Rolling Stone aims for the Throne in Latin Rock Music?

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I’ve been a long-term subscriber and fan of Rolling Stone, and I’m normally okay with its content. As a Latin American, however, it is inevitable to notice the lack of Latin pop culture that’s published in the magazine, considering that one of RS’s first (political) articles was a piece by Hunter S. Thompson on the emerging Chicano movement in East Los Angeles (“Strange Rumblings in Aztlan” RS 81, April 1971); Thompson also wrote a requiem for Chicano activist-attorney Oscar “Zeta” Acosta (“The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat” RS October 1977) in RS’ 10th Anniversary issue. In this spirit, RS began with a strong foundation in documenting critical perspectives and culture on the Latin American side. Nowadays, when and if that happens, it’s a rarity, unless they’re covering J. Lo, Pitbull, or Shakira. Typical. Just look at the cover.

It seems a bit odd to me that all of a sudden RS decides to highlight a special double-sided issue (Nov. 22) with one side being in English and the other in Spanish.

New York Time quotes RS:

“The whole idea of the content being in both English and Spanish is that the acculturated Latino is using both Spanish and English in the house and outside of the house,” said Matt Mastrangelo, the publisher of Rolling Stone.

Ok, so they finally caught on that not only are Latinos the fastest growing population in the U.S., but that most of them (us) speak Spanglish in and out of the house. New York Times insinuates that the special Latin features and Top 10 list in this issue were brought upon to insert more ads to sell to the Hispanic market. Obviously, they’re strategizing to target at this growing demographic.

Odder: they compiled this end-of-the-year list with the monumental title, “The 10 Greatest Latin Rock Albums of All Time” with “emerging” Latin artists.

New York Time also quotes:

“At first there was some conversation between us and Rolling Stone, about doing events and parties,” said Gustavo Razzetti, executive vice president and managing director at Lápiz. “And then we had a conversation about what if instead of doing a party we did an issue about showing the influence of Latino music through not only top sellers like J. Lo or Shakira, but also emerging bands and new talent.”

In my couple years of experience in the Latin alternative scene, none of the featured bands who created the ‘Greatest Latin Rock Albums of All Time’ are emerging, new, or even all rock, for that matter.

I know, RS is known for compiling dramatic lists with tag lines like “Greatest [insert category/genre] of All Time.” But, considering that the American version hasen’t really covered any of the Latin artists featured in this list like on a bi-weekly basis, it just seems absurd to strive to claim a throne in the Latin “emerging” and “rock” field. As stated, some of their 10 picks aren’t necessarily rock, much less emerging — Os Mutantes (grandfathers of tropicalismo), Manu Chao (world artist and also a world icon), Café Tacvba (icons), Soda Stereo (ICONS). No one here is new.

I’m not disagreeing with their picks as the All Time Latin Greatest. But it’s almost equivalent of me compiling a “Greatest New Wave Albums of All Time” for Remezcla because Tom Tom Club has a new album, and then include classics by Blondie, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Michael Jackson, Run DMC, etc. (notice they are not all NEW WAVE).

That’s my point.

All in all, I agree that Café Tacvba’s Re, Manu Chao’s Clandestino and Soda Stereo‘s Sueño Stereo were and are groundbreaking records that redefined the notions of what music in Latin America meant and means today. Perhaps Manu Chao was considered rock at one point, back in his Mano Negra days, and some tracks on Cafe Tacvba’s Re as well, but they’re not anymore. It’s been argued, and the argument has been settled. These go way beyond rock. And the world “emerging” doesn’t even apply here. These crossed international boundaries and fuse genres that American “rock” is still unfamiliar with. The way RS categorized these albums here doesn’t really work. It’s like when Pink Floyd was considered “pop” back in the ’60s. These terms and categories RS claimed could have perhaps all applied during the ’90s.