, protest songs, dance songs, songs about roosters, songs about drug cartels, songs using drug cartels as metaphors to make the singers seem intimidating and/or awesome and/or “authentic,” songs using roosters the same way, and amor. Lots and lots of amor. Any kind of amor you can think of, unless it’s completely unremarkable and pedestrian. That’s not how these singers do amor.

In 2014, norteño quartets and big brass bandas continued to dominate the Mexican music charts, awkwardly named “Regional Mexican” in the U.S. and, somewhat less awkwardly, “Popular” in the motherland. (That’s “Popular” as opposed to “Pop” or “General,” both of which include Ricky Martin. We’re not talking about Ricky Martin.) Nominally these are “country” styles, but they’re a country music that borrows imagery from rap and 100-year-old folk songs, and chord changes from Tin Pan Alley and hard rock. In those regards, this music’s not too different from modern city-slicker pop country. But comparisons will only get you so far, because ultimately norteño and banda are pure pop for their audiences: Mexicans, Latino Americans, and anyone else (hi!) lucky enough to have radio stations (95.5 “El Patrón”!) that allow us to listen along. Not everything below is radio fare, but it’s all grabby like the best pop music. And while understanding Spanish can make listening more fun, particularly when cusswords are involved, it’s certainly not required.


popmatters album1 alvarezJulión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda – Soy Lo Que Quiero… Indispensable – Fonovisa
Indispensable is a shiny pop album in caballero drag. That’s true of most major label banda albums anymore, but this one has an advantage: the best singer on the continent. A young man blessed with a voice dusty as the Sierra, Álvarez sings 12 short songs with a mix of high melodrama and lived-in naturalism. Lead single “Te Hubieras Ido Antes” is a good example — listen to the way his voice tugs against the stately waltz laid down by the banda, falling behind the beat almost immediately. For a delicious moment it’s unclear whether he’ll make it out of the chorus. Eventually he does, big surprise, and goes on to some very happy flirtations with cumbia, corrido, and a woman with “Ojos Verdes” who inspires a gorgeous midtempo love song. “Hoy mi pena ya no duele,” sings Álvarez — “Today my pain doesn’t hurt.” I feel the same way whenever Indispensable is playing.

popmatters album2 rebelionLa Nueva Rebelión – Me Hicieron Mas Fuerte – LR
They’re 26 hours drunk, their songs are full of second hand hoods, and they have very defensive notions of justice and vengeance. Is La Nueva Rebelión the only rock ‘n’ roll band that matters? I don’t wanna overstate my case for the aesthetic achievements of their corrido lyrics, partly because I don’t understand the nuances of Spanish, partly because “aesthetic achievement” only matters if it brings the songs to life. That’s where Rebelión excel. They populate their songs with as lively an assortment of characters and life lessons as Springsteen or Jay-Z or whoever your favorite world creator is. That energy spills over into their music, with the singers harmonizing at crooked intervals, the accordion and bajo sexto filling every bit of sonic space, and the drummer, g-d bless him, flailing like Tommy Lee tearing up a hotel room.

popmatters album3 komanderEl Komander – Cazador – Twiins
With his aviator shades, fealty to country living, and endorsement of la mota, Alfredo Ríos could almost be Eric Church, if Church had Brantley Gilbert’s vocal range and described gangland killings in gory detail. For Cazador, Ríos has dialed down the gore but not the substance abuse. His band plays wonderfully loose and shaggy norteño, augmented by demented horns that jump out of nowhere and sound like they’re two hits away from falling down. Lead song “Toquezones de Cannabis” sets the tone; its abrupt tempo shifts will either make you laugh uncontrollably or start freaking out. Despite having about eight notes at its disposal, Ríos’s voice has charisma to burn. He only fools himself into trying to sing pretty once, on the mariachi ballad “Descansa Mi Amor,” where his ideal of love is a whispering frog.

