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:


Here's a real time attempt (but these aren't going to be sentences necessarily, so I realize this isn't the response he was looking for--I'm doing this for my own amusement)):

Pepe Aguilar (don't know), Akwid* (Mexican or Mexican-American rapper, I think), Alacranes Musicales!! (don't know), Alegres de la Sierra (don't know--sounds Mexican), Alexis and Fido (Reggaetoneros, presumably Puerto Rican), Ricardo Arjona (don't know), Aventura!! (pop bachata), Hector Bambino (Puerto Rican reggaeton), Ana Barbara (don't know), Bebe (don't know, but sounds familiar), Graciela Beltran (I should know this--is this the Machito Graciela or someone else?), Bety y Sus Canaris (don't know), Miguel Bose (don't know), Bronco (unless this was a Fania reissue that sold well, I don't know--but there was an older salsa band called Brocno), Cafe Tacuba* (rock en espanol), Calle 13* (reggaeton/Latin alternative), Cristian Castro (don't know), Manu Chao* (that guy, who I think is actually Spanish, right?), Chayanne!! (d/k), Conjunto Atardecer (d/k), Conjunto Primavera!! (d/k), Celia Cruz* (the starred ones he knows, I guess), Daddy Yankee*, Dareyes dela Sierra (d/k), Oscar de la Hoya (huh?) (d/k), Duelo (d/k), Tito El Bambino (Puerto Rican reggaeton), El Patro de Sinoloa (d/k), Valentin Elizalde (d/k), Vicente Fernandez!! (norteno, right?), Luis Fonsi (name very familiar but don't know), Ana Gabriel* (Mexican--mariachi, maybe other styles), Kany Garcia (d/k), Grupo Innovacion (d/k), Jean Luis Guerra* (boring poetic bachata/Christian Latin music), Enrique Iglesias* (I still don't really know what this guy sounds like), India* (anyway I'm skipping the starred ones), Inquietos de Norte (d/k), Ivy Queen (I think--they're on Univision, a Latin label) (la reina del reggaeton, Puerto Rican), Jaunes*, K-Paz de la Sierra (Mexican, poppy banda mixed other stuff?), La 5A Estaction (d/k), La Arrolladora Banda El Lima (d/k), La Factoria (d/k), Hector Lavoe*, Los Creadorez (d/k), Los Cuates de Sinaloa (d/k--I assume these bands with Mexican place names in their names are Mexican), Los Enanitos Verdes (d/k), Los Originales de San Juan (d/k), Los Pikadientes de Caborca (d/k), Los Primos de Durango (d/k), Los Rieleros del Norte (d/k), Los Super Reyes (d/k), Los Temerarios (d/k), Los Tigres del Norte*!!, Los Tucanes de Tijuana (d/k), Eddy Lover (d/k), Mana*!!, Victor Manuelle (salsa, often considered "salsa monga" (or soft or literally "retarded" salsa) but considered a legit. sonero by some--also does some Latin pop, Puerto Rican), Ricky Martin*, Mercyme, Luis Miguel!! (I forget), Montez de Durango (d/k), Tito Nieves (primarily salsa, but has charted with Latin house and recorded in some other genres, Puerto Rican), Don Omar (Puerto Rican reggaeton), Yolanda Perez (Mexican pop banda--did those bandaton songs that I liked and only discovered thanks to Chuck), Pesado (d/k), Rakim y Keny (reggaeton--like any name that looks kind of like that), RBD (Latin pop? or just very watery rock en espanol?), Reik (d/k), Diana Reyes (d/k), Jenni Rivera (d/k), Lupilla Rivera (d/k), RKM y Ken-y (cf. Rakim y Keny just above), Paulina Rubio*, Adan Salina Sanchez (d/k), Gilberto Santa Rosa (salsa, often on the salsa romantica/salsa monga side of things, but clearly a strong talent in more traditional styles of the music, Puerto Rican, frequently collaborates with Victor Manuelle on various recording projects), Alejandro Sanz* (Spanish, right?), Joan Sebastian (d/k), Marco Antonio Solis!! (Mexican pop of some sort, not too bad), Olga Tanon (merengue, though I believe she is from Puerto Rico), Tierra Cali (d/k), Gloria Trevi (d/k), Tropical Fantasia (d/k), Sergio Vega (d/k), Julieta Venegas (I know who she is but I'm not even sure where she is from--probably Mexican?), Alicia Villareal (d/k), Wisin y Yanda!! (that's YANDEL--Puerto Rican reggaeton, now doing bad house music with increasing frequency), Xtreme (pop reggaeton very much in the Aventura vein), Yuridia (up and coming Mexican pop singer).

