Regional Mexican music — a catchall term that lumps various genres like norteño, corrido, mariachi and ranchera music — is an indelible part of Mexican and Mexican-American culture. The music of acts like Los Tigres del Norte, Juan Gabriel, Grupo Bronco, Los Bukis (and their founder Marco Antonio Solís), and other greats in regional Mexican music, have been staples played by our parents and grandparents at functions like birthdays, quinceañeras, and bautismos.
With Emperor Maximilian I’s influence on the country, along with German settlers reaching the Tex-Mex region in the mid 1800s, the sound of Germanic folk music has become a permanent part of the Mexican musical lexicon. The bouncy polka sound found in norteños and banda music often surprise many new to the genre, but to us, it’s just the sound we’ve always heard.
But as much as regional Mexican music may seem like the music of our tios, or a relic from our childhood, the genre is constantly evolving. With Latin music becoming a global presence thanks to the growing popularity of reggaeton and Latin trap (which encompasses a majority of Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart), sprinkled in between Puerto Rican artists Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny, is the music of Mexican singer-songwriter Christian Nodal and Mexican group T3R Elemento.
Nodal and T3R Elemento are the latest acts rising up in regional Mexican music. Like how the Germans helped create the norteño sound, the wider genre continues to be influenced by outside forces, and this time it’s by the younger generation. With the popularity of trap in both the mainstream and Latin music markets through acts like Migos and Bad Bunny, T3R Elemento and other bands are catching up the corridos with the times. Nodal is part of a new crop of crooners who is putting a contemporary twist on regional Mexican music and making it more relatable to the struggles and hustles of millennials. Yet even with this evolution, it’s worth noting that regional continues to be a largely male-dominated genre. We’re hoping to see more women-led groups as the storied genre experiences a revival. For now, here’s a list of nine acts giving it a much-needed shock to the heart.
From the Mexican state of Sonora that borders Arizona, 20-year-old Christian Nodal is the hottest new artist in regional Mexican music at the moment. With what Nodal brands as “mariacheño,” a blend of mariachi and norteño music, he’s taking a sound familiar to our parents to the next level. When he’s not singing about drunken hookups on “No Te Contaron Mal,” he’s linking up with artists outside the genre like Spanish superstar David Bisbal and Colombian heartthrob Sebastián Yatra.
After forming in Las Vegas in 2015, T3R Elemento — a band led by 18-year-old singer Kristopher Nava — has been taking the timeless genre of corridos into the 21st century. Nava and company are pushing the boundaries of the corridos’ sound and lyrics; that’s especially seen on the band’s recent collaborations with Mexican-American singer Gerardo Ortíz, Mexican artist Abraham Vázquez, and Taylor Gang signee Berner. On “El Chivo,” Berner gives corridos a hip-hop twist while Nava sings about enjoying a cereal bowl full of weed cookies.
Mexican producer Edmundo Gómez Moreno, who is known by his stagename Raymix, released one of the most ubiquitous Latin music songs of the decade “Oye Mujer.” The former aerospace engineer who once worked at NASA put his creative skills into his music, blending together electronic and cumbia music on his biggest hit. Raymix is no one-trick pony. He recently released his Fake Love EP, which is continuing to explore techno-cumbia that hasn’t been heard since the days of Selena.
Pipe Bueno is the only artist on this list without roots in Mexico. The 27-year-old singer-songwriter hails from Cali, Colombia. As much as Bueno wants to be a mariachi music purist on some of his songs, on other songs, he’s uniquely blending that sound with reggaeton music. On the breezy “La Invitación,” he does just that alongside his good friend Maluma. The two Colombianos make it a collaboration to remember.
Hailing from the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, La Plebada are flipping the script on corridos with their trap music twist. The narco-corridos meet the trap house on the duo’s accordion-backed bangers. Members Fntxy and Cozy Cuz take the lyrics of someone like local legend Chalino Sánchez to the most extra levels. On “R8,” the guys rap about living large through an auto-tuned filter similar to the one Rae Sremmurd uses. The swag en español is something else.
After navigating the industry as a songwriter for bands like La Arrolladora Banda el Limón and Banda Santa Rosa de Guamúchil, Horacio Palencia, another Sinaloa native, kicked off this decade by writing and recording music under his own name. Palencia started out with standard banda songs, but on his recent collaborations, he’s branching out to new sounds. Venezuelan rapper Abbel is featured on Palencia’s song “Rechula,” while Palencia is featured on legendary cumbia act Los Ángeles Azules’ “Amor a Primera Vista,” alongside Mexican singer Belinda and Colombian reggaetonero Lalo Ebratt.
Mexican-American singer-songwriter Adriel Favela first gained attention through YouTube before releasing his debut album in 2011. Since, the 25-year-old has captivated a younger crowd with his corridos that have gotten deeper and darker over time. Recently, he’s been finding strength and success in numbers. Like the reggaetoneros do, Favela has been jumping on many collaborations with other regional Mexican music artists like Giovanny Ayala and Cornelio Vega. On “La Escuela No Me Gustó,” alongside Javier Rosas, Favela sends “un saludo a mis homeboys.”
Mexican-American trio Arsenal Efectivo came together as one in 2015. The band is the brainchild of lead singer Francisco Rodriguez (also known as Shrek), and is comprised of himself and his bandmates Javier Bojorquez and Francisco Alfonso. Arsenal Efectivo’s debut album En La Fuga dropped last year. The guys are part of the trap corrido genre as well, but their sound is more traditional, whereas its their lyrics taking it to the streets. Shrek draws parallels between cholos of California to the mafias of Culiacán in “Lolo Felix.”
Tijuana-based band Grupo Codiciado originally launched in the middle of this decade as a standard corridos act. As the group gained popularity, lead singer Erick Aragón started to dress less in suits and more in his everyday streetwear. There was a shift in their music, as well. While, their sound is faithful to original corridos, the lyrics have become grittier. For the true trap corridos anthem, “Ahí Les Va,” Group Codiciado teamed up with Mexican rapper Gera MX, who helped the band achieve a happy medium between both genres.