Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

Anuncios de Servicio Publico

My apologies for the title if it's bad Spanish--it's the only response I got to an email I sent out to four friends asking how to say "public service announcement" in that increasingly important language. Let me make clear as well that the list that follows should not be taken as hand-wringing or guilt-tripping about what I or you are missing. Romantic ballads in Spanish almost invariably embrace a floridity I can't imagine enjoying in any language, and in general, I get more out of pop songs when I know what their lyrics are, which is pretty hard in a language you don't understand. There may be a find or two for me in the list, but it's not like I think I've just discovered a new continent. Adjudging me a world kind of guy, Rolling Stone once assigned me a Juanes album; I liked it so little the project was abandoned by mutual agreement.

Nevertheless, while scrolling through 51 pages of albums certified gold, platinum, and (the increasingly rare) multiplatinum since 2006, I could not but be struck by the large number of newly certified "Latin" artists I'd barely or never heard of. I was aware of the growth of this audience/market, of course, and suspect that some of these artists are being welcomed into the RIAA fold retroactively. But I thought a simple naming of 91 names might make these truisms more vivid for you, as writing them down did for me. Names marked with an * are ones whose music I've consciously heard (jukeboxes in Puerto Rico have surely introduced me to others unawares); those with an !! are artists whose number of albums or platinum multiples suggest that they are BIG. Pardons in advance for the inevitable transcription errors. Ahem:

Pepe Aguilar, Akwid*, Alacranes Musicales!!, Alegres de la Sierra, Alexis and Fido, Ricardo Arjona, Aventura!!, Hector Bambino, Ana Barbara, Bebe, Graciela Beltran, Bety y Sus Canaris, Miguel Bose, Bronco, Cafe Tacuba*, Calle 13*, Cristian Castro, Manu Chao*, Chayanne!!, Conjunto Atardecer, Conjunto Primavera!!, Celia Cruz*, Daddy Yankee*, Dareyes dela Sierra, Oscar de la Hoya (huh?), Duelo, Tito El Bambino, El Patro de Sinoloa, Valentin Elizalde, Vicente Fernandez!!, Luis Fonsi, Ana Gabriel*, Kany Garcia, Grupo Innovacion, Jean Luis Guerra*, Enrique Iglesias*, India*, Inquietos de Norte, Ivy Queen (I think--they're on Univision, a Latin label), Jaunes*, K-Paz de la Sierra, La 5A Estaction, La Arrolladora Banda El Lima, La Factoria, Hector Lavoe*, Los Creadorez, Los Cuates de Sinaloa, Los Enanitos Verdes, Los Originales de San Juan, Los Pikadientes de Caborca, Los Primos de Durango, Los Rieleros del Norte, Los Super Reyes, Los Temerarios, Los Tigres del Norte*!!, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Eddy Lover, Mana*!!, Victor Manuelle, Ricky Martin*, Mercyme, Luis Miguel!!, Montez de Durango, Tito Nieves, Don Omar, Yolanda Perez, Pesado, Rakim y Keny, RBD, Reik, Diana Reyes, Jenni Rivera, Lupilla Rivera, RKM y Ken-y (cf. Rakim y Keny just above), Paulina Rubio*, Adan Salina Sanchez, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Alejandro Sanz*, Joan Sebastian, Marco Antonio Solis!!, Olga Tanon, Tierra Cali, Gloria Trevi, Tropical Fantasia, Sergio Vega, Julieta Venegas, Alicia Villareal, Wisin y Yanda!!, Xtreme, Yuridia.

Like I said, no guilt-trip intended. No Enjoy the Culture of Your Neighbors camp counselor BS. Still, isn't there a story here? The almost nonexistent coverage of this music in the English-language press has long been a source of understandable ire among its fans. An informative overview of a world that for many white American Anglophones is hidden in plain hearing would be such a boon. I'd love to read a simple annotated list saying in a sentence or two who these artists are, where they're from, and in the most general way what they sound like. If a few have outreach potential, great. Me, I've never gotten Cafe Tacuba after too much trying (even attended a concert once), but I'm a pretty big Manu Chao fan, and you can find Calle 13 in the Consumer Guide that just went up. So more would be nice--more usually is. And if the more is just knowledge, not music, so be it. Soembody do this piece.


By Chuck Eddy on February 2, 2009 7:07 PM

Hey Bob -- haven't seen anybody quite come up with the concise and complete annotated list you're asking about, but it's worth mentioning that Leila Cobo and Ayala Ben-Yehuda at Billboard write regularly about the acts mentioned above every week, and frequently tend to say smart things. (Off the top of my head, just from my tenure there, I can pinpoint a number of Regional Mexican acts, a few Reggaetons and Tropicals, and a couple borderline Rock En Espanols, but I'll leave it to somebody more versed than myself to provide an artist-by-artist breakdown.)

By suburban dc guy on February 2, 2009 8:03 PM

The Dominican Republic's Juan Luis Guerra went to the Berklee School of Music (but don't hold that against him) and is known for his updating of bachata and sometimes for merengue. I like the way he mixes his horn-propelled funkiness with pop melodies. He also does ballads and plays to thousands of people in places like DC and elsewhere. I understand that lately he's been emphasizing his Christianity in some lyrics.

Wisin y Yandel are reggaeton. Ivy Queen is a longtime female reggaeton vocalist. Mexican Marco Antonio Solis emphasizes schmaltzy ballads, 1970s style soft rock, and cowboy hat Norteno numbers. He is enormously popular. Julieta Venegas is a catchy Mexican pop singer who plays accordion and used to sound more new wave artsy. Victor Manuelle and Giberto Santa Rosa are 2 of the most popular current salsa singers. Former Voice and NY Times writer Peter Watrous writes about salsa cds at and is a blog that covers norteno and other Mexican and Tex-Mex styles

By Chuck Eddy on February 3, 2009 4:14 PM

A poster who calls himself Rockist Scientist, on an I Love Music thread about Latin music where I posted a link to your question: