It’s no secret the Mexican pop landscape holds a somewhat mythical status – both as a rich ecosystem of homegrown and global sounds, and for carrying the promise of stardom to legions of artists eager to make it in the world’s largest Spanish-language music market. But in an ocean of possibility, trying to predict the next trend can be tricky. And yet, if one thing is certain across our fickle pop culture landscape it’s that young people will always dictate the tastes of the future. So it shouldn’t come as much of a shock that the new school of artists storming the Mexican charts reflect the stripped down emotional sincerity of our time. Armed with little more than simple guitar melodies, earnest songwriting and a fanbase so young most are driven to each sold out show by their parents – the future of Mexican pop now seemingly rests in the hands of scrappy storytellers narrating an entire generation’s coming-of-age journey.
The masses began taking notice of Mexico’s teen folk wave last year with the emergence of Ed Maverick, the raspy-voiced 19-year old crooner who became a household name with sullen, minimal hits like “Acurrucar” and “Fuentes de Ortíz.” And while Maverick is no doubt the most successful brat out of the pack, already touring extensively across the U.S. and Mexico and snagging a coveted slot at Coachella this coming April, you can hardly credit him with opening the floodgates. That honor goes to mercurial madman Juan Cirerol, who blurred the lines between corridos, folk and punk with his 2009 epic, Ofrenda al Mictlan. Wielding only an acoustic guitar and the occasional harmonica, the Mexicali native injected his songs with boozy vulgarity and lo-fi edge, unwittingly shattering the aura of sanctity surrounding such music. His raw simplicity appealed to a new generation of musicians and fans exhausted with rock star antics, choosing instead to write from the heart and growing less concerned about studio magic.
Los Blenders and Dromedarios Mágicos soon blossomed from the seeds planted by Cirerol, exploring thematically similar territory of adolescent infatuation and heartbreak over starkly contrasting sonic canvases. The punkish influence of Los Blenders can now be heard across Señor Kino and Sr. Trigger records, while Dromedarios Mágicos’s lo-fi weepy sweetness seems to have paved the way for boy-with-guitar sensations like Sous-Sol and Ed Maverick. However, it should also be noted that while several of these artists invoke the narrative directness and unpretentious aesthetics of folk music, most have skipped out on the once-requisite political songwriting, opting instead for heartrending lyrics and John Hughes-esque romance fantasies.
“Everything is organic and real, which I think is key,” Bratty told Remezcla during a recent press conference ahead of her performance at March’s Vive Latino. “Within so much press and social media strategizing, people are looking for things that are more real.” Bratty is one of the most visible women within the veritable boys club of the folk pop wave, also noting the refreshing and perhaps coincidental regional impact of this movement, where most of these voices hail from Northern Mexican cities like Hermosillo, Mexicali and Chihuahua. “It’s something super new for me to see in my own city,” adds the Culiacán, Sinaloa native, “especially since people mostly listen to narco corridos. We’re now showing that Northern Mexico isn’t just about banda and corridos, but there’s also people creating new sounds.”
In order to properly contextualize this fledgeling movement, we’ve compiled a list of ten artists cultivating these vibrant and refreshing musical perspectives. From folk to psych and grunge, the new generation of Mexican songwriters is shaping a brave new world of emotional honesty and musical freedom that will ripple through the industry for years to come.
One of Chichuahua’s prodigal children, Ed Maverick seemingly exploded out of nowhere at the tail end of 2018 with underground hits “Acurrucar” and “Fuentes de Ortíz,” which have gone on to Mexican radio dominance and hundreds of millions of plays across streaming platforms. 2018’s Mix Para Llorar en tu Cuarto seemed to epitomize the mounting wave of sad boy guitar anthems that have proliferated over the last few years, with the young crooner releasing a follow up EP titled Transiciones and a live album peppered with a few unreleased gems, in 2019. Maverick is currently working on his major label debut after signing to Universal Music and has been spotted in the studio with the likes of Wet Baes via a series of social media teasers, so don’t expect the chart-topping tear jerkers to cease any time soon.
Bursting onto the scene in 2018 with her debut EP Todo Está Cambiando, Jenny Juárez, better known as Bratty, was quickly hailed as one of the bright new voices of Mexican adolescent melancholy. Songs like “Aquí” and later “Sobredosis de Tempra” captured a wise-beyond-her-years moodiness that caught the ear of Ed Maverick, later teaming up for their smash duet on “Ropa de Bazaar.” The Culiacán native has since released her full-length debut Delusión and will be performing at Vive Latino this Spring, bringing her sweet and unassuming vibrato to Mexico’s largest stage.
