Search

NorteñoBlog

music, charts, opinions

Tag

Remmy Valenzuela

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16

lafourcade

First off, NorteñoBlog congratulates friends of the blog Los Tigres, Natalia Lafourcade, and most charming man alive Pitbull on their recent Grammy wins. Los Tigres’ very good Realidades won for “Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano),” a category that included no Tejano albums but whose name testifies to the lingering power of the Tejano voting bloc. Or at least to the outspoken crankiness of the Tejano voting bloc. (I assume there’s still a Tejano voting bloc.) Lafourcade’s fine Hasta La Raíz tied with Pitty Wap’s intermittently banging Dale for “Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album.” NorteñoBlog woulda picked Maquinaria Norteña for Regional and Bomba Estéreo for Rock/Urban/Alternative — after all, the Bombas excel in all three areas — but these were still respectable and relevant choices.

Next, NorteñoBlog congratulates Espinoza Paz for writing lots of decent, non-sappy songs recently. Paz is capable of biting hilarity — see Marco Flores’s “El Pajarito” and Los Horóscopos’ “Estoy Con Otro En La Cama.” He can also concoct musical experiments that look deceptively simple, like Arrolladora’s “Cabecita Dura” — 120 straight syllables without pause or apparent breath! — and straight up banda bangers like Roberto Tapia’s new single “Vale La Pena.” (That video seems to have fallen off a truck, so watch it while you can.) Back in 2009, after he’d won his second straight BMI songwriter of the year award, Billboard‘s Leila Cobo interviewed Paz, a former migrant worker who doesn’t read music.

Cobo: How would you describe your music?

Paz: Commercial.

True enough; and like most professionals he’s had some bad days at the office, especially in solo work like “Sin Esencia,” a pensive smell-the-fart guitar ballad. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16”

Desfile de Éxitos 10/24/15

will smith

It’s not quite our one-year anniversary — that’ll come next week — but NorteñoBlog has been at this funny business for 51 weeks and in all that time, Billboard‘s Latin charts have always contained a song by either Gerardo Ortiz or El Komander. UNTIL NOW. Well, really until two weeks ago, when Komander’s “Malditas Ganas” dropped off the chart. “Malditas Ganas” entered the chart back in May, hi-fiving Ortiz’s “Eres Una Niña” as it sauntered out and paving the way for Ortiz’s “El Cholo” a week or three later. (NorteñoBlog doesn’t need your fancy “fact checkers.”) And now “Ganas” and “Cholo” are both gone, and NB’s heart is empty, and… ooh, what’s that! New Chuy Lizárraga!

Please note: it’s entirely possible that both Banda MS and Julión Álvarez have been on the charts the entire length of the NB’s existence, much like well-known Methuselan beard “Propuesta Indecente” (116 WEEKS!), but frankly, that last bit of data gathering has plum tuckered me out and I would like to listen to some songs now.

The Hot Latin Top 10 is a complete reshuffle of a month ago. (NOBODY. EVER. GOES. IN. and NOBODY. EVER. COMES. OUT.) So we’ll just skip down to #11, where Bomba Estéreo have repurposed their excellent single “Fiesta” to include a rap by new Bomba Estéreo superfan Will Smith. This isn’t Smith’s first visit to the Latin charts: “Men In Black,” “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” and “Wild Wild West” were all monster hits that received Latin airplay and broke the Hot Latin top 40 back when the Hot Latin chart allowed for such things. (Weirdly, “Miami” doesn’t seem to have received the same bienvenido.) This may, however, be the first time someone has tried to rhyme “mamacita” with “beer-a.” Let’s hope it’s the last. Smith’s other intriguing line is this odd bit of post-coital pride: “Woke up behind her/ No gas in me, I’m a Tesla.” Yo homes, smell you later!
Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 10/24/15”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/29/15

el mimoso

Mexico and the U.S. might not agree on how to end the drug war or where to store El Chapo, but say this for international unity: we both love us some Banda MS. The banda’s uncharacteristically snappy “Piénsalo” continues at #1, both on the Mexican “Popular” chart and on Billboard‘s Regional Mexican chart, which measures U.S. airplay. Within the genre, they occupy the same position Arrolladora did a couple years ago, where any single they release is guaranteed to inundate radio playlists and hang out high on the charts for a couple months. (Not that Arrolladora’s doing badly for themselves lately — see #7 below.) I for one welcome our new romantic overlords and would like to encourage them to play a unity concert for the Supreme Leader of Iran.