-- _Rockist__Scientist_, Tuesday, 3 February 2009 23:13

I'd be willing to bet at least half my "don't knows" are Mexican acts.

-- _Rockist__Scientist_, Tuesday, 3 February 2009 23:14

I don't think most fans, as opposed to professional experts, could identify the whole gamut. "Latin music" includes disctinct musical worlds. (I'm not suggesting anybody involved here doesn't know that.)

-- _Rockist__Scientist_, Tuesday, 3 February 2009 23:28

By nina on February 3, 2009 4:47 PM

Alexis y Fido are a reggaeton duo from Puerto Rico who do a pretty lighthearted, sexual style of reggaeton. They make music to "perreo" (dance doggy style) to.

Aventura is a group of Dominican American men who sing an updated urban, hiphop and r&b influenced style of the Dominican genre called bachata. Lots of sad singing and plaintive guitar with a touch of street.

Daddy Yankee is a Puerto Rican reggaeton artist who has, to me, a bland voice but makes songs that are pretty catchy and fun to dance to. Even non latinos have heard of 'Gasolina.'

India aka La India is a Nuyorican who began singing freestyle then became a salsa singer, she tends to sound a bit screechy, but is well loved.

La 5ta Estacion is an alternative group that makes some cool rock-y power ballad angsty songs.

Ivy Queen is the most successful reggaeton artist, she hails from Puerto Rico and is known for her very long fingernails and her rough almost masculine voice.

Hector Lavoe is perhaps the most successful salsa singer ever. Originally from Puerto Rico he became famous in the late 60's in NYC singing salsa with Willie Colon. He has a rather nasal but very emotionally expressive voice and I would say he is THE most beloved salsa singer with Mainland Puerto Ricans.

Victor Manuelle is a Puerto Rican salsa singer who sings in a romantic style, he has potential to be a true sonero (one who doesnt sing set lyrics, but improvises) but despite being extremely popular, hasnt won the hearts of hard core salsa fans.

Ricky Martin is a very popular singer of pop music and is from Puerto Rico. He was once a member of Menudo. He alternates pop and more traditional Puerto Rican sounds in his music.

Don Omar is a Puerto Rican reggaeton artist who has a very aggressive hypermasculine sound, even when he is singing one of his soulful reggaeton ballads.

Tito Nieves is a salsa singer of Puerto Rican heritage who was awesome when he began but has softened his style and now sings a more subdued sort of salsa romantica.

RKM and Ken-Y are Puerto Rican reggaeton artists who sing a lighter fluffier version of reggaeton with a lot of singing and romantic stuff.

Gilberto Santa Rosa is a puerto rican salsero who can be very good but can also lean heavily toward schmaltz, he is known as the Gentleman of Salsa.

Olga Tanon is from Puerto Rico and sings merengue, although the genre is Dominican in origin.

Wisin y Yandel are an extremely popular reggaeton group from Puerto Rico. Their music is hypersexual and hyperaggressive and their videos are sure to feature scantily clad women, male posturing and a ton of blinblin.

xtreme is an urban bachata group like Aventura and they sing an even softer more Americanized version of romantic bachata.

By nina on February 3, 2009 5:26 PM

Rocket Scientist sent me here. :) His list is good. He got some that I missed, its a long list so I skipped the ones that didnt really interest me much.

Juanes (Jaunes) is amazing, by the way. I love him. Colombian rocker who uses some tradional sounds to keep things interesting.

JLG has made some nice stuff, but there are class issues as bachata is gutter music and he isnt from the gutters. Aventura, though not musically traditional, share the roots of the original bachateros- young. black, street.

KPaz did the song for my favorite novela- Al Diablo con Los Guapos.

Gloria Trevi was the Latin Madonna for a few till she had some DRAMA.