popmatters album4 torresNoel Torres – La Balanza – Gerencia 360/Sony Latin
Torres’s whirling dervish accordion and propulsive band were musical highlights a year ago. This year’s La Balanza is an unwelcome step toward respectability — it’s a touch less surprising and it flags near the end. But Jesse “El Pulpo” Esquivel is still pounding the skins in a way that makes music writers write things like “pounding the skins,” and Torres stages a couple coups. Coup #1 is hitting the charts with “Amanecí Con Ganas”, a funny scenario involving a spoiled rich girl, her gun-toting father, and an alarmed Torres in the role of profane farm boy Westley. Coup #2, “El Cambio”, pays tribute to Mexico’s autodefensas, the local self-defense militias standing up to cartels and Mexico’s corrupt government. In the U.S., with our overheated 2nd Amendment rhetoric and open carry wingnuts, a song like this might make you cringe. But its anthemic melody is undeniable, and it shows Torres experimenting like few other norteño songwriters.

popmatters album5 guzmanNena Guzman – La Iniciativa – Del/Sony Latin
A forthright singer who lets her brass players take care of the sentimental stuff, Guzman doesn’t do melodrama, or even vibrato. Sometimes she veers close to telenovela territory — playing the other woman in “Yo Soy La Amante”, she cattily reveals her identity to the first woman, then offers to be her assistant — but even then she sounds cheerful and warm. Corralling her small band is a different story. Though tuba, accordion, and bajo sexto are all technically playing the same songs, they’re locked in a battle to see who can improvise the most notes. Using her syllables to keep time, Guzman strides with authority through a solid batch of corridos, love songs, hate songs, and the requisite cumbia.

popmatters album7 recoditosBanda Los Recoditos – Sueño XXX – Disa
You may have seen the advertisements for this album? Like, they were on condom wrappers? Recoditos is one of the most consistent bands around, both in terms of their quality and their sticking to themes. They never release a bad album. They never release a mind-blowing fantastic album. They tend to sing about sex, XXX-rated dreams, drinking, partying, forgetting what happened during drunken parties, and things of that nature. (Also “love,” blah blah blah.) The musicians play their gleaming arrangements with spectacular dexterity. The singers’ personalities jump off the radio. Basically they are Electric 6. Doesn’t it seem like Electric 6 should advertise on condom wrappers?

popmatters album8 castilloMartin Castillo – Mundo de Ilusiones – Gerencia 360/Sony Latin
On the better of his two 2014 albums, Martin Castillo sings, drums, writes corridos, and leads his band with the same aim: attaining the norteño sublime. (Apologies to the late hip-hop scholar Adam Krims.) The first half of Mundo de Ilusiones (Castillo sees deeply) features a banda, and it’s pretty good, peaking early with the minor hit “Así Será”. But Castillo hits his stride on the last six songs when, joined by his quartet, he tosses off one corrido after another. Each song features one instantly memorable melody that Castillo sings over and over, meditating on the nature of illicit power, while around him the band weaves polyphonic tales of its own. This is the sierra of Castillo’s imagination: a complicated tangle of associations bespeaking a force best left implicit.

popmatters album9 favelaAdriel Favela – Mujeres de Tu Tipo – Gerencia 360/Sony Latin
Young Favela has the most soothing voice this side of Glenn Medeiros. In fact, you might have to go back to ‘70s AM radio to find soothingness of this magnitude. The overconfident title song suggests Favela would benefit from spending time with Miranda Lambert’s “Girls”, but his voice is so comforting it’s impossible to dislike him. How do you hate a warm bath? For a while Favela’s second album edges toward classic MOR, with the horns in “Cómo Olvidarla” attempting Tower of Power riffs, and “Murió El Amor” threatening to become “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. But the back half delivers a string of corridos, played by an exceptional band and sung with a warmth not often associated with drug cartel honchos.