New and notable this week:

At #12, Noel Torres’ ballad “Me Interesas” finally enters the Mexican chart, more than a year after topping U.S. airplay. More notable as an accordion hero and corridero, Torres also knows how to do banda romance right, largely because he knows his own voice. Nobody’s ever gonna mistake him for the world’s greatest crooner, so he skimps on the vibrato and instead delivers each lyric with forthright efficiency that cuts through the sentiment. Hearing him grow more confident with ballads has been an unexpected pleasure of following his career. (Don’t confuse “Me Interesas” with El Komander’s “Me Interesa,” returning to this chart at #16 and not nearly so interesante. Nobody’s ever gonna mistake El Komander for the world’s greatest crooner either, but he has fewer coping strategies for ballads.) An unenthusiastic Pick to Click!, then — did I mention this song is really old?

Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/29/15”

¡Nuevo! (starring Noel Torres, Omar Sánchez Omi, y más)

bobby pulido

Well this is the stuff of myth and legend:

Desde el filo de la sierra
Viene la historia que traigo:
Que por esas tierras
Suelta anda una fiera
Entre aquellos pinos altos…

From the edge of the sierra
Comes the story that I bring:
Through those lands
Freely walks a beast
Among those tall pines …

Plenty of corridos begin in a similar manner, of course, establishing their (anti)heroes as larger than life figures. But Noel Torres’s new single on Gerencia 360, “No Andan Cazando Venados” (“Don’t Go Hunting Deer”), opens with knowing mastery of the form. Torres begins by placing himself into the story as storyteller, thus joining the long historical line of corridistas, stretching back not just to Ramon Ayala but to Homer recounting the tales of brave Ulysses. (“Tell me, O Muse…”) Then things get scary. I admit I shuddered when I got to the part about the beast roaming through the tall pines — it’s such a contrast with the folksy opening, and “fiera” arrives at the end of its line with a jolt. Torres reclaims the word’s savagery. (I swear, if I hear one more TV chef tell me he’s “a beast in the kitchen”…) Now I just need to figure out the rest of the song. Something to do with the DEA and big-ass guns. The translation service is limited help in this case.

The song was written by El Diez and Danilo Avilés. El Diez is the shadowy figure who wrote the equally mythic “El Karma,” recorded most iconically by the late Ariel Camacho, but also by Torres and lots of other people. Avilés wrote the second song on Camacho’s El Karma album, and Torres’s arrangement of “Venados” sounds like he’s adapting Camacho’s unusual instrumentation. He takes stripped down passages of requinto guitar solos over lurching tuba, the same dynamic you find in Camacho’s repertoire, and alternates them with full banda sections. Horns replace rhythm guitar. The result is both serious and silly (ay, esos clarinetes), a fitting tribute that also fits with Torres’s swagger. Pick to Click, obviously.

ramon ayalaShould you develop a hankering to delve into corrido history, the Freddie label has released a new Ramon Ayala comp entitled Corridos Famosos. Ayala’s muse speaks to him the tales of brave Gerardo Gonzales, Juanita y Miguel, y otros. No idea how this compares with other Ayala compilations out there.

If we’re already talking (probably) unnecessary cheapo Ramon Ayala reissues, you may have guessed it’s a light week for albums. You’re right! The singles, though, they never stop. Fonovisa has recently sent to radio new work from some of its heaviest hitters. Los Tigres are back with their third Realidades single, the midtempo waltz “Hoy Le Hablo El Diario,” which does the thing where the rhythm section rushes the second beat of every bar so the waltz feels slightly nauseating. In a good way. If you like beards and flannel and don’t wanna move to Seattle, Codigo FN has a slow one out called “Pinche Vieja Interesada,” which is less interesante than its title. Better are the new Proyecto X corrido “5 Letras,” reeling off verse after verse like a gold-plated machine gun eating up magazines, and Remmy Valenzuela’s very stripped-down chiquitita ballad “Menti,” in which his accordion seems capable of breath and thought.