By nina on February 3, 2009 5:57 PM

By the way, I will add a few things intended to cause guilt. I am of the camp that says salsa as a genre as we know it was created not in Cuba but in New York. How amazing is that? A foreign language musical genre that has worldwide popularity and created RIGHT HERE in the US?

I mean, its one thing if your neighbors are playing some music by their favorite artists from back home. But Hector Lavoe, La India, Aventura are making this RIGHT here in the US of A. (Ok, "was making" in Hector's case.) This is AMERICAN MUSIC.

By Chuck Eddy on February 5, 2009 1:48 PM

Another breakdown, from an ILM person who posts under the name unperson (actually, he incorporates the ones Rockist Scientist already sent, and fill in other blanks):

  • Pepe Aguilar (major figure in mariachi, though I don't like his voice)
  • Akwid* (Mexican-American twin rappers)
  • Alacranes Musicales!! (pop norteño; I don't like 'em)
  • Alegres de la Sierra (don't know--sounds Mexican)
  • Alexis and Fido (poppy reggatoneros)
  • Ricardo Arjona (a balladeer, I think)
  • Aventura!! (pop bachata - hate these guys)
  • Hector Bambino (Puerto Rican reggaeton)
  • Ana Barbara (big florid ballads)
  • Bebe (Spanish alt-rock pissed off chick w/touches of flamenco)
  • Graciela Beltran (ranchero/mariachi singer)
  • Bety y Sus Canaris (don't know)
  • Miguel Bose (Spanish pop singer, has also acted in an Almodovar movie or two)
  • Bronco (I think he's referring to a norteño band)
  • Cafe Tacuba* (rock en espanol)
  • Calle 13* (reggaeton/Latin alternative)
  • Cristian Castro (pop balladeer, I think)
  • Manu Chao* (Spanish or gypsy or something - hate him but liked the first Mano Negra album)
  • Chayanne!! (pop balladeer)
  • Conjunto Atardecer (d/k)
  • Conjunto Primavera!! (d/k)
  • Celia Cruz* (well, duh)
  • Daddy Yankee* (well, duh)
  • Dareyes dela Sierra (d/k)
  • Oscar de la Hoya (didn't know he put out an album?) (d/k)
  • Duelo (d/k)
  • Tito El Bambino (Puerto Rican reggaeton)
  • El Patro de Sinoloa (d/k but can presume norteño)
  • Valentin Elizalde (norteño)
  • Vicente Fernandez!! (the motherfucking KING/GODHEAD of norteno)
  • Luis Fonsi (pop balladeer)
  • Ana Gabriel* (Mexican - sometimes mariachi, sometimes goopy ballads)
  • Kany Garcia (Mexican singer-songwriter, alt-pop division)
  • Grupo Innovacion (d/k)
  • Jean Luis Guerra* (boring poetic bachata/Christian Latin music)
  • Enrique Iglesias* (boring bilingual pop)
  • India* (80s club queen gone salsa)
  • Inquietos de Norte (d/k)
  • Ivy Queen (la reina del reggaeton, Puerto Rican)
  • Juanes (hate this guy)
  • K-Paz de la Sierra (Mexican, poppy banda mixed other stuff?)
  • La 5A Estaction (alt-rock from Mexico or maybe Spain)
  • La Arrolladora Banda El Lima (d/k)
  • La Factoria (pop reggaeton w/two female vocalists)
  • Hector Lavoe (well, duh)
  • Los Creadorez (norteño - saw a video by these guys the other day)
  • Los Cuates de Sinaloa (d/k--I assume these bands with Mexican place names in their names are Mexican)
  • Los Enanitos Verdes (alt-rock, kinda fun in a Dead Milkmen/Blink 182 way)
  • Los Originales de San Juan (d/k)
  • Los Pikadientes de Caborca (d/k)
  • Los Primos de Durango (norteño)
  • Los Rieleros del Norte (d/k)
  • Los Super Reyes (some weird mix of cumbia and clubtronica)
  • Los Temerarios (norteño/Tejano)
  • Los Tigres del Norte (norteño - I have 38 albums by these guys in my iPod)
  • Los Tucanes de Tijuana (more norteño - I own two 2-disc best ofs)
  • Eddy Lover (reggaeton)
  • Mana (the Nickelback of rock en español)
  • Victor Manuelle (salsa, often considered "salsa monga" (or soft or literally "retarded" salsa) but considered a legit. sonero by some--also does some Latin pop, Puerto Rican)
  • Ricky Martin (bilingual pop)
  • Mercyme (d/k)
  • Luis Miguel!! (Mexican pop balladeer)
  • Montez de Durango (d/k)
  • Tito Nieves (primarily salsa, but has charted with Latin house and recorded in some other genres, Puerto Rican)
  • Don Omar (Puerto Rican reggaeton)
  • Yolanda Perez (Mexican pop banda - never heard her)
  • Pesado (d/k)
  • Rakim y Keny (reggaeton--like any name that looks kind of like that)
  • RBD (Latin pop? or just very watery rock en espanol?)
  • Reik (Mexican alt-rock, ballad division)
  • Diana Reyes (d/k)
  • Jenni Rivera (sort of a Tejano Mary J. Blige)
  • Lupilla Rivera (I know the name but can't remember the sound)
  • Paulina Rubio (Mexican pop - totally insane and awesome)
  • Adan Salina Sanchez (d/k)
  • Gilberto Santa Rosa (salsa, often on the salsa romantica/salsa monga side of things, but clearly a strong talent in more traditional styles of the music, Puerto Rican, frequently collaborates with Victor Manuelle on various recording projects)
  • Alejandro Sanz* (Spanish pop balladeer)
  • Joan Sebastian (d/k)
  • Marco Antonio Solis!! (Mexican pop of some sort, not too bad)
  • Olga Tanon (merengue, though I believe she is from Puerto Rico)
  • Tierra Cali (d/k)
  • Gloria Trevi (Mexican pop, super sexy in her heyday but now post-prison not lookin' so hot)
  • Tropical Fantasia (d/k)
  • Sergio Vega (d/k)
  • Julieta Venegas (Mexican alt-rock)
  • Alicia Villareal (Mexican balladeer)
  • Wisin y Yandel!! (Puerto Rican reggaeton, now doing bad house music with increasing frequency)
  • Xtreme (pop reggaeton very much in the Aventura vein)
  • Yuridia (up and coming Mexican pop singer).

