Chartbreakers combs through notable entries, anomalies, and trends on the Billboard Hot 100 to offer a snapshot of what you need to know about music.
The arrival of summer months typically occasions some shake-ups on the charts. Artists churn out releases in a fight for the song of the summer, while listeners stream things they wouldn’t normally in darker and more dreary times. This year, however, those usual patterns have been overshadowed by the settling in of a long-emerging trend that can now be found throughout the top half of the Hot 100: the influx of Mexican regional music.
Since 2021’s “Botella Tras Botella” by Gera MX and Christian Nodal, which peaked at No. 60, the past two years have seen many tracks by Mexican artists find success on the charts, with that array of songs highlighting various scenes and sounds from the different states in Mexico.
In this edition of Switched on Pop’s Chartbreakers, we’re joined by the co-host of NPR Music podcast Alt.Latino Anamaria Sayre, who says that Mexican regional, or simply regional, is a marketing “bucket term” that encompasses Latin genres including everything from Norteño to Corridos, all of which are comfortably finding a home in the top 20 of the Hot 100 in 2023. Between artists like Grupo Frontera and Fuerza Regida, there are currently 12 Mexican regional tracks on the Hot 100, with the 23-year-old phenomenon Peso Pluma himself occupying nine of those slots — including his Bizarrap session at no. 31.
As for the other 88 songs on the chart, there hasn’t been much upheaval since our last edition of Chartbreakers in February: Morgan Wallen is Morgan Wallening (he has eight in the top 100, with one of them, “Last Night,” on its tenth week at no. 1), “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus is still no. 2, and Jersey Club is still all over the charts (look at Bad Bunny’s “Where She Goes,” at number 16, for example). But as we discuss below, a few things caught our attention: TikTok sped-up remixes, legacy artists, and, on one occasion, a mix of both. (Looking at you, Miguel). Be sure to subscribe to Switched on Pop, and then read on!
Switched on Pop
Mexican Regional’s Emergence
Reanna Cruz: We’ve seen a continuous stream of Latin music on the Hot 100 for several years now, but on the recent editions of Hot 100, there’s been a particular influx of a certain category of Latin music, and that’s Mexican regional. Twelve songs on the Hot 100 right now are Mexican regional. Ana, before we get into it, can you start off with a quick explanation of what is considered Mexican regional?
Anamaria Sayre: Sure, start me off with a hard question. So, some people would call it a genre. It’s not really. It is quite literally what it sounds like: It’s referring to a group of genres that are all regional to certain parts of Mexico. Here in the U.S., it’s generally easier to just group it together as a term that refers to all of these genres that come out of the northern part of Mexico, as well as the southern part of the U.S.
But what is it really? A marketing term used by U.S. labels and execs who didn’t know what to do with the music. It encompasses norteño, it encompasses banda, it encompasses corridos. These are genres that have lived in the northern part of Mexico for a long time. I think people are now becoming more aware of the differences, but it’s basically a bucket term.
Charlie Harding: Ana, you call it a catchall term. Is it also like a radio format? A way of packaging different music into one kind of airplay?
AS: Yeah, exactly. You’ll also hear people refer to it in different ways depending on where you are in the United States. If you talk to someone in Mexico, they’re never gonna package it as that because that doesn’t mean anything to them.
CH: Even though this is not one genre, are there any hallmark sounds that we might hear across Mexican regional music?
AS: You might hear accordion, you might hear a lot of brass, like tuba and trumpet, things like that. 12-string guitars are pretty characteristic, and these vocal harmonies that come in when you have a larger group.
One thing I’ll add is that the lyricism is generally really strong. There’s always a lot of storytelling involved. Stories of the heart. In terms of straight-ahead Rancheras, you have your guy drinking at the bar and el rancho wearing his boots being like, “she left me, blah, blah, blah.” So that’s a key piece of this genre.
RC: There are a bunch of different subgenres inside the umbrella term of Mexican regional. Can you break a couple of those down?
AS: Yeah, there’s a lot. So you have banda, which is kind of the bigger sound, like when you think of Grupo Firme and their 20 guys onstage and they’ve got like the full brass section and all the guitars.
RC: The matching suits.