Also worthwhile:

Los Tigres Del Norte – Realidades – Fonovisa
Diana Reyes – Mis Mejores Duranguenses – DR
Los Rieleros del Norte – En Tus Manos – Goldfink/Sony
La Adictiva Banda San José de Mesillas – Disfruté Engañarte – Sony Latin


La Nueva Rebelión – “Me Hicieron Mas Fuerte” – LR Music
Lately, certain corrido bands have rocked harder and wilder than most rockers claiming the title. (Like, for instance, Good Time Rockin’ Jack White — his latest is OK, in the way reading someone’s dissertation is OK.) It’s still rare, though, to catch the norteño guys playing songs that would, in any other context, be considered rock music, which makes the title single from La Nueva Rebelión’s latest such a blast. Literally — the video’s body count is high. This manifesto of vengeful resolve opens with a trio texture straight from the Minutemen, and then the accordion kicks in — you always thought the Minutemen needed an accordion, right? The band launches into a power waltz, built on a chord change I think Black Flag once used, with both singers’ voices straaaaaaaaining into the chorus, shouting threats at their haters until the instruments have no choice but to collapse. It’s the most exciting four minutes of music this year. Trigger warning: things don’t end well for the horse.

Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda – “Y Así Fue” – Fonovisa
Julión Álvarez sings his love songs with a smoky warble that makes him sound twice his age. Makes sense, since on paper this hit — rubbing shoulders with Romeo and Enrique on the Hot Latin chart — could be an ace pre-Beatles pop song, complete with those magic changes and a tune that’s unforgettable because it simply follows those chords around. But in the world of banda, those pop chords, along with the band’s relentless syncopated rhythms and the recording’s knifelike sheen, make this song sound utterly contemporary. Think “In the Still of the Night,” only faster, hornier, and hornier — Álvarez and his ladyfriend give it up on the first date, and so they go from there.

El Komander – “Soy De Rancho” – Twiins
Back in April at the EMP Pop Conference in Seattle (home to FM 99.3 “La Gran D”), Professor Josh Kun described how people’s mobility — across borders, or from country to city and back again — is central to the mezcla of genres known as “Regional Mexican.” Alfredo Ríos, “El Komander”, agrees. “Sí, Señor, yo soy de rancho,” he tells a U.S. border official, right before Ríos’s tuba player farts in the guy’s face. Over furious accordion and a ramshackle acoustic waltz, Ríos goes on to describe a ranchera paradise full of singing cocks and weed-covered hills, but also admits his fondness for citified flashy brands and fast cars that may or may not have been afforded by those weed-covered hills. A man for all people! The people agreed, making this his first top 10 hit in the U.S.

Alacranes Musical – “Zapateado Encabronado #3” – A.M.
10 reasons you shouldn’t listen to this song: 1) The video endorses cockfighting. 2) The two drummers, while not explicitly endorsing cockfighting, sure make a lot of scritchy scratchy sounds that may or may not imitate agitated cocks scampering around mid-fight. 3) The song’s repetitive accordion+sax+synth riffs could drive you to drink. 4) I, for instance, am cracking open a bottle of Buchanan’s. Come over! 5) If you get drunk and start messing with cocks, Alacranes Musical will not help clean up your mess. 6) There’s no bass or even tuba in this song, so Alacranes Musical are clearly ripping off “When Doves Cry”, which also had no bass or even tuba. 7) “When Cocks Cry”. This song made me type that. 8) The third installment in a saga is always the weakest. 9) Oh wait, Toy Story. 10) OMG, are you remembering a cockfighting sequence in one of the Toy Story movies? It was like in a flashback, Sarah McLachlan was singing about sad cocks… WHAT ON EARTH AM I THINKING OF???

Gerardo Ortiz – “Eres Una Niña” – Del/Sony Latin
Like Adriel Favela, Ortiz could stand to sit down with Miranda Lambert’s “Girls”, but we’ll cut him some slack since he released his own 16-song masterpiece a year ago. Its third single, a chivalrous offer to kiss the extremities of a young woman until she screams the word “Gerardo”, innovates by sticking bachata guitar into the Sinaloan banda mix. Its melody is long and winding like Ortiz’s gilded tongue. Even though the current face of regional Mexican music isn’t really directing his song at me, it still sets my heart aflutter.

