21st January, 1995

La Mafia's previous appearances in these pages have been piano ballads, tasteful — of their kind — and even excessively polite, as though they had put on their good suits in order to enter the charts and were reluctant to turn around for fear something might break. But something happened between then and now; even though their previous single was off the same album, it's highly unlikely this one would have made it to the top if it weren't for the gravitational force exerted by the high-mass formation of a new star.

Tejano, the specifically Texan homebrew of cumbia, norteño, and American r&b and pop, was the new sound of Latin radio, and the way La