Bobby PulidoBut who needs major label distribution when the internet frontier beckons musicians to simply release their own music? Tejano singer Bobby Pulido has been on the scene since the mid-’90s, and his new “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido” is a likable walking tempo number that could’ve come from Intocable — but does Intocable have its own line of Western wear (see top of page)? I submit that Intocable does NOT.

los grandesThe equally breezy Los Grandes de Tijuana DRANK YOUR LOVE! Just drank it right up. Los Grandes are also ’90s music lifers, and “Me Bebi Tu Amor” has the lazy front-porch-with-squeezebox vibe of Bob Dylan’s Tejano album Together Through Life, still my favorite of his post-’70s catalog.

omar sanchezNorteñoBlog swooned when Gerardo Ortiz mixed up the banda with the bachata in “Eres Una Niña,” and now I hear Omar Sánchez Omi trying something similar on “Tu y Yo.” Rhythmically it doesn’t vary too much from Recodo’s romantic moods, but Sánchez’s voice is husky and swarthy like King Romeo’s and could have some of the same R&B appeal, if enough people hear him. Sánchez used to sing for Chicago’s Alacranes Musical, one of my favorite duranguense bands, and there exists a photo of him dressed up like Santa Claus and standing next to Diana Reyes, so I’m pulling for him.

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2015: Enero – Marzo

marco flores

As you listen to this Youtube playlist, imagine a Regional Mexican station that plays not just regional styles, but disco-fied international variations on those styles. Weirdly enough, the disco-mariachi songs here, while great, are far from the most danceable songs on the list. If you don’t believe me, check out the top video, where Marco Flores and his band create a barrage of anarchic polka moves, including Hiding Behind the Congas, for their banda-fied take on the Zacatecas state’s tamborazo music. Colmillo Norteño aren’t quite as terpsichorially ambitious with the waltz at #2, but they’ve still got moves.

You could call these the year’s best regional Mexican singles, but there’s a catch. “Regional Mexican” here includes Mexicans and non-Mexicans playing their takes on regional styles — norteño, banda, mariachi, and cumbia (not native to Mexico, but nation and format have embraced it), along with minor styles like Tejano, tierra caliente, and duranguense, if we’d found any. It doesn’t include Mexicans playing pop, although most of these songs register for listeners as pop songs. It also doesn’t include any Latinos playing reggaeton, bachata, or salsa, though NorteñoBlog broke that rule last year when Gerardo Ortiz released a full-throated bachata song.

Maybe not so weirdly, this list’s Venn diagram circle for “international interlopers” — Natalia Jiménez, Rocio Quiroz, Jenny and the Mexicats, and Shalia Dúrcal — overlaps perfectly with the circle for “women.” It’s not that women can’t make great music that’s puro Mexicano; after all, we’re observing the 20th anniversary of Selena’s death, the 10th anniversary of Yolanda Perez’s fantastic Esto Es Amor album, and also check out NorteñoBlog’s best of 2014 list. But in the recently dominant styles of norteño and banda, the male gaze and traditional, possibly smothering, notions of chivalry predominate. Women in song lyrics often have the upper hand over their hapless male counterparts — see the hilarious video for “Adicto a La Tristeza” — but the hapless males still make most of the music and money. Though she’s not on this list, check out América Sierra’s “Ponte Las Pilas” for a refreshing exception — she also wrote Ortiz’s latest single, “Perdoname” — and keep your eye on her this year. In the meantime…

1. Marco Flores y La Número 1 Banda Jerez“El Pajarito” (Remex)
We’ve admired before the vitality of Marco Flores‘s dance moves and his voice, a gallo-rific crow that cuts through anything in its path. His take on Espinoza Paz’s “El Pajarito” comes in versions both “sin censura” and, presumably, censura.
Mexican radio hit

2. Colmillo Norteño“La Plebona” (Remex)
A demented rapid-fire circus parade waltz — you like those, right?
U.S. radio hit

3. Natalia Jiménez“Quédate Con Ella” (Sony)
Spanish pop star Jiménez shoots for Mexican mariachi and, with the help of Venezuelan producer Motiff, winds up singing a marvelously square ABBA breakup ballad. She’s having more fun breaking up than she did when they were together. She’s Chiquitita with Fernando’s swagger.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

4. Rocio Quiroz“La De La Paloma” (Ser)
A minor key stomp with its drums slightly off-kilter in that delicious cumbia manner. The guitar tone is like something out of ’80s new wave, and Argentine singer Quiroz sounds great spitting out heartache.
hasn’t charted