By Andrew Casillas on February 7, 2009 1:57 PM

As a Mexican-American former pop critic, the main thesis of this piece is a source of constant frustration for me. There IS a worthwhile piece regarding the unexamined popularity of this music, but you're never going to find a mainstream outlet that will cover it with real depth. A few music webzines have made efforts to at least review SOME Latin pop music (including my former employer Stylus Magazine, which allowed me to not only review Latin records, but write full length pieces such as (GRATUITOUS SELF-PROMOTION ALERT) this:

As for the blogging world, only the (NON-SELF PROMOTION) website Club Fonograma seems to do a thorough job chronically the Latin music scene for a primarily American audience. However, if you really want to explore this scene, the best bet is just to watch more Spanish language TV - mainly because OUR music video channels ACTUALLY PLAY MUSIC VIDEOS. And they're on most basic cable/satellite TV listings.

Also, if I may editorialize one of the artists you were unfamiliar with: Julieta Venegas is a Mexican pop-rock artist who began recording in the late 1990s. She began as a songwriter and sometimes band member of a seminal Mexican punk band (Tijuana No!), before moving on to a solo career that veered from eclectic Tori Amos-disciple ("Aqui") to alterna-rock Goddess ("Bueninvento", her masterpiece, and one of the more complex rock albums of the decade) to pop-star for the masses (her last two studio LPs). However, the key aspect of her work is her subtlety both lyrically and musically. Her work seems simple on its surface, but if you take the time to gauge her lyrics/instrumentation, you can see that even the most transparent works have shades of grey and uncertainty to them. She has made it her M.O. to completely subvert whatever stylistic choice that she chooses to undertake. "Does this song sound angry? Let's make the lyrics incomprehensible!" "Does this sound like a love song? Let's have the chorus say how bullshit love songs really are!" And the whole time she'll do it with a smile on her face. Her MTV Unplugged disc may be the best survey of her work, but it certainly doesn't carry the same weight without hearing the original versions.

