It's Cinco de Mayo! We're not going to try to dissuade you from drinking yourself cross-eyed tonight, embarrassing yourself and true Mexican culture by proxy. But in the interest of musical, global harmony, the least we can do today is introduce you to some amazing Mexican crossover (or semicrossover) acts you don't have to speak Spanish to enjoy. Some are established, some are up-and-comers, and some rock while others roll, but all are making big musical waves.
To anyone with even a passing familiarity with rock en español, Maná needs no introduction. For the rest of you, they're basically the biggest-selling act of the genre, ever -- the only Spanish rock act to score two albums in the Billboard 200. Though they sing entirely en español, as well, they're not afraid to give their opinions en ingles -- drummer Alex Gonzalez is Cuban-born and was a longtime resident of Miami, anyways.
Besides, their blend of rock sprinkled with world sounds like ska can be appreciated in any language. The band's latest album, Drama y Luz, came out just a couple of weeks ago. Here's the first single, "Lluvia al Corazón."
This sexy, bilingual rock chick first scored fame early, as part of a manufactured '80s kid-pop group called Timbiriche. As a grownup, Paulina Rubio has achieved success both as a musician and a novela actress, displaying particular chops portraying villainesses. As a latter-day solo artist, her sound has continued to cross languages and genres.
In 2002, she scored an English-language hit with "Don't Say Goodbye (Si Tú Te Vas)," but she's said that she's now working on a fully bilingual album, reportedly writing songs with the likes of Nelly Furtado and Cobra Starship. Fun fact: Miami axman Fernando Perdomo has often served as her onstage guitarist.
Here's her latest leaked, bilingual release, a duet with Taio Cruz on a Spanglish version of his song "Dirty Picture."
The current hot internet sound in Mexican electronic music mashups may be tribal guarachero, or just tribal, as seen through teen DJ Erick Rincon and his pointy-booted minions. But before all that, starting a little over a decade ago, there was Nortec Collective.
The Tijuana group married the oompah, accordion-, and brass-driven regional Mexican sounds of tambora and norteño with modern electronic music and made the oompah-oompah-style beats hip with a global audience. Though they announced in 2008 that they no longer exist as a proper collective, individual members continue to release music.
The most recent solo release was Clorofila's Corridos Urbanos in 2010, but here's their classic group number, 2005's "Tijuana Bass."
Like Nortec Collective, Kinky rose to prominence around the late '90s and early '00s and is often mentioned in the same breath for its incorporation of electronic sounds into its brew. Unlike Nortec, though, the band hails from farther down in Mexico -- Monterrey -- and is more of a band proper, with a lot more rock heft to its sound. The band has also recorded a few songs with English lyrics. Here's its bilingual cover of Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio."
This 25-year-old Ximena Sariñana is another of member of that very large class of entertainers, the actress-singers. As a child, the Guadalajara native got her stardom start in novelas but later graduated to movies. In her 20s, she picked up the guitar in earnest and began writing her own solo material, which turned into the quirky, off-kilter alt album Mediocre in 2008.
It went platinum, with some 80,000 copies sold, and while she works on her 2011 follow-up, she remains highly bloggable thanks to shoutouts from Metronomy and work with the Mars Volta's Omar Rodríguez-López. Here's her matchup with Metronomy, a song called "La Tina."
As one-third of the Monterrey group Control Machete, Antonio "Toy" Hernandez dominated charts with the group's quirky take on hip-hop. They mixed in folkloric sounds, covered Mexican legend Jose Jose, and even flirted with Cuban danzon on a song titled, um, "Danzon."
Now an elder statesman of the Monterrey scene, as Toy Selectah, he continues to school the world in global beats, most recently through releases for Mad Decent. Here's a minimix of selections from his latest EP, Mex Machine.
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