La Trakalosa De Monterrey – “Mi Padrino El Diablo” – Remex
You know the old story. Kid runs away from his abusive dad, falls asleep in a drainage ditch, wakes up to a Companion of Black touching his forehead, and joins a new family: the Devil’s family! What could possibly go wrong? From Faust to Coraline, Robert Johnson to Tom Hagen, the myth finds its way to “Mi Padrino” and its 40-odd-million Youtube views. La Trakalosa mix a small band texture with brass fanfares, an exciting gimmick that became al corriente this year — see also Los Buitres de Culiacán’s best songs.

Calibre 50 ft. El Komander – “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Disa
It’s not often a protest song hits #1 on any chart. But when two of Sinaloan corrido music’s leading flamethrowers teamed up for this ode to free speech, they topped the radio charts in Mexico. Granted, it’s sort of a self-serving protest. Both Calibre and Komander have been fined or banned in various Mexican localities, for the crime of “inciting violence” with their music, when really all they’ve ever tried to incite was the purchase of Calibre and Komander records. So they wrote this song on behalf of all hard-working citizens who enjoy listening to songs about drug murders. They wrote it for YOU! It’s sort of like when Anthrax did “Startin’ Up a Posse”, only much better — the whole thing swings like some fearsome pendular tuba.

Los Horóscopos de Durango – “Las Chicas Malas” – Universal Latin
Having jettisoned duranguense three albums ago, the Terrazas sisters throw themselves into Jenni Rivera mode, putting their banda musicians’ fingers to work as they embark on a wild night of drinking and, if the video can be believed, destructive pillow fights. Sometimes after the song has ended, I can still hear the screaming.

Also worthwhile:

Marco Flores Y La Número 1 Banda Jerez – “Soy El Bueno” – Remex

Banda MS – “Hermosa Experiencia” – Discos Sabinas

Regulo Caro – “Soltero Disponible” – Del/Sony Latin

Los Buitres de Culiacán – “Mejor Soltero” – Sony Latin

Desfile De Éxitos


These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published Dec. 20. Things to note:

The Finnegan’s Wake book club chart count for “Propuesta Indecente” increases to 72 weeks. Speaking of which, King Romeo has four songs in the Top 10. The Hot Latin chart is BOOOOOORRRRIIIIIINNNNNGGGGGG.

On Hot Latin we say adiós to Camila’s “Perdón” and Prince Royce’s “Soy El Mismo.” In Regional Mexican, we show to the door strategically facial-haired Fidel Rueda, young and peach fuzzy Luis Coronel, and Banda Carnaval’s “Manos” — careful, you don’t know where those things have been! Hola to Proyecto X, La Adictiva, and especially Ariel Camacho, hitting both charts with a meditative take on “El Karma,” which also showed up on Noel Torres’s recent album as a shitkicking duet with Voz De Mando. With its careful harmonies and taunting tuba, Camacho’s version sounds way more sinister.

1. “Bailando” – Enrique ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, & the word “contigo”
2. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (I just wanna point out this song is 72 WEEKS OLD, and that maybe someone’s chart methodology needs tweaking.)
4. “Eres Mia” – Romeo Santos
5. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
6. “Y Asi Fue” – Julión Álvarez (#1 RegMex) (Is this man the best banda singer around right now? Or should we forget the qualifier?)
7. “6 AM” – J Balvin ft. Farruko
8. “No Me Pidas Perdon” – Banda MS (#6 Reg Mex)
9. “Odio” – Romeo Santos ft. Drake
10. “Yo Tambien” – Romeo Santos ft. Marc Anthony