AS: If you heard it, you would know it. That’s kind of the bigger sound. You have Sierreño, which is more stripped-down guitar based. If you know the artist DannyLux, he’s doing a lot of that lately.
People will argue with me on this — my co-host Felix argues with me on this all the time — but Tejano technically fits under it. A lot of the Tejana you would think of, the most famous obviously being Selena, had a little bit more of an electro-Cumbia flair to it.
You have Norteño, which is very ballady, but also has a kind of Cumbia sound to it. So there’s really a huge variety. And a lot of it, again, is tied to specific states within Mexico. It’s tied to a people, to a region, to a history and a heart that comes from certain places.
CH: It’s helpful to hear what’s going on on the charts as not just “12 percent of this music is representing all of Mexico,” but rather is coming from very different styles and sounds.
AS: It’s been a long-time goal of mine to try to break down a little bit more of what this is. And it’s been interesting to see the way different streaming platforms and things are responding. Apple has a huge playlist that they named “Musica Mexicana.” Like, they just called it Mexican music. And it’s like, Mexican music is extremely vast. And this is just one piece of one piece of one piece.
CH: Surely you have variations of metal and punk and electronic music and just, every kind of genre is gonna exist in Mexico. So yeah, that’s an even more inaccurate umbrella term.
AS: Yeah. Don’t even get me started on the Chilango music scene. That’s a whole other thing.
RC: Ana, before we dive into the songs that are on the charts right now: why do you think Mexican regional is having a moment? On the radio and on the charts, what is driving this push?
AS: It’s partly due to streaming and young artists who are making the genre cool, but my theory is that it’s mostly because of an enormous increase of this young generation of Latinos in the U.S., many of them U.S.-born. You have a whole generation of really young Latinos in the U.S. who are listening to this music. And that’s why we’re seeing such an enormous build.
Peso Pluma, for example, is touring right now and he’s hitting Texas and California like five times back and forth. It’s about what’s happening here in this country and the way that it’s bringing Mexico to the world.
RC: Well, speaking of Peso Pluma, that takes us to our first song, which peaked at No. 4 on the charts. It’s called “Ella Baila Sola,” and it’s a collaboration between Peso Pluma and another group called Eslabon Armado. Ana, right off the bat, what genre would you put this under?
“Ella Baila Sola,” Eslabon Armado & Peso Pluma
AS: This very comfortably lies within the bucket of corridos tumbados.
Corridos has always been kind of an older genre, something your grandparents listen to. More melodic, a little ballady. In recent years it was popularized by Natanael Cano; he was the first young artist to really bring the corrido tumbado to a larger audience. It’s basically this mix of your super-old corridos genre and hip-hop and rap sensibilities, mashed together and sped up. It has that kind of trumpet-y da da da in most of them, and you get a corrido tumbado, which is all of a sudden really cool.
CH: I think it’s notable that the song has spent multiple weeks in the top ten of the Hot 100 and doesn’t really contain the hallmarks of pop production. We don’t have any electronics. There is no 808 bass. It doesn’t even have a chorus or any sort of real repetition in the lyrics.
It is clearly extremely narrative. It’s full of hooks where my ears are like, Oh, I’ve heard that hook. But it’s always under a new set of lyrics, and that rarely happens on the charts. The only thing that I hear that’s contemporary is the production. It’s very in your face: it’s bright, it’s aggressive. It feels like it’s mixed like a pop song, but it’s not looking to cross over by borrowing things that are already very cool on the Hot 100. It’s in its own lane.
AS: A hundred percent. One thing that is so fascinating about the explosion of regional is that the last time that we saw anything within this space have a big U.S. presence, like, the thing that people think of is Selena. Because you think about ’90s Latin pop and people around the U.S. actually listening to Selena doing this kind of techno-Cumbia thing. She almost had to popify to make her music interesting to people. And there’s none of that in this music.
RC: She even had a song called “Techno Cumbia” — like, it’s right in the name. She’s bridging those culture gaps. For me, what stands out about “Ella Baila Sola” is Peso Pluma’s voice specifically, which Vulture’s music editor Alex Suskind once described as “being squeezed through a sieve,” kind of just ringing everything out of it, you know? And I don’t find it particularly attractive to listen to, but it somehow works.