I am not affiliated with Julieta Venegas, nor on her payroll. Although I did hug her once outside of a show. But she's one of the greatest pop musicians of the past decade. One worth seeking out for the uninitiated, if you like pop music that's worth examining, that is.

By Carlos Reyes on February 7, 2009 6:18 PM

I'm the author of a blog focusing its light on the music made on Iberoamerica (Latin America + Spain). This is my take on the list, although I must confess, it was sad to see the absence of the real talented musicians of Latin America.

I suspect I should explain the different genres? You'll see a lot of Banda, Banda Duranguense, Grupero, Norteno, all 3 are genres in Mexico's popular/regional music. Just from top of my head, there were like 3 artists I've never heard of.

I know you didn't ask for it, but I included a star ranking, to differentiate those that are great to listen to. I'll leave my blog's URL in case anyone is interested in the good music I'm talking about.

Pepe Aguilar ***1/2
Ranchero (Mariachi), Mexico. Son of legend Antonio Aguilar, is known for approaching Ranchero music in a softer way than say, Vicente Fernandez, adding touches of rock and pop along.

Akwid **1/2
Latin Hip Hop, Los Angeles. Endeavors of the chicano culture, made a huge impression by combining hip hop with Banda Sinaloense, probably Mexico's best selling genre.

Alacranes Musicales ***
Banda Duranguense, Mexico. Extremely popular in the U.S, but oddly not very much in Mexico, they're very young, tend to release 2 albums at the same time, one of rancheras/corridos, and most popular are their soft melodic duranguense albums.

Alegres de la Sierra ***1/2
Norteño, Mexico. These are a standout, and quite underrated by the many awards out there, heavy on strings and particularly amusing is that they sing about love like the rest, but are no easy-listening.

Alexis & Fido ***
Reggaeton. Puerto Rico. Notable duo from Puerto Rico, haven't fully exploded on the charts, but are quite consistent with their works, they're wilder than the average reggaeton star.

Ricardo Arjona *1/2
Pop, Guatemala. Probably the most melodramatic author of this generation, some find him poetic, he's more of a puzzler, loves fancy words and accommodates them in the most unexpected ways one can think of.

Aventura **
Bachata, Dominican Republic. Responsible for the revival of Bachata, this is like the latino answer to contemporary R&B. Are hardly criticized by bachata purists, but today's mos popular boyband.

Hector "El Bambino" *
Reggaeton, Puerto Rico. This guy has no talent, used to make senseless reggaeton, recently converted to Christianity, bringing a twist to his already abominable dusty vision.

Ana Barbara ***
Grupero, Mexico. Attractive singer, has a sharp pen writing songs, some consider her the most important Mexican performer after Selena's departure. The Grupero and Tejano genres are the closer you'll get to Country music.

Bebe ****
Pop, Spain. A critic's darling, known for her pessimistic lyrics and hippie attitude, was highly boosted when receiving 5 nominations at the Latin Grammys of 2005.

Graciela Beltran ****
Banda, Mexico. A very creative girl, has always been seen as an underdog, sadly, since she's one of the few female singer-songwriters worthy to look for in Mexico's popular music (and by popular I mean regional).

Beto y Sus Canarios *1/2
Banda, Mexico. Once again, Banda dominates the charts, this is a two-hit band, one of a bunch.

Miguel Bose ****
Pop, Spain. Spain's Morrissey? Legendary guy right here, multi-dimensional, released a duets greatest hits album with the biggest stars in latin music, Shakira, Juanes, Julieta Venegas, Paulina Rubio . . . etc.

Bronco ***
Grupero, Mexico. Used to be Mexico's most popular grupero conjunto, broke up, got back together. They lost their charm, but the old days will be hard to forget.

Café Tacuba *****
Alternative, Mexico. Um, just the best still-working band in the world, seriously, I can't think of any other act with such vision. History written all over them.

Calle 13 *****
Alternative/Urban, Puerto Rico. Today's very best urban act, highly criticized by urban fans for sounding too alternative, very politically-oriented, wild and explicit geniuses.

Cristian Castro *
Pop, Mexico. Lousy pop, more gossip than actual music.

Manu Chao ****
We all know.

