For a few years now we’ve witnessed an insurrection unfolding in the realm of regional Mexican music. As with every generation of artists, the disruptive and rejuvenating jolt of the tumbado wave has stirred controversy among traditionalists while attracting legions of new fans fascinated by the majesty and cultural significance of corridos, norteño, rancheras, banda sinaloense, and so much more. While many newcomers associate this music with rancho life and boozy parental catharsis, the reality is that listeners across all generations and walks of life connect to the storytelling of these borderland mavericks. Corridos and banda have never needed saving, but they are certainly evolving.
Corridos tumbados and their many sibling hybrids have manifested in two distinct flavors: the stateside melding of bajo sexto and maleanteo-heavy rap flows (Natanael Cano and the whole Rancho Humilde gang), and the Mexican mashes of organic instruments with glossy trap production (La Plebada). Of course, plenty exists in between and beyond, but the changing sonic landscape has opened new avenues for creative exploration that non-Mexican artists like Bad Bunny, C. Tangana, and Snoop Dogg have gladly hopped aboard. New markets have also opened up—just look at Central America, where banda sinaloense and corridos are bigger than ever. And challenging the genre’s stale boy’s club dynamics, brash women like Chiquis Rivera, Ely Quintero, and Ivonne Galaz have started taking up more space in the spotlight.
Most importantly, these new conversations are encouraging fans and gatekeepers to question their own prejudices and bestow some overdue flowers upon the legends that raised us. Calibre 50’s Vamos Bien LP received widespread critical praise across Mexican media this year, while recent releases from Los Pikadientes de Caborca have boldly embraced cumbia, reggaeton, and even Indian bangra. And no major music festival lineup is complete nowadays without including a beloved grupero ensemble, like Mi Banda El Mexicano at this year’s Trópico in Acapulco or Banda MS at the upcoming Vive Latino.For an even deeper look at how corridos are changing and growing, here are some of our favorite regional Mexican music releases from 2021. The order of selection was based on the input of the Remezcla editorial team and our amazing music writers.
10. Karol G – “200 Copas”
Pausing her usual brand of pop-driven reggaeton, Karol G presents a turn to her first corridos tumbado on her latest album KG0516. Opening with a personal dedication to a close friend, “200 Copas” finds its inspiration in joining your girls in the process of healing after heartbreak. Co-written with longtime collaborator Ovy On The Drums and Danny Felix, the track raises a glass—or 200—to women who stand at the ready to help their friends, and themselves, through the process of letting go and moving on by celebrating platonic love in friendships, self-worth, and freedom found in exiting unfulfilling relationships. — Jeanette Diaz
9. ElArturo – “El Wey Fui Yo”
Though corridos tumbados have been making headlines for years now, the slick, riveting hybrids sprouting across regional Mexican music extend far beyond traditional bajo sexto compositions. Delivering one of the poppiest explorations of the movement to date, ElArturo dove into rancheras tumbadas on his effervescent debut LP Y Qué, where the lead single “El Wey Fui Yo” emerged as a trap-laced mariachi ode to the one that got away. The deliciously catchy track was produced by 3KMKZ, who builds an immersive wall of sound with guitar, horns, mariachi strings, and thumping digital percussion, all while ElArturo reimagines the Mexican torch song into TikTok-able pop gold. – Richard Villegas
8. El Pilux – “El Combo” feat. Zamu, Kid Pistola
When Sonora’s El Pilux delivered the delectably textured trap-corrido mashup of “El Combo,” he unwittingly gave us one of the tumbado era’s freshest and most effortless gems to date. Bajo sexto strings glide over booming kicks and crackling snares as he recounts a night out with the boys—cups overflowing with whiskey and a couple of magic tokes to balance everything out. Stylish features from Zamu and Kid Pistola permeate the track in laidback desert cool, swirling in a sexy, boozy maelstrom of corridos, laidback raps, auto-tune, and norteño bravado to boot. – Richard Villegas
7. Gera MX ft. Christian Nodal – “Botella Tras Botella”
Earlier this year, Monterrey rapper and newcomer Gerardo Daniel Torres Montante (aka Gera MX) and regional favorite Christian Nodal made history with the stunner “Botella Tras Botella.” The track became the first song in the regional Mexican genre to ever land a spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and all for a good reason. It’s led by a foundational hook that could easily go head-to-head any top-shelf, heart-wrenching country hit (“Botella tras botella ando tomando pa’ olvidarme de ella”) and sealed with Montante’s ‘90s Mexican hip-hop meets modern, trap-like flow. – Nayeli Portillo
6. Los Aptos – “Enamorado”
Falling in love means accepting euphoria along with heartache, a gamble most of us take without fully taking it into consideration. Fort Wayne, Indiana’s singer-songwriter Juan Ortega came close to expressing this with “Enamorado,” channeling the duality of ecstasy and agony at the heart of this feeling. In the process, the 18-year-old and his band helped cement a new subgenre of regional Mexican music by delivering a pensive and melodic sierreño ballad that was equally sweet and melancholic. — Marcos Hassan
5. Junior H – “La Bestia”
In the context of the corridos tumbados movement, Junior H is one of its biggest success stories. His rise among the ranks of singers is one for the books, and “La Bestia” might be viewed as a peak. Considering it’s a six-and-a-half-minute song, “La Bestia” kept it simple to showcase the melancholy in Junior H’s vocals and lyrics, yet enhanced by the way each instrument goes in and out of the mix. The song showcased how Junior can take the genre into the future. –Marcos Hassan
4. Natanael Cano – “Diamantes”
Leading a new generation of regional, Natanael Cano solidifies his place at the forefront of the genre with his latest album A Mis 20. Having experimented into the worlds of reggaeton and Latin trap, his latest marks a return to what Natanael is sought after for—a versatile, but solid track-listing of corridos tumbados. “Diamantes,” the opening standout single for the young star, trades his usual faster-paced style to introduce the album with a slower, ballad-like take infused with guitar riffs and introspection that uses the relaxed time for an intimate reflection on his rapid trajectory to the top. — Jeanette Diaz
3. DannyLux – “El Dueño de tu Amor”
TikTok has undoubtedly become a breeding ground for future stars, and DannyLux can attest to that. The Palm Spring native’s music career was kickstarted when Eslabon Armado found a cover on TikTok and invited him to collaborate on a song. DannyLux uses music to channel his emotions, a mixture of sadness, hopelessness, love, and in other instances, joy. Tellingly “Dueño Tu Amor” comes on the bright side of things; an affirmation of love, desire, and a commitment to the love of his life. – Felipe Maia
2. Itzel Vida – “Vida Movida (Feat. Grupo Diez 4tro)”
“Vida Movida” splices Northern California’s Grupo Diez 4tro’s love for heavy-hitting drill with Itzel Vida’s knack for the salient narrative balladry found in traditional corridos. Vida’s skyward croons, vocalist Jesus Moreno’s candid bars, and guitarist Nabs’s old-school riffs culminate to recount two tales about living life in constant survival mode. At its center lies an affirmation of sorts—“Me seguiré preparando pa’ seguir avanzando/Quiero verme en unos años, yo me adapto a cualquier cambio/Sea bueno o sea malo”–grounding it in a harsh reality that so many grapple and come face-to-face with every day. – Nayeli Portillo
1. Ivonne Galaz – “Voy En Camino”
Corridos, at their core, are all about honest, gritty storytelling that offers a peek into a performer’s soul. With the title track from her debut album Voy En Camino, Rancho Humilde signee Ivonne Galaz did just that, unspooling the tangled emotions of a young star on the rise uncertain of where she’s headed but very much on her way. Feeling the history-making weight of womanhood within the largely impenetrable boys club of Mexican regional music, “Voy En Camino” is chuck full of shout-outs to Galaz’s mother and haters, both of whom taught her to persevere and grind harder. Ivonne Galaz aims to follow in the footsteps of trailblazers like Jenni Rivera and Ana Gabriel—women who’ve lived and performed on their own terms, following the rules until they could no longer be contained. – Richard Villegas