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Roberto Tapia

La Gran Purga (Desfile de Éxitos 9/2/17)

t3r elemento

It would become known as the Great Purge of 2017. A complex cultural exchange, once teeming with diverse reflections of the human experience, suddenly found itself ruled by a simplistic dictator. Well, ok, not strictly a “dictator” — after all, the people bestowed upon this ruler unprecedented power. But what began as novelty soon turned to tedium, then oppression, as one by one anyone who didn’t resemble our fearless leader began to vanish. To explain away those who disappeared, there was always a reasonable enough excuse. They promoted violence rather than unity. They were part of the old order; there was no room for them in our new, more streamlined era. If they refused to conform to the new paradigm, more supple individuals could easily be found to take their places.

And THAT, amigos, is how we went from having 17 regional Mexican songs on Billboard‘s Hot Latin chart six weeks ago, to only eight-count-’em-eight this week.

17 was already low, but 8/50 is the lowest portion in NorteñoBlog’s almost three-year history. When I started following this particular desfile, eight out of the top 25 was on the low side. The culprit, I’ve hypothesized, is One Song To Rule Them All “Despacito,” which, due to its unprecedented bigness, is sweeping along other songs that have the good fortune to sound like “Despacito.” Sooner or later, once we impeach “Despacito” from its perilous perch, I predict some of the fine radio hits on the Regional Mexican chart will make their way back to Hot Latin, to leaven the eternal boot-stomp of the club bangers.

Hits like…

tal-como-eresLuis Coronel’s mid-tempo puppy-dog banda ballad “Tal Como Eres,” at #20 RegMex airplay, which, in typical Coronel fashion, exalts a woman whose boot he does not feel competent to lick, this time swiping a keening hook from Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” (“Can’t read my, can’t read myyyy…”) Thing is, this usually undistinguished singer has never keened so well, and the brass arrangement is overstuffed with flourishes of its own. You could argue Coronel pioneered the current wave of norteño teen idols, but this is the first time I’ve wondered whether I might enjoy a new Luis Coronel album. VALE LA PENA

Roberto Tapia - Vamos A Darnos Un TiempoEven better is #27, the breakup banda “Vamos a Darnos un Tiempo” by blog favorite Roberto Tapia, who sounds great whether he’s doing backbeat banda pop or more neo-trad waltzes. “Vamos” falls squarely into the latter category, and the guitar-laced horn charts are chunky and violent, blat against blat, the better to depict the emotional violence wreaked by the narrator and his mujer upon one another. Although, when Tapia sails into his upper register to mourn the good times, you never doubt that he at least wants to regret leaving her. Pick to Click!

corona de rosasSince NorteñoBlog has been NorteñoSlacking these past few weeks, a second Pick to Click is in order. At #38 we find two more teen idols, this time from the DEL Records stable of unquestionably well-treated and unexploited performers: Kevin Ortiz, the middling younger brother of Gerardo, and sierreño guitar hotshot Ulices Chaidez. They’re dueting on “Corona de Rosas,” a country-ish story song. A young muchacho leaves the farm to seek his fortune. When he returns home wearing his new, fancy clothes, he finds his padre has died, buried beneath the titular corona. That’s the whole song — but in that simplicity lies all the complexity of the immigration narrative, echoing the apostle Luke’s Prodigal Son story, and even chased with a bit of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” The guitar/horn rhythms of the enhanced sierreño band pull off the same simple/complex trick. Kevin’s best song yet:

Also interesting:
Continue reading “La Gran Purga (Desfile de Éxitos 9/2/17)”

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¡Perros y gatos! ¡Viviendo juntos! (Desfile de Éxitos 5/6/17)

calibre 50

NorteñoBlog’s Pick to Click comes this week from Calibre 50, but it is not the quartet’s smash Top 10 ballad “Siempre Te Voy a Querer,” which does not solve Calibre’s perennial ballad problem — namely, that most of their ballads sound thin and flimsy and threaten to grind to a halt with every bar. Nor is it their #13 airplay hit/Michelob jingle “Las Ultras,” which, since first spotting it on the Mexican charts a couple weeks ago, has admittedly grown on me like so much cheap beer and/or beachfront dressage.

No, you should instead direct your attention to Calibre’s cover of “Volveré a Amar” by the 10-years-late banda singer Valentín Elizalde. The song itself is swanky midtempo heartache with backbeat and doo-wop tuba, a 2004 template for later earworms like Roberto Tapia’s “Mirando al Cielo.” (Or at least, it’s one of the templates: El Coyote beat Elizalde to this particular sound back in the ’90s.) Covering the tune, Eden Muñoz does his best Elizalde impression and sings low in his range, a wise choice — he’s as effortlessly charming as beachfront dressage. When the accordion quartet takes over for the banda during the chorus, the transition is seamless and full, so hats off to whoever recorded and mixed this thing. It’s at #39 airplay and you can find it on Fonovisa’s terrific collection of Elizalde covers, Tributo a Valentín Elizalde, previously covered here.