Chayanne *
Pop, Puerto Rico. An adult pop heartthrob, sounds like material from los Estefan.

Conjunto Atardecer *
Banda Duranguense, Mexico. Another Duranguense band that loves to cover hits from pop stars, highly popular among Mexico's regional artists, to make them more identifiable to such a diverse market.

Conjunto Primavera **
Norteno, Mexico. Basically norteno, but replace the accordion with a saxophone, very lousy songs throughout a not very exciting career.

Celia Cruz *****
We all should know.

Daddy Yankee ***
Reggaeton, Puerto Rico. Forget Shakira exists and you got the most popular individual in today's market, a new Ricky Martin? But a bit more talented I guess.

Dareyes de la Sierra ***
Norteno, Mexico. A 2008 breakthrough, quite notable.

Oscar de la Hoya. *
Yeah . . .

Duelo **1/2
Norteno/Tejano, Texas. For some reason, INTOCABLE is not in this list, Intocable is to me, the most significant and best out of all the regional Mexican acts. Duelo, tries to be like them, are extremely repetitive to aim to glory.

Tito El Bambino *
Reggaeton, Puerto Rico. Boring, simply horrible reggaetón.

El Potro de Sinaloa **1/2
Banda, Mexico. Used to be ha corrido icon, singing about drug cartels and popular legends, now it's a very demanded performer of love banda songs.

Valentin Elizalde **
Banda, Mexico. Hugely popular, very strange vocally, was killed two years ago, presumably by a drug dealer, sales of course increased in massive proportions.

Vicente Fernandez *****
Ranchero, Mexico. Will go down to history as the single most popular Mexican singer, of regional Mexican music I should say, there's another pop star that beats him in popularity.

Luis Fonsi **
Pop, Puerto Rico. Good voice, overly dramatic lyrics.

Ana Gabriel ***1/2
Pop/Ranchero, Mexico. Peculiar raspy voice, a great performer.

Kany Garcia ***
Pop, Puerto Rico. Released her debut álbum last year, taking 2 latin grammys home. Has a bold voice and good lyrics.

Grupo Innovacion

Juan Luis Guerra. ****1/2
Merengue. Dominican Republic. When I think of Merengue, I think of this guy, even singing gospel, the people and media love him.

Enrique Iglesias. *
Pop, Spain. Ugh.

India ***
Salsa, Puerto Rico. She's got an amazing voice, her albums always have a couple of good tracks, and too many refills. She was Celia Cruz's favorite contemporary salsa singer.

Inquietos del Norte.

Ivy Queen **
Reggaeton, Puerto Rico. Known as the queen of reggaetón, entering a genre dominated by males, a women's defender, all her albums sound the same, getting worst through time.

Juanes ***
Pop, Colombia. I have to give him a passing grade, but he's now working on a formula, he's trying to hard to be a crowd-pleaser.

K-Paz de la Sierra **
Banda Duranguense, México. Were the most popular duranguense conjunto until the lead vocalist was assassinated, drug-associated death too.

La 5ta Estacion *1/2
Pop, Spain. This is a 3-member band, a girl singing, she's got a good voice, but that means nothing, the songs are not but, just painfully mediocre. Are located in Mexico, were they build up their career.

La Arrolladora Banda El Limon ***
Banda, Mexico. This is the most popular banda in Mexico, it didn't reach the U.S. latino market until last year, they're quite good.

La Factoria
Reggaeton, Panama. They don't exist anymore, but it had 2 female singers, very soft reggaeton.

Hector Lavoe ****1/2
We should know him

Los Creadorez *
Banda Duranguense, Mexico. Used to be part of Montez de Durango, nothing new here.

Los Cuates de Sinaloa *
Requinto, Mexico. Strings and more strings, Requinto might be the hardest music to digest for a non-mexican. These guys bring up a little humor, but nothing special.

Enanitos Verdes ***1/2
Pop/Rock, Argentina. They're considered "old" nowdays, but used to be huge all throughout Latin America, they got some beautiful lyrics, and good story-tellers.

Los Originales de San Juan *
Banda/Norteno, Mexico. A very naughty conjunto, a lot of corridos (songs about drug-dealers), not for the family.