11. “Javier El de Los Llanos” – Calibre 50 (#3 RegMex)
12. “La Bala” – Los Tigres Del Norte (#2 RegMex)
13. “Tus Besos” – Juan Luis Guerra 440
14. “Eres Una Niña” – Gerardo Ortíz (#9 RegMex) (Hooray!)
15. “Hasta Que Salga el Sol” – Banda Los Recoditos (#5 RegMex)
16. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando (#4 RegMex)
17. “Que Suenen Los Tambores” – Victor Manuelle
18. “Adios” – Ricky Martin
19. “El Karma” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes Del Rancho (#10 RegMex)
20. “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Calibre 50 ft. El Komander (#17 RegMex)

21. “Quédate Con Ella” – Natalia Jiménez (Sleek! Horns + electrobeats!)
22. “Plakito” – Yandel ft. El General Gadiel
23. “Mi Princesa” – Remmy Valenzuela (#12 RegMex)
24. “Soy Un Desmadre” – Banda Tierra Sagrada ft. Marco Flores y La #1 Banda Jerez (#7 RegMex)
25. “Llegaste Tu” – Luis Fonsi ft. Juan Luis Guerra


8. “Zapatillas Ferragamo” – Meño Lugo

11. “La Indicada” – Kevin Ortíz
13. “El Agüitado” – Jorge Valenzuela
14. “Al Estilo Mafia” – Saul El Jaguar ft. La Bandononona Clave Nueva de Max Peraza
15. “Ahora Por Ley” – Los Huracanes Del Norte
16. “Asi Ya No” – La Maquinaria Norteña
18. “Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro
19. “Eres Tú” – Proyecto X
20. “Disfrute Enganarte” – La Adictiva Banda


diana reyes

Being a duranguense fan has lately felt like being a scorpion at a Sierra Club meeting — everyone runs away when they see you coming, but once they’re safely across the room, they talk about you with condescending pity and acknowledge your vital role. Hence the new compilation from Diana Reyes, Mis Mejores Duranguenses, a promising overview of an important career. Back in ‘04-’05, Chicago duranguense music was the hot sound of norteño, a pared down take on banda with synth horns, faster tempos, unhinged tambora, and a ridiculous dance step all its own. Born in Baja California, with family from Sinaloa, Reyes began her career recording traditional norteño but hopped aboard the Durango bandwagon and released several albums for different labels, including her own DBC. To give you an idea of how bankable this stuff was, her third album for Musimex/Universal was a Christmas album, Navidad Duranguense.

In 2010 Reyes released her best album, Amame Besame, through Capitol Records — back on the majors! Half duranguense, half techno corrido, and all exquisitely produced, it effectively marked the end of duranguense not just for Reyes but for regional Mexican music in general. Former heavy hitters like Grupo Montéz and Alacranes Musical have seen their popularity dwindle and their sound give way to banda pop. (That new Alacranes song, which I shouldn’t in good conscience endorse because the linked video promotes cockfighting, sounds rad.) Los Horóscopos de Durango just up and went banda. Reyes herself returned to norteño for an underwhelming 2011 album, and recently released this power ballad telenovela theme, “Yo No Creo En Los Hombres.” (Hey, me neither.) I won’t vouch for the song, whose horns read more “‘80s Chicago” than any horn-based music you’d actually wanna hear wafting from our fair city, but her husky vibrato remains a powerhouse. As for this new hits album, 20 straight duranguenses will be too many, but Reyes sang them as well as anyone. Aside from making lots of pretty, clattery pop, her music might make lots of people nostalgic for a time when they could reliably hear women’s voices on regional Mexican radio. Let’s hope so.

Also new this week:

Senzu-Rah from singer-songwriter Regulo Caro, whose album last year trafficked in off-kilter songwriting experiments and character studies, while still digging deep into corridos;

Así Te Quiero Yo from Banda Tierra Sagrada, who, if they don’t get sucked into a sarlacc pit of samey banda ballads, might deliver more energetic bad-boy anthems like the album’s lead single “Soy Un Desmadre”;

and a new live comp from Pesado, which’ll probably turn out to be a couple hours of mildly pleasant stodge that you either already own in some other form, or never need to hear again.

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