Señor Kino might be considered the geezers of the list with most members in their early 20s, but the peppy garage quintet have been making noise in their native Hermosillo for about six years, when most of the band was still in high school. With breezy, urgent guitar riffs, psychedelic tinges and some guidance from local colleagues like Felipe García of The Mud Howlers and Sgt. Papers – the band has unleashed riveting records like 2017’s Limonada Rosa and 2018’s Colores, scoring a booking at Coachella later that year. Señor Kino are already working on new material, but as their latest single “No Hay Prisa” suggests, they’re not exactly in a rush. Singer Karl Neudert has been dabbling in photography and directing music videos, while Carolina Enríquez and Sofia León are already garnering buzz with their side project Margaritas Podridas, and Ramses Calderón slowly gets his own solo material off the ground.
Providing a heavy, grungier flip side to their work in Señor Kino, and the folk wave as a whole, Carolina Enríquez and Sofia León have conjured their riot grrrl foremothers with Margaritas Podridas (formerly Rotten Daisies), where they unleash the pent up rage not exactly suited for their other projects. With only their excellent Porcelain Mannequin EP and a few demos available on their Bandcamp page, the band has stirred considerable attention and a stellar slot at December’s Posadelic Festival, in Hermosillo. While many of the artists on this list drift towards mellower shores, Margaritas Podridas embody the rage fervent followers of the scene no doubt carry within, tucked away alongside their fluttering hearts.
The magical, almost Sufjan-esque cooing of rising Sinaloan heartthrob Daniel Quién has gained a devout following, with unusually poetic lyrics making fan favorites out of early singles like “Aroma a Nostalgia” and “Ausencia.” And while last year’s cover of José José’s classic “El Triste” turned several heads, Daniel Quién’s upcoming record is sure to put him in the same conversation as some of his more established colleagues, aiming for a more anthemic sound than on previous productions.
Ukulele, teenage angst and a dash of pop savvy all make Sous-Sol one of the more intriguing entries on this list. Little is known of the Chihuahua native, but a penchant for songs that quickly morph from bashful acoustic prayers into epic set pieces have made him a talent to watch. Dynamic singles like “Solo” and “Agua Con Chía” make Sous-Sol sound like the highly improbable love child of Ed Maverick and Billie Eillish, and if that’s not enough of a sales pitch, we don’t know what is.
Synths, violin, rapping – Sr. Trigger seem almost too highly-produced to be on this list, but songs like “Santa Isabel” and “Temporal” connected directly with the hearts of Chihuahua teens, even spurring a wild high school and university tour that solidified their fanbase. While sounding like a Belle and Sebastian and Grouplove hybrid is a perfect equation for twee, swoon-inducing stardom, lineup shake ups briefly slowed Sr. Trigger’s rising prominence. However, the band has been teasing fresh music and studio adventures via their social media, so it’s only a matter of time before we’re all chanting along to epic choruses once more.
Zacatecas-born Arroba Nat and her 2019 full-length debut Para Echar La Lloradita might be the finest examples of what has made this once-modest movement into a revitalizing tidal wave of talent. Harnessing teenage melancholy and mincing no words in her raw and remarkably direct delivery, Arroba Nat cuts through the artifice of pop songwriting to craft songs that are both individually relatable and universal enough for any listener to project themselves within. Just check out stand outs like “Dormir Sin Coger,” “Tóxico” and “Adios” and get swept up in some of the realest songwriting this side of your Spotify playlist.
Kevin Kaarl could probably read the phonebook and make you cry. Backed by his twin brother Bryan Kaarl on the occasional trumpet and background vocals, the Chihuahua native packs a distinctly sorrowful punch, both with his voice and lyrics – a sentiment already explored at length over an EP and full-length album. We invite you to sit with his Hasta El Fin Del Mundo LP for a while and let the rousing romantic hopefulness of “Vamonos a Marte,” as well as the devastating simplicity of “Colapso,” cradle you for an evening of bedroom sulking.
Easily the most pop act of the bunch, DRIMS have been on our radar since their delightfully breezy 2018 break up single “Que Nos Pasó?,” breathing a vibrant dose of youthful effervescence into Monterrey’s often dense and cerebral underground. Their recent signing to Universal Music and a string of glossy power-pop singles throughout 2019 hint at a new record likely to hit the airwaves later this year, sure to soundtrack the peaks and valleys of many a blooming romance.