You can hear it more clearly on Peso Pluma’s recent session with Bizarrap, which is stuck in my head. There’s such a distinct texture to it that I think brings a lot to the production of whatever song he’s in.
AS: Chalino Sanchez was one of the most widely beloved Narcocorrido artists. And his voice was famously kind of grating. I think that historically, the vocals of the genre are not always the most straight-ahead sweetest voices to listen to. That’s part of the roughness of it. If you’re telling stories of the heart, you’re sometimes telling stories of heartbreak.
I mean, this is a genre that is heart-wrenching, and it’s matched oftentimes by imperfect vocals. You just want to be as loud and as intense and as emotional as possible. Sometimes it’s more imperfect voices that are the best ones to communicate that.
CH: Yeah. A lot of the sound is in the nasal cavity. It’s forward sounding, and I think that another reason it works is because the production here is so thick. There’s so much instrumentation filling up so much space. If you want to be heard, you gotta break through.
AS: It has to be a voice that you can’t not listen to. You can’t look away.
RC: Peso Pluma and Eslabon Armado linked up for the first time to make “Ella Baila Sola.” What is the significance of them and their collaboration, Ana?
AS: Peso Pluma is blowing up. He started making music a year ago, and it’s been a wild ride for him. He’s from Guadalajara, which is not a city in northern Mexico, where this music usually comes from. He went to high school in San Antonio, Texas, and is half Lebanese.
So he’s a lot of different things that are not necessarily characteristic of a Mexican regional artist, but that’s arguably why he is representing this. It’s important to look at this phenomenon as something that is Mexican-American in many ways. For him to have that time in Texas makes sense.
Eslabon Armado, they’re a band from Patterson, California. So in a similar way, they’re a Mexican American group of kids bringing this music to the world. They started a couple years earlier, but both of these artists are really young. Peso is 23. That’s something that’s really characteristic of what’s happening with this explosion. Everyone who’s participating is super-young.
CH: And they’re bridge builders between cultures.
RC: I mean, it has demonstrated success. Peso Pluma has eight songs on the Hot 100 right now. That’s a number reserved for the Taylor Swifts of the world, the Rihannas of the world.
AS: You have to understand, in Mexico, Peso Pluma is like Beyoncé level. He is superstar-celebrity status.
RC: Well, speaking of superstar celebrity, let’s transition to another Mexican regional collaboration featuring none other than Global Superstar Bad Bunny in his collaboration with Grupo Frontera, “un x100to.”
“un x100to,” Bad Bunny & Grupo Frontera
CH: Different vibe.
RC: This track peaked at five on the Hot 100. Charlie, what do you think?
CH: Well, it makes me want to know what regional style we’re listening to here, because this is a very different feel.
AS: Yeah. I was surprised when (a) I heard Bad Bunny was gonna be on a regional track and (b) when I heard what it was. This is him collaborating with Grupo Frontera, which is another Mexican American band. They’re coming to us out of Texas. And this song is Norteño, with maybe like a Cumbia-light mix to it.
It’s something that’s kind of a straight-ahead Tejano Cumbia, if anything. Very characteristic of the southern part of Texas and the music that’s come out of there — Selena included.
CH: I’m hearing the accordion, you have the cha cha cha cumbia rhythm. But yeah, the sort of slower ballad kind of thing.
AS: Yeah. The ballad piece of it is key to any Norteño. It’s also something that you get with a song like this that does have some of that cumbia feel. It’s an interesting marriage, and I am fascinated that this was the track that Bad Bunny chose to participate in.
CH: Right? Because of course he’s Puerto Rican, and this falls well outside the world of reggaeton or Latin trap that we know him for.
AS: Totally. And I mean, him doing a regional song is not that surprising because a lot of other artists are hopping on it right now. It’s what’s popular. Karol G had a regional track on her recent album. However, of all the things that you could do, Norteños don’t really move. Like we said, they’re ballads.
CH: Maybe the reason that Bad Bunny fits so well in this track is that the Cumbia rhythm layers really well with the dembow beat. Even though Cumbia and Reggaeton don’t originate in the same place, they have this rhythmic overlap that makes sense for a Bad Bunny track, even if coming from different cultural pathways,
AS: Cumbia is originally a Colombian genre, and before that, it came over from Africa on the slave trade. But it’s something that has become one of the most pervasive Latin American sounds. You have your Mexican Cumbia, the Caribbean, Central America … Cumbia is all over the map.
The influence is present in much of Latin music because of how pervasive the genre is. And so when you look at regional, which is made up of polka and waltz and different things like that, too, the Norteño is practically a Cumbia but kind of mixed up a little bit. So it does make sense. I would say there’s a bridge there for sure.
An interesting factoid about the Cumbia rhythm: It’s a dance rhythm, right? Like, basically it’s like this step back and forth. As I mentioned, it came from the slave trade, and it was designed as something people could dance to while in shackles. That’s the origin and it’s what keeps it that tight. That’s pretty different from a lot of the other beats you’ll hear coming out of the north of Mexico.
RC: Something else about this track that I find exciting is that it leans more into the mainstream pop production. Right off the bat we have a reverberated vocal and a simple stripped-back guitar intro. It feels at home in the world of other charting, more ballad-y pop songs.
CH: And when Bad Bunny comes in, the song flips and becomes super-contemporary.
AS: Yes. The other thing worth noting is thematically how contemporary it is. Like the title itself, 1%, he’s singing a song about his phone being on 1% and talking to this girl. What gets more contemporary than that? They’re not just modernizing the sound, but they’re modernizing the subject matter.
CH: They even do it in the way that they sing it — the melodies feel like they could be sung by Post Malone or, certainly, Bad Bunny. They have this very 2020s sensibility in the melody.
RC: All right, let’s keep going down the charts. Peaking at 35 we have “TQM” by Fuerza Regida.
“TQM,” Fuerza Regida
RC: Right off the bat we’re hearing a lot of stuff that we already talked about: Rough, textured vocals, and brass-forward production. Ana, what would you consider this?
AS: I’m gonna go once again with corrido tumbado. This has all of those characteristic sounds that we talked about earlier with “Ella Baila Sola.” You have that trumpet sound. You have the 12-string guitars in there. And we’ve talked about vocals a lot, and that is relevant here: Almost every Mexican mix, I would say, goes super-upfront on the vocals. It’s just a thing everyone does. It’s how Mexicans like to listen to their music.
CH: It’s pop music.
AS: Exactly. And it’s about the lyricism too. You’re getting funny themes again here, these guys being like, “When I roll up in my BMW, you pay attention to me, blah, blah, blah.”
And when you’re talking about corridos mashed with a hip-hop tone, they’re not in the traditional banda garb. They’re rocking designers and they want everyone to know it. And that’s characteristic of the music.
I love these guys. Fuerza Regida — they released a song earlier this year that blew them up, “Bebe Dame,” which was with our friends that we just discussed, Grupo Frontera. The thing that is amazing to me is that these songs work super-produced and they work super–stripped down. I know the guy who wrote this song, and I’ve heard him perform it with just a 12 string. It holds up 100 percent. The way these songs move, the way the melodies are written, they’re so strong. It doesn’t really matter how much production you have on it, it still works.
CH: That usually is what defines a great song. When you strip it down to just its bare bones, does it still hold together? And this definitely does.
RC: We’re going to move away from Mexican regional now and take a look at what else is happening on the Hot 100 …
The TikTok Pipeline
RC: As we’ve previously discussed on the show, the TikTok-to-Spotify-to-chart-success pipeline is thriving. I wanna talk about a few examples that made that jump, starting with “Cupid” by the K-Pop group FIFTY FIFTY.
“Cupid,” FIFTY FIFTY
CH: Everything old is new again because you could just straight up mash this together with “Lovefool” by the Cardigans. And I am transported back two decades.
RC: They’re the same concept — you know, “Cupid” … “Lovefool” … It all boils down to those elements of love and heartbreak.
AS: Breaking to that rap verse is giving me very 2012 pop-song energy. You have your bumpy chorus and then you’re like, “All right, let’s break it down.”
RC: Most K-pop groups have a rapper that pops in and delivers a verse, but I agree. This whole song feels very 2012.
