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Thicke’s ‘Paula’ stunt backfires with dismal debut Banda singers a ‘hit’ in Mexico, US

MEXICO CITY, July 2, (Agencies): Banda music is the soundtrack of modern Mexico, with its thumping polka beat and trumpets blasting everywhere from rural fairs to working-class Mexico City weddings. And it’s increasingly made in the USA. Once the equivalent of country music, with lyrics about rural life sung by men from Mexico’s western badlands, it is more and more being produced in the suburbs of Phoenix and Los Angeles, and sung by Mexican-Americans who grew up speaking English and listening to rock and rap. And as US-born singers gain prominence, it’s becoming more akin to gangster rap, with a slicker sound, lyrics that praise drug traffickers and videos with guns and expensive cars filmed on Los Angeles’ palm-lined streets.

This month, two US-born banda singers have had Top 10 hits in Mexico and the United States. Billboard’s No. 1 Mexican regional song is “Quien Se Anima,” or “Who Will Dare,” a tune by baby-faced, 24-year-old Pasadena, California-native Gerardo Ortiz that asks who will dare enter a business where “there is lots of money, pleasures, banda music and women.” Ortiz’s “Damaso,” about a leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, has for weeks topped the playlists in Mexico. Its video, with a lion, briefcases full of cash and flaunted pistols, has been viewed on YouTube more than 61 million times. “The King of the Drunks” by Lupillo Rivera of Long Beach, California, has also been among Mexico’s top 10 songs.

It is reversal of musical direction for a genre in which Mexican bands traditionally sang tunes popular with immigrants in the US nostalgic for their homeland. Young Mexican-Americans have embraced banda and many musicians now first gain success in the United States before heading south to sing in dirt-floored rodeo arenas and auditoriums in Mexico. “These singers were born (in the US) but their parents instilled the love for Mexico in them,” said Stephanie Himonidis, morning prime-time DJ for La Raza, a Los Angeles radio station that plays Mexican music.

Ortiz spent his childhood in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, the birthplace of both banda music and many of Mexico’s top drug traffickers. But it was upon his return to Southern California that he found fame and fortune after self-promoting his ballads and “narcocorridos” on YouTube. “Narcocorridos” are songs about drug traffickers that often glorify them and their lifestyle. A record executive offered Ortiz a contract after seeing him perform at an underground party at a packed Los Angeles warehouse in 2008.
“I grew up on a ranch but when I came back to Los Angeles, a big city where there is all kinds of music, I fused the music from the ranch with the music of the moment and people who didn’t like corridos began listening to them,” Ortiz said. “Narcocorridos” are banned from the radio in parts of Mexico. But in the US, artists sing them on prime-time awards shows on Spanish-language television, where series about the lives of drug traffickers have become popular.

Ortiz said some of his “narcocorridos” were inspired by those shows. While singing “narcocorridos” is relatively safe north of the border, it carries risks in Mexico. Ortiz was in an SUV in the Mexican state of Colima when gunmen opened fire, killing his manager in 2011. And in May, Phoenix-born Tomas Tovar Rascon, better known by his stage name “Tito Torbellino,” was shot to death at a restaurant in the border state of Sonora, where he was scheduled to perform. Authorities have not publicly identified a motive in the killing of Rascon, but in the past singers have been killed by rivals of the traffickers they praise or by gangsters offended they wouldn’t perform privately for them.

Not all banda musicians sing about drug traffickers. Luis Coronel, an 18-year-old Tucson native who won the Artist of the Year Debut at this year’s Billboard Latin Music Awards, only sings about love and heartbreak. He is attracting a new generation of fans, mainly teenage girls who follow his every step on Instagram and Facebook. “Like their parents, these new generations have a need to listen to music that can bring them a little bit of Mexico and that’s why you have more and more young singers in this genre,” La Raza’s Himonidis said.

There’s nothing blurred about the bottom line of Robin Thicke’s new album “Paula” — the opening sales rankings are not good. The album, dedicated to estranged wife Paula Patton, debuted Tuesday at No. 8 on iTunes. It wasn’t much better news on Amazon. On the CDs and Vinyl albums chart, “Paula” was No. 82 at the time of this writing. The digital album had moved up to No. 12 on the best sellers chart. Thicke performed at Sunday’s BET Awards. He is currently doing the publicity rounds for his album while trying to win back the woman who left him.

Last summer, Thicke’s single “Blurred Lines” erupted into the stratosphere with 14 million digital copies sold. The actual album sales to-date are decent with 731,000 units moved. Thicke’s lackluster “Paula” opening follows Mariah Carey’s and Jennifer Lopez’s recent flops. Carey moved roughly 57,000 copies of her new album “Me. I am Mariah ... The Elusive Chanteuse” in its opening week. Lopez’s “A.K.A.” didn’t even do that. The first week of Thicke’s sales figures — measuring from Tuesday through Sunday — will be released next week on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning by Nielsen SoundScan.

Dolly Parton tells critics who think she lip-synced at a British music festival: “My boobs are fake, my hair’s fake, but what is real is my voice and my heart.” Parton spoke to the Sun about suspicions that she was “miming” — British-ese for lip syncing — at the Glastonbury Festival over the weekend. “Oh, Dolly is miming,” Sky news anchorwoman Kay Burley tweeted of the performance. “How disappointing.” Several UK supporters staunchly defended Dolly, including comedian Stephen Fry. “Why are people saying Dolly Parton is miming?” he tweeted. “She’s fooling me...” “That’s not miming,” he added. “If it appears not always to lip-sync that’s an HD live processor issue. You see it with reporters.” (RTRS)

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