5. Alfredo Ríos El Komander“Fuga Pa’ Maza” (Twiins)
Alfredo Ríos El Komander (I guess that’s what we’re calling him now?) continues to fire off charming singles that sound like he wrote them on a napkin and recorded them in the back of the bar. This one makes the theme explicit. It’s a drinking song whose background crowd noises exist as much for their musical energy as their verisimilitude — note how the crowd abruptly shuts up mid-whoop at the end of the song, rather than fading into a jumble of congratulatory high-fives. “Mi vida es pura pura pura borrachera,” Ríos brags, his tuba and requinto (I think) players capering around the bar, spilling everyone’s drinks.
hasn’t charted

6. Grupo Cañaveral ft. Jenny and the Mexicats“Tiene Espinas el Rosal (En Vivo)” (Fonovisa)
Grupo Cañaveral De Humberto Pabón played one of their turn-of-the-millennium cumbias, “Tiene Espinas El Rosal,” in concert. They brought out the little Spanish/Mexican indie band Jenny and the Mexicats to sing it with them. It turns out I’m a sucker for both turn-of-the-millennium cumbias and Jenny and the Mexicats.
Mexican radio hit

7. Shalia Dúrcal“No Me Interesa” (EMI)
The Spanish singer’s latest blends Nashville guitar licks, ranchera horns, and electropulse into something that never peaks but is more compelling for it. Also check out “Has Sido Tú,” a tech-folk-ranchera stomper whose main riff is lifted directly from one of Slash’s solos in “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
hasn’t charted

8. La Trakalosa de Monterrey ft. Pancho Uresti“Adicto a la Tristeza” (Remex)
It turns out Edwin Luna, lead singer of La Trakalosa de Monterrey, is very convincing portraying un “Adicto a la Tristeza.” It helps that his voice chimes like a throaty bell. Luna’s labelmate and guest singer, Pancho Uresti from Banda Tierra Sagrada, is somewhat less convincing because his voice is scratchy. When the woman in the video spurns his advances, he’ll feel nothing and should be able to pick up pretty easily with someone else. High camp.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

9. Los Tigres Del Norte“Qué Tal Si Eres Tu” (Fonovisa)
This study in triplets — the musical figure, not the polyzygotic phenomenon — still sounds better every time I hear it. Any other late ’60s bands still going this strong?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10. Rosendo Robles“Alterado De Corazon” (Rosendo Robles)
A banda waltz of furious excitement and possibly sharp brass sections. Possibly tuned sharp, I should say, although the jagged horn rhythms certainly feel like whirling blades of death, the kind of things you’d contort your shoulders trying to avoid in the upper reaches of a video game.
hasn’t charted

11. La Maquinaria Norteña“Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” (Azteca)
A stomping country polka with some puro Chihuahua sax, by way of New Mexico. I want La Maquinaria Norteña’s logo on my windshield.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

12. Mario “El Cachorro” Delgado“El Rancho” (Garmex)
A sad but swinging protest corrido using chicken farming as a parable about Mexican kidnapping violence, I think. The simple tune is appealing enough, but check out the interplay between bass, guitar, and requinto, alternately locking in together and tugging at the rhythm with passages of loose virtuosity.
hasn’t charted

13. Alfredo Rios El Komander“Malditas Ganas” (Twiins)
Tossed off kiss-off. The eternally loose Ríos sprechtstimmes and casually mentions “Soy De Rancho,” reminding the woman he can’t forget that nobody can forget him these days, either.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

14. Diego Herrera ft. Los Gfez“Es Todo Un Placer” (Remex)
One of those norteño quartet-meets-banda mashups the NorteñoBlog loves.
Mexican radio hit

15. Remmy Valenzuela“Mi Princesa” (Fonovisa)
A dextrous accordion hero puts down his axe to sing a banda ballad with more authority than he’s ever sung before, enunciating to las estrellas. Has any guitar hero ever done so well with a guitar-free power ballad?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10 more good ones:

Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon” (RCA Nashville)
Los Teke Teke – “Me Dite Duro” (Leo)
Nicki Minaj ft. Drake and Lil Wayne – “Truffle Butter” (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic)
Joey Bada$$ – “No. 99” (Cinematic/Relentless)
Sia – “Elastic Heart” (Monkey Puzzle/RCA)
Susanne Sundfør – “Delirious” (EMI Norway)
One Direction – “Night Changes” (Columbia)
Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen” (300)
Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns” (Sony Nashville)
Victor Manuelle – “Que Suenen Los Tambores” (Sony)

Desfile de Éxitos 3/14/15

keep-calm-and-listen-ariel-camacho

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)

¡Adios!
“Adios” – Ricky Martin (BACK FROM TO THE DEAD THIRTIES DEAD)

—————–

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

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

Desfile de Éxitos 2/28/15

chuy lizarraga

Another chart, another week of being contigo and living contigo and dancing cont– what? What’s that? YOU SAY THAT AFTER 41 WEEKS, “BAILANDO” IS NO LONGER NUMBER 1?

[Cue Star Wars clips of the Death Star blowing up, cheesy computer-animated intergalactic societies dancing and partying in its wake. Despair sets in when we realize they’re dancing to a steel drum version of “Bailando.”]

That’s right, Enrique and the gang have been replaced by Maná and Shakira singing a bit of tissue paper called “Mi Verdad.” Say what you want about “Bailando” — and no, I cannot prove it was part of a North Korean plot to make Americans voluntarily destroy all our broadcast technology — but at least it’s memorable. A good teaching tool! If it weren’t for millions of Youtube viewers confirming “Mi Verdad” actually exists, I’d have my doubts.

Don’t shed too many tears for Enrique, though — he’s climbing at #12 on a Nicky Jam track, and anyway, “Bailando” simply moves down to #2, just ahead of the 82-week-old “Propuesta Indecente.” (“Bailando” has always been at war with “Propuesta Indecente.”) King Romeo’s doing OK, too. With his new song “Hilito” climbing to #13, Romeo Santos is getting perilously close to having four songs in the top 10 again. Speaking of which, the Singles Jukebox just covered his duet with Marc Anthony; Jonathan Bogart suggests, “The alleged woman at the center of the lyric is entirely absent: Marc and Romeo spend the entire song preening for and performing at each other, not her.”

Among this week’s new entries, the Pick to Click is Chuy Lizarraga’s banda ballad “Se Me Sigue Notando.” Calling it dramatic is like calling an Applebee’s cocktail watered down, but Lizarraga achieves his drama through the confident relaxation of his pacing. Like, the song’s really slow? And Lizarraga doesn’t seem to care, and in fact he wants you to wonder when the next phrase is going to hit. Just slow down and accept that Chuy knows what he’s doing, and your mind will open to a new realm of romantic despair. (Today’s gringo country comparison is Jamey Johnson.)

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published Feb. 28.

1. “Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
2. “Bailando” – Enrique ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, & the word “contigo” (48 WEEKS OLD)
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (82 WEEKS OLD)
4. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
5. “Eres Mia” – Romeo Santos (49 WEEKS OLD)
6. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
7. “Yo También” – Romeo Santos ft. Marc Anthony
8. “Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#14 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
9. “Disparo Al Corazon” – Ricky Martin
10. “Eres Una Niña” – Gerardo Ortíz (#3 RegMex)

11. “Dime” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#6 RegMex)
12. “El Perdon” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
13. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
14. “Juntos (Together)” – Juanes
15. “Piensas (Dile La Verdad)” – Pitbull ft. Gente de Zona
16. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando (#1 RegMex)
17. “Lejos De Aqui” – Farruko
18. “Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro (#5 RegMex)
19. “Lo Hiciste Otra Vez” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón (#2 RegMex) (Oh dear, this is not good. Not just sap — meandering sap.)
20. “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Calibre 50 ft. El Komander (#13 RegMex)

21. “Adios” – Ricky Martin (BACK FROM THE DEAD THIRTIES)
22. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B
23. “Mi Princesa” – Remmy Valenzuela (#9 RegMex)
24. “Mi Vuelvo Un Cobarde” – Christian Daniel
25. “Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#19 RegMex)

¡Adios!
“Mi Vecinita” – Plan B
“Quédate Con Ella” – Natalia Jiménez (Sleek! Horns + electrobeats!)
“Soledad” – Don Omar

—————–

4. “Eres Tú” – Proyecto X
7. “No Te Vayas” – Fidel Rueda
8. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval
10. “Entonces Que Somos” – Banda El Recodo (A nada Luciano Luna ballad off Recodo’s 2013 album, now turned into a dramatic short film.)