Also in the news:

— At #4, Christian Nodal‘s debut single “Adiós Amor” continues to win hearts and Youtube revenue. (Closing in on 128 million views!) Last month we covered it at The Singles Jukebox, where I wrote, Continue reading “¡Perros y gatos! ¡Viviendo juntos! (Desfile de Éxitos 5/6/17)”

Estimado Noel Torres…

noel torres

NOEL.

Noelnoelnoelnoelnoelnoelnoel.

We need to talk.

You may be the most gifted corridero of your generation. You play accordion better than almost anyone, certainly better than Gerardo Ortiz, and I even prefer you to Remmy Valenzuela because I can tell it’s you playing, the way you slide around the main notes of the melody on little flurries of fast notes. It’s a performing tic, but it’s a good and versatile performing tic and you don’t lean on it too hard. If this whole singer-songwriter thing dries up, you could become a session pro — just build yourself a studio and punch your genius into the music of people willing to pay for it. Your fingers could even make Luis Coronel albums worth hearing.

Your playing sounds even better in the middle of a band just as good, if not better, than you are. Not only do you hire the best players, but you get them to play as a band, unequaled in power and sheer density of radness per second. Your corridos are like The Avengers: Fight for Culiacán — only filmed in super widescreen, so we can dispense with all those quick cuts and just observe everyone’s awesome deeds at once. You can be Iron Man or whoever, I don’t care. El Pulpo‘s like the Hulk, bashing away on some narco’s private jets inside the booming expanse of a hangar. Whoever plays bass — you should really start crediting them — can be Captain Norteamérica, holding the team together. Is George Ramos OK with being Scarlet Witch, but reborn as a bajo sexto player? His chords mess with everyone’s minds and alter reality and whatnot. Doesn’t matter. The point is, your small norteño bands are overwhelming and absorbing, up there with some of human civilization’s greatest work. We’re talking Guernica, or Ornette Coleman’s album with Pat Metheny.

I understand why you’d wanna sing romantic banda tunes. Continue reading “Estimado Noel Torres…”

The John Mayers We’ve Been Looking For (Desfile de Éxitos 2/20/16)

roberto tapia

Tomen nota: Regional Mexican’s hot streak in the top 25 wanes this week, with Recodo, Séptima, Chuy Lizarraga, and Ariel Camacho‘s “Te Metiste” dropping off the Hot Latin chart. Banda and norteño acts hold down less than half the chart with 11 of the top 25 spots. The nuevo-Sierreño strums of Los Plebes del Rancho occupy two of those with a couple unlikely hits: a love song from 2014 and a new corrido about the head of their record label. If you’re keeping track at home, this extends Ariel Camacho’s death bump to almost a year.

But Los Plebes aren’t the only guitar heroes to chart this week. “Tomen Nota,” the duet between honey-voiced Adriel Favela and photogenic Sierreño badasses Los Del Arroyo, is threatening to take both acts into new territory: the Hot Latin top 20. This is partly thanks to the eye-catching video, in which our watch-enthusiast anti-heroes use their pistols to turn an everyday game of billiards into BUMPER POOL. On the other hand, said video came out last May, which gave it plenty of time to stream its way onto Hot Latin. I’m guessing the previous Pick to Click is hitting now because its increased radio presence, currently #9 on the Regional Mexican airplay chart, is in turn driving even more streams. ¡Sinergia! Continue reading “The John Mayers We’ve Been Looking For (Desfile de Éxitos 2/20/16)”

¡Feliz 2016! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2015!)

2016-copia

Regional Mexican music had as good a year in 2015 as any other style of popular music, but you wouldn’t know it from any music magazine’s year-end coverage. This Mexican-American radio format is only one small musical laboratory within the vast complex of U.S. pop; but figured by their percentages, norteño, banda, cumbia, and Tejano bands released as many great, vibrant singles and albums as their peers in other popular music subgenres. Yet good luck finding this music on year-end lists. Even at Billboard, which provides the best English-language coverage of Mexican music, the list of Top 10 Latin Albums contains only one (very good) regional Mexican album, which came out in 2014. None of the magazine’s Top 10 Latin Songs represent Mexican regional styles. (Shoutout to the New York Times’ Ben Ratliff, though, for getting Remmy Valenzuela’s “¿Por Qué Me Ilusionaste?” into the paper of record.) And never mind year-end coverage — this fun, fascinating music rarely gets covered throughout the year in mainstream publications, although NPR and Annie Correal in the Times are notable exceptions. As is The Singles Jukebox, where Josh writes and where the editors and writers share an expansive definition of “pop.”

This is pop music, dammit! MILLIONS OF AMERICANS LISTEN TO IT.

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

Lo Mejor de 2015: Roberto Tapia, Ariel Camacho, and Natalia Jiménez

natalia jimenez

A TV judge, narcocorridero, and all around country dude gone mainstream, Roberto Tapia has sung backbeat banda before on “Mirando El Cielo” and “Me Enamoré”, two of the decade’s catchiest earworms. (No lie, my kids hate on banda but they were seat dancing the first time they heard “Mirando” on the radio.) He goes a different route on Diferente (Fonovisa), corralling an excellent banda into 10 jumpy arrangements of merciless invention. “Soy Diferente” is a lightning waltz that transforms into an even faster polka, the murmuring brass leaving plenty of space for Tapia’s voice. Lead single “No Valoraste” marches in a stately manner, allowing Tapia to kiss off his ex with tongue-in-cheek decorum. “Dónde Estarás” flirts with bachata; “Besos” lets Tapia sing over just drums and tuba, then interrupts him with jarring tutti passages. In every horn chart you can hear the arrangers cackling with glee.

The last time I heard a tuba take the lead in a love song was in Scoring and Arranging class, when someone gave the low brass a verse of “Wonderful Tonight” for laughs. Decorating the haunting melody of “Te Metiste” (DEL/Sony) like finely wrought iron, Omar Burgos’s sousaphone trades off fills with the late Ariel Camacho’s requinto guitar, and the results are stately and moving.

Natalia Jiménez’s “Quedate Con Ella” (Sony) is irresistible breakup pop that owes as much to ABBA as it does to the mariachi music it streamlines — which makes sense, since Jiménez started off in the trans-Atlantic pop group La 5ª Estación.

Desfile de Éxitos 11/28/15

camacho hablemos

camacho hablemosA couple weeks ago Billboard reported that Ariel Camacho‘s “Hablemos” had debuted at #44 on its Hot Latin chart. This is the same “Hablemos” whose yearning, lovey-dovey video dropped in March of 2014, almost a year before Camacho died; it now has 48 million views. This week the song moves up to #14 Hot Latin and #9 on the airplay chart, and it’s also the title track of a new Camacho album. Hablemos (DEL) contains some previously released songs and some apparently unreleased ones that I wanna call “unearthed,” or “liberated from the vaults,” or maybe “scraped from the studio dustbin.”

Not that Hablemos is a bad album. As Sierreño offshoots go, it’s better than the latest by Los Cuates, because Camacho’s guitar chops and his interplay with Omar Burgos’s tuba elevate his music to its own league. But aside from “Entre Pláticas Y Dudas,” a killer two-year-old corrido that’s this week’s Pick to Click, the whole thing feels a bit lethargic.

Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 11/28/15”

Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK

gerardo birthday

NorteñoBlog doesn’t always Pick to Click, but when I do… sometimes I get it wrong and type “Click to Pick.” This made searching for the previous year’s worth of Picks INTERESANTE.

The Pick to Click began as a shameless ripoff from Charles Pierce’s must-read liberal politics blog at Esquire, as did a couple other, possibly subtler NorteñoBlog tics. (Spot them all! Both! Whatever!) It’s a useful way to highlight the song I enjoy the most in a particular post, so that you the loyal reader don’t have to wade through a pool of Banda MS’s tears to reach the good stuff. Of course, if you enjoy the delectable bouquet wafting from Banda MS’s tears, you can always Click what I don’t Pick, though you’ll run the risk of turning Banda MS happy and then they might run out of Art. Besides current singles, the following list includes some older singles and current album tracks.

Most Picked at three apiece: NorteñoBlog’s probable artists of the year Alfredo Ríos “El Komander” and Marco Flores y #1 Banda Jerez. Banda Cuisillos, Noel Torres, and Chuy Lizárraga each scored two Picks. So did Los Gfez, Pancho Uresti, and Ariel Camacho, though one Pick from each of those three was in a “featured” role. Besides norteño and banda, the list includes cumbias and puro sax stomps, reggaeton and ABBA-schlager, Jenny and the Mexicats and Pitbull, and covers of Johnny Cash and — first up — Shania Twain. Happy Clicking!
Continue reading “Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK”

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”

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