RC: “Cupid” is currently at 23 after peaking at No. 17, and it blew up originally on TikTok because of the sped-up version.
CH: Reanna, you did a whole piece on the sped-up phenomenon, but I feel like part of what makes them so successful is our global exposure to the genre of hyperpop. It reminds me of listening to SOPHIE’s “Lemonade.” It has that really high-pitch, ridiculous vocal. That’s not even a sped-up version, that’s the original version. And now when we hear sped-up versions of pop songs on TikTok, it has this connection to that world of hyperpop, the avant garde pop genre, which has been happening for about a decade now.
RC: Other songs that are finding life on the Hot 100 based on their sped-up counterparts include hits by legacy artists. No one is safe — looking at a song like “Sure Thing” by Miguel, which is holding steady at No. 14 with 44 total weeks on the chart, and the song came out all the way back in 2010.
“Sure Thing,” Miguel
CH: Ana, we were just reflecting on if we should be going back to 2012.
AS: The golden era.
RC: It’s crazy. The song is being pushed 13 years after it came out — and I think a huge part of it is the lyrics. They’re these corny analogies that I see a lot on TikTok, like people with their partner being like, “You’ll be the cash, I’ll be the rubber band.” It’s corny and it’s silly and it lends itself to people making content.
CH: Content music. That is a sad phenomenon.
AS: Is it Charlie? Is it?
CH: I’m a purist. I’m not sure, I’ll think about it.
RC: Well, another legacy artist finding chart success in 2023 is Lana Del Rey with “Say Yes to Heaven.”
“Say Yes to Heaven,” Lana Del Rey
CH: This is the exact opposite direction, Reanna; I feel like I’ve always thought of her music as Lana Del Cave. I’m going into a subterranean, crystalline giant open space and everything is slow and reverberated. This is the polar opposite of what we just heard, but is this also a TikTok thing?
RC: Let me drop some Lana Lore on you real quick. So, the song is currently at No. 90 and debuted at No. 54, and it has perhaps one of the weirdest charting journeys.
The song was originally recorded during sessions for Lana’s album Ultraviolence, which came out in 2014. These songs circulated in the Lana Stan community — you could find them on Twitter, you could find them on SoundCloud. “Say Yes to Heaven” first had snippets leaked in 2016. Then in 2020 the full track leaked online. And then last year in 2022, a sped-up version made it big on TikTok, prompting an official release of the song in May with an officially sped-up version.
AS: Officially sped up.
RC: Officially. Lana isn’t a stranger to sped-up songs — we talked about that on the sped-up episode. Her song “Summertime Sadness” had a big sped-up push. And a lot of these more sparsely produced Lana tracks have an impact in that regard, because they’re so stripped down that when you speed them up, it gets to the point quicker.
CH: Takes you out of the cave, puts you on dry land.
RC: I really like this song. I had no idea even that it was recorded in 2014 until my roommate was like, “Oh, do you know the story about ‘Say Yes to Heaven’?” But I think it could motivate pop stars to officially release their old leaks through this sort of TikTok proliferation of these songs.
I feel like these songs and leaks that are traded around in fan communities get sort of a mythological meaning imbued onto them. It would be easy to translate that buzz into official releases. Even in the hip-hop world, that happens all the time. Lil Yachty did it with “Poland” last year.
CH: Bob Dylan has made an entire career off of releasing the unreleased material. But this is unique to me, the fan community’s bullying. Well, bullying might be strong, too strong of a word, but pressure from the fans to create the official release phenomena.
AS: I am like, Do you really wanna be encouraging this? It’s kind of like telling every artist, like, “You too can have a Taylor’s version.”
CH: Yeah, do we want this? Hmm.
RC: Great segue, because one of the most successful songs on the charts right now is sitting at No. 2: the remix of Taylor Swift’s “Karma” with Bronx-based rapper Ice Spice.
“Karma,” Taylor Swift feat. Ice Spice
RC: The original was released back in October off of Midnights, and Taylor has been riding the charts since that release. Similarly, Ice Spice has had a lot of chart success recently, being on “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” with Pink Pantheress, which peaked at No. 3. She has three separate credits on the Hot 100, all on remixes, either as the remixer or the remixee.
AS: A good niche to occupy.
CH: It feels like back to what you were commenting on Nicki Minaj: She had for so many years been the No. 1 collaborator on every pop song. Ice Spice seems to be filling that role.
RC: I feel like Ice Spice has a lot of similarities to Nicki Minaj, and I could see her having a Nicki Minaj trajectory where she’s firmly placing herself in the sort of bridge between full pop, like Nicki does on “Beauty and a Beat,” “Starships,” and “Moment 4 Life,” and then more hard-hitting rap such as the stuff on Roman Reloaded. Ice Spice fits perfectly on this glittering pop production, which is honestly different from the other stuff that she’s on, which leans more drill.
AS: Honestly, I don’t get it. People can come for me, but it didn’t quite work for me in the way that I would’ve liked. It feels a lot softer to me than some of Ice Spice’s other stuff, which blends well with Taylor’s vibe because Taylor is, even just vocally, within this very specific range and only does certain things. And so it makes sense to me. But overall, I don’t think it did the song a lot of favors. “Karma” was already so full. Like Reanna said, the production is this very glitzy experience and I don’t think it needed it.
CH: I didn’t wanna like this track because I’m not a fan of the “let’s re-release a very recently released song with a remix with a rapper.” And often what is done is like, they don’t even change the production. It’s the exact same timestamp. The song is equally as long and they just put in a new vocal. I hate that approach. It just feels like phoning it in. They at least changed up the production to create space for Ice Spice. That said, this is definitely not the mashup that I was looking for.
And pure speculation, this doesn’t feel like one of those, “Oh, we actually are best friends and this just happened naturally” kind of things. The vibe is a legacy artist pairing up with the hot rising new thing and seeing if we can get a chart hit. It’s the part of pop music that is the sort of most yuck.
RC: Yeah, I don’t think anybody was particularly asking for this.
AS: Someone in A&R is very pleased with themselves right now, though.
CH: We heard songs earlier that lacked repetition in their lyrics. Here Taylor Swift is partially winning us over with the sheer repetition of the karma line.
RC: She’s also all over the charts — in part because of the Eras tour, I’m sure, plus her personal life drama. “Antihero” is at No. 11, somehow still netting gains after 32 weeks on the chart. “Hits Different” is at 27, which is a Midnights bonus track. “Snow on the Beach” is at No. 30, which is a reentry because, to bring it back to bullying artists to do what you want, people complained that there wasn’t enough Lana Del Rey on the Lana Del Rey feature, so Taylor added more Lana and now the song is charting at No. 30. “Cruel Summer,” off of Lover, is at No. 45, where it reentered last week for the first time since 2019.
RC: Lots of Taylor on the chart.
CH: It speaks to what you were talking about earlier, Ana, about the power of fandom: That your feeling on Mexican regional music is that there just is such a large, young fandom for this music in a way that might not have been in previous decades. The Taylor fandom is enormous and is working very hard, and is obviously streaming a lot of this music over and over again, which is helping it propel its way up the charts.
RC: So we’ve gone from Mexican regional to the Taylor Swift phenomenon, but before we go, Ana, I have one more question for you. Do you think there will be more of a Mexican presence on the charts from here on out? Or do you think it’s just kind of a momentary quote-unquote fad in America?
AS: You know, I’ve been joking, telling everyone that the reconquista is happening and it’s happening through Peso Pluma. It’s a good question. It’s hard to predict because, like we’ve talked about, the genre doesn’t really have the same kind of danceable beats that reggaeton has. It’s so disparate from what we would consider your traditional pop sound that I don’t know if it’s something that’s here to stay.
I do think there’s a movement toward returning the epicenter of what is the export of music of Latin America to Mexico. It kind of shifted itself to the Caribbean for a little bit with the PR, but traditionally Mexico has been the lifeblood. It has been really the center for centuries. So if anything, that’s maybe what’s here to stay: a shift toward there. But is regional specifically going to persist as a global phenomenon? Only time will tell.
CH: You know, I’ve learned today that if fans want something, they can make it happen. Go bully your favorite artists to create what you want.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Here’s playlist of tracks discussed in this Chartbreakers. Be sure to check out Switched on Pop wherever you get your podcasts.