11. “Javier El de Los Llanos” – Calibre 50
12. “El Karma” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes Del Rancho
15. “Y Vete Olvidando” – Javier Rosas
16. “Se Me Sigue Notando” – Chuy Lizarraga y Su Banda Tierra Sinaloense
17. “Mi Primera Vez” – Jonatan Sánchez
18. “Que Aun Te Amo” – Pesado
20. “El Amor de Nosotros” – Duelo

¡Adios!
“Perdoname Mi Amor” – Los Tucanes de Tijuana
“La Indicada” – Kevin Ortíz
“La Bala” – Los Tigres Del Norte
“Hasta Que Salga El Sol” – Banda Los Recoditos
“Y Asi Fue” – Julión Álvarez
“No Me Pidas Perdon” – Banda MS

¿Qué Estamos Escuchando? (Grammys, Remmy Valenzuela, Natalia Jiménez)

Vicente Fernandez at Latin Grammy Awards Backstage

NorteñoBlog would like to issue a correction: In the post entitled “Why Do the Grammys Hate Norteño Music?”, I mistakenly referred to Vicente Fernández’s Mano a Mano: Tangos a la Manera de Vicente Fernández as a “tribute album.” It’s not. Rather, the album is what it says it is: ranchera singer Fernández singing tangos in his own style, with lead bandoneon from Raul Vizzi. It’s a likable little album that peaked at #3 on Billboard‘s Regional Mexican Albums chart and #11 on Hot Latin Albums. Sunday it won the Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (including Tejano). Congratulations!

Of course, Mano a Mano represents the current state of regional Mexican music (including Tejano) somewhat less well than Beck’s Album of the Year-winning Morning Phase represents popular music overall. Never mind how Beck stacks up against Beyoncé — at least his album appeared on TV soundtracks and radio, shaping both music conversations and “the sound of 2014.” (Maybe there should be a Grammy category for “Best Soundtrack to a TV Character Having Epiphanies About Life.”) Compared to the list of overall Album of the Year winners, Fernández’s album is closer to Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters — an undeniably well-performed and polite museum piece that everyone can now safely ignore.

Not to be ignored is accordion hero Remmy Valenzuela, singing “Mi Princesa” to a young woman whose tipo just cheated on her at the Orpheum Theater. Remmy saw it all from the stage. We covered the song at The Singles Jukebox, where I wrote:

A dextrous accordion hero puts down his axe to sing a banda ballad with more authority than he’s ever sung before, enunciating to las estrellas. Noel Torres would farm this kind of thing out to the likes of Luciano Luna, norteño’s own Diane Warren figure, but Valenzuela wrote “Princesa” himself and he’s smart about it, intuiting how the brass will clobber the high points in his melody. (I don’t care how fleet his fingers are, this thing would sound thin with just his quartet.) Has any guitar hero ever done so well with a guitar-free power ballad?
[7]

More cheating in Natalia Jiménez’s “Quédate Con Ella,” which the Jukebox liked more. Abby Waysdorf heard schlager; John Seroff and I both heard ABBA, which some days is the same thing. I wrote:

Jiménez shoots for Mexican mariachi and, with the help of Venezuelan producer Motiff, winds up singing a marvelously square ABBA song. “Square,” that is, in its perky chorus beat and tune; devoid of anything resembling R&B, “Quédate” stands out on a Hot Latin chart full of bachata and reggaeton. And “square” in Jiménez’s insistence that the Other Woman play house in every sense of the phrase — iron her ex’s clothes, make his toast, etc. What’s not square is her singing: Jiménez inhabits the song with giggly triumph, just as “Jajaja” into “LOL” is a triumph of Google Translate. She’s having more fun breaking up than she did when they were together. She’s Chiquitita with Fernando’s swagger.
[7]

Los Maestros de CHOPS

accordion

Noel Torres – “Para Qué Tantos Besos”