Los Pikadientes de Caborca ***1/2
Banda, Mexico. This is a highlight, an amerging talent in 2008, Amazon called their debut the best latin álbum of 2008. It's quite good, a lot of cumbia, and much humor (humor non-mexican wouldn't get though).

Los Primos de Durango *
Duranguense, Mexico. Seriously, no offense, but this is a crime, just the worst it can get.

Los Rieleros del Norte ***
Norteno, Mexico. They also switch the accordion for the saxophone, but very classical norteno songs.

Los Super Reyes *
Pop/Cumbia, USA. Mexican-Americans here, embrace their culture and integrate american urban music, sounds cool, but it's not. They were part of Kumbia Kings, which was a better project.

Los Temerarios **
Grupero, Mexico. Used to be popular, it's the classic grupero music, one of the last groups to put it in practice, now grupero acts have replaced the piano for an soft accordion.

Los Tigres del Norte ****
Norteno, Mexico. The single most important norteno band of all time, especially popular in the U.S. for their immigration-themed hits, almost all of its members sing.

Los Tucanes de Tijuana **
Norteno, Mexico. They were considered a threat to Los Tigres del Norte, but they got nothing, well, a couple of corridos. They claim they have been trying really hard to do well with ballads, but people don't buy that, so they keep making corrido albums and continuing to sell.

Eddy Lover **1/2
Reggaeton, Panama. Very interesting guy, I get a feeling he's more talented than his record company thinks, his album feels bipolar.

Mana **
Pop, Mexico. Ugh, it's frustrating to talk about them, they show signs of talent with a couple of songs, but erroneously called the best Mexican band, by those who don't know. It's even harder to tolerate them because radio stations don't play other rock bands, they fill out their rock quota with Mana and Juanes, just because they got electric guitars.

Victor Manuelle *1/2
Salsa, Puerto Rico. He loves to improvise, I can't stand that.

Ricky Martin *1/2
We all know him.


Luis Miguel ***
Pop, Mexico. Not everyone will agree, but this guy is THE most important ballads singer in probably all Latin America. Mexico's Frank Sinatra? Good voice, is freaking boring to me, at least during this decade.

Montez de Durango *1/2
Banda Duranguese, Mexico. They brough this new Duranguense genre, which is not a genre, but everyone insists it is one.

Tito Nieves **1/2
Salsa, Puerto Rico. Meh

Don Omar **
Reggaeton, Puerto Rico. Daddy Yankee's biggest rival, he was huge during the 2005 explosion of reggaetón, but not anymore.

Yolanda Perez *1/2
Banda, Mexico. A fresh face, in her debut she also combined banda music with urban, now it's just banda.

Pesado ***
Norteno, Mexico. Those kids who don't like the drama of Los Tigres del Norte found a romantic route with these guys.

Rakim & Ken Y *1/2
Reggaeton, Puerto Rico. Very soft Reggaeton, dreamy, radio-friendly.

Pop, Mexico. Let's say this television pop phenomenon (by 6 young telenovela stars) was a cancer for Latin Music during this decade.

Reik *1/2
Pop, Mexico. Another boyband, there's some notable melodies in a song like "Noviembre Sin Ti", but mostly telenovela filling.

Diana Reyes *1/2
Duranguense, Mexico. The most popular female duranguense singer, opportunistic even if it hurts, but different, unlike most regional Mexican groups covering pop songs, she cover BACHATA hits and tropical anthems.

Jenni Rivera **
Banda, Mexico. Strong lady, strong voice, weak vision.

Lupillo Rivera *1/2
Banda, Mexico. The brother of the lady above, good if you are extremely drunk.

Alejandro Sanz ***
Pop, Spain. Loves to have either a piano or guitar with him, has done some really amazing songs. The Latin Grammys love him, he's like magnetic.

Paulina Rubio **1/2
Pop, Mexico. Very uneven pop star, but has pulled off a smart career. She's got some famous producers behind her (Estefan, Gonzalez, Santander, even Santaolalla).

Adan Chalino Sanchez *1/2
Banda, Mexico. Wasn't that famous until he was killed on a car accident. His father is the ICON for CORRIDO music.

Gilberto Santa Rosa ***1/2
Salsa, Puerto Rico. Old and Young audiences like him alike, along with Marc Anthony and Celia Cruz, have internationalize salsa in Latin America, even in Mexico where salsa is not fully embraced as it should be.

Marco Antonio Solís ***1/2
Ballad/Grupero, Mexico. Initially a grupero lead vocalist, made grupero music extremely popular in places like Colombia and Chile. One of my parents' favorites.

Olga Tanon ***
Merengue, Puerto Rico. She sings at every single award show, wins at every single award show.

Tierra Cali
Have heard of them, not enough knowledge about them.

Gloria Trevi ***
Pop, Mexico. She used to scare older people, had a collapse, and came back with an ok album, I once saw Kyle Minogue dancing to one of her songs.

Tropical Fantasia

Sergio Vega ***
Banda, Mexico. Ok, by now you should know Banda is the hot seller, and this guy has some cool tunes.

Julieta Venegas *****
Alternative/Pop/Rock, Mexico. The best contemporary Singer-songwriter Mexico has given us, known for connecting the music of South America with the music of Spain and the North American countries. It's hard to talk about her without using beautiful wording.

Alicia Villarreal ***1/2
Grupero/Ranchero, Mexico. Country listeners would like her, very soft songs, I like her singing with a full Mariachi.

Wisin & Yandel **
Reggaeton, Puerto Rico. They took the Latin Grammy for Best Urban Album in 2008, their music is not bad, until you compare it to the real talents of latin urban music (Arcangel, Nejo y Dalmata, Tego Calderon, Orishas, Pato Machete, Choc Quib Town etc.)

Xtreme *
Bachata, Dominican Republic. Just like Aventura, reach out for the teenagers that feel closer to this new bachata than to a salsa or merengue, again, it's their answer to R&B.

Yuridia *1/2
Pop Ballad, Mexico. Great voice, hangs around with notable producers, nothing more.

By Rockist Scientist on February 11, 2009 3:24 PM

"Victor Manuelle *1/2
Salsa, Puerto Rico. He loves to improvise, I can't stand that."

What a good reason to criticize a sonero (an improvising vocalist, by definition), on the basis of his love for improvising. There are plenty of good reasons not to rate VM very highly, but this one comes down to a lack of sympathy for the expectations built into the salsa genre itself. Gilberto Santa Rosa loves to improve too.

"Wisin & Yandel **
Reggaeton, Puerto Rico. They took the Latin Grammy for Best Urban Album in 2008, their music is not bad, until you compare it to the real talents of latin urban music (Arcangel, Nejo y Dalmata, Tego Calderon, Orishas, Pato Machete, Choc Quib Town etc.)"

Their best compares favorably to the first four mentioned there (I don't know the last two). Tego just sounds stoned too much of the time.

"Hector "El Bambino" *
Reggaeton, Puerto Rico. This guy has no talent, used to make senseless reggaeton, recently converted to Christianity, bringing a twist to his already abominable dusty vision."

On the contrary, he was one of the best reggaeton vocalist out there.

By jose luis mercado on February 15, 2009 4:26 PM

As Carlos Reyes says, it was sad to see the absence of the real talented musicians of Latin America.

The big problem respect to the treatment about the "Latin music" in the US is most of the "Greatest acts" (the best-seller) who cross the American market are not necessarilly the first ones to start the process of several genres in Latin American and Spain, and some of them are just the shadows of the classic stars of the Latin music.

You can't understand acts like Daddy Yankee or Wisin & Yandel if you don't know anything about Tego Calderón or Vico C.

You can't understand to Alejandro Sanz if you don't know anything about Camilo Sesto or Joan Manuel Serrat.

You can't understand to Maná if you don't know anything about Caifanes or Soda Stereo, etc.

Finally, we must understand that many Latin American musical styles were marginalized or at least underestimated by pop acts, and these had their own development in the United States, and cases are the most important of salsa and Mexican regional music, the latter more popular in America than in Mexico.

I made a blog called: which is a tribute to the Great Music In Spanish made By Latin American Artist according to the perspective of an average latin american music lover and not of a American Latino, cause it could be some differences.

Pardon my English, it's not my mother tongue.

Articles, Feb. 1, 2009

On the One Hand Peggy, and on the Other Wonkette Call for Young Folks