You know the scene in Don’t Look Back where Donovan and Dylan are exchanging songs in a hotel room? And Donovan sings the perfectly innocuous “To Sing For You,” to which Dylan responds with a scathing rendition of “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”? And he looks directly into the camera and sings with exaggerated diction the couplet, “Yonder stands your orphan with his gun/Crying like a fire in the sun“? And you don’t know whether he’s putting you on, reveling in the singularity of his word choices, sharing an inside joke with D.A. Pennebaker, or simply casting about for some way — any way — to sell a song? That’s the sense I get from Noel Torres when he over-enunciates his way through ballads these days. True, Luciano Luna doesn’t write with the colorful precision of “Baby Blue” — he’s more in the ballpark of “Make You Feel My Love” — but Torres is bringing that precision to singing Luna’s ballads, which may be even more important.
VALE LA PENA

(In the video for “Besos,” Torres fantasizes about making out with a hottie in a variety of scenarios, totally ruining her bowling and billiards games in the process. Turns out it was all a dream, she’s marrying somebody else, and Torres is stuck at her real-life wedding with a cheerful but far less bosomy woman. I’m certain this is a metaphor.)

Long-time readers will know that NorteñoBlog admires Torres for his accordion playing even more than his singing. He owns his sound; at PopMatters I wrote:

When playing his own songs, which is usually, [Torres] arranges them into short masterpieces of precision and control. He tosses off riff after riff, their notes connected by chromatic flurries, then hits startling passages of kickass mind-meldery with the rest of the band while he’s singing.

That is, he’s precise, controlled, and tossed-off, the sweet spot for much pop music, if not Western music in general. It’s stomp and swerve; or, as they used to teach us in classical piano lessons, technique and expression. This isn’t a dichotomy or a balance so much as a tug of war, and if you’re playing an instrument, the tug of war conveys the tight switchbacks of human thought better — that’s to say, with more convincing illusion — than either wind-up-toy virtuosity or lazy splats of rubato. And yes, it’s always an illusion. You’re not gleaning the innards of Torres’s mind directly from air moved through the folds of his squeezebox or voicebox, but heaven know he makes you believe you are.

(The rockist should note that electronic music, while using different techniques, can create the same virtuosic illusions — for instance, the hilarious timing effects in New Order’s “Blue Monday.” And sometimes “conveying human thought” isn’t the goal so much as “conveying utter alienation from human thought.” But I rarely go in for dystopian shit.)

In this spirit have I grappled with last year’s album by Remmy Valenzuela, De Alumno a Maestro (Fonovisa). Valenzuela is a corridista in Torres’ mold: he writes, sings, and leads the band, but mostly he plays his accordion like a beast. He’s got some good songs, too. His radio hit “Te Tocó Perder” switches tempos confidently, something you rarely hear on the radio; the breezy dance tune “El Borracho” sounds like something Kenny Chesney could adapt from his old blue chair. (Assuming he can get Google Translate on the beach.) If I were judging conjunto contests, Valenzuela would receive the one-plus rating his fingers so richly deserve.

In the comments of his ratings sheet, though, I would advise him to avoid turning into DragonForce. Valenzuela has yet to make his accordion and singing speak for themselves; right now all the accordion really says is, “I can play faster than whoever the DJ plays next.” That’s something. But it’s not the same as Torres’s trademark riffs — notes connected by chromatic flurries — that say, “Not only can I play faster than the next guy, but SOY NOEL TORRES; Y YO SOY EL AMO.” Valenzuela and his skilled, polite band sound like they want pats on the head; Torres and his bunch make you wanna cover your head.

Still, Valenzuela’s album is fun and merits a polite VALE LA PENA.

In the most recent issue of revista Triunfo, a third young turk named Alfredo Olivas shows that he grasps the issue, which I’ll shorthand “Should a Virtuoso Have a Personality?” He says, “A lo mejor no soy a mejor, pero sí tenemos un estilo ya muy marcado.” — roughly, “Maybe I’m not the best [accordion player], but we have a style all our own.” Listening to his 2011 album Así Es Esto (Fonovisa) and his new one Privilegio (Sahuaro/Sony), he may have a point. Granted, back in 2011 his style’s most distinctive technique was a sound many (read: “zero”) accordion experts call “sawing.” Since then he’s developed more finesse and his singing has gained authority, especially for a young guy. (Olivas is 20 but he sounds about twice that.) So far Privilegio is the year’s highest profile norteño release, but I still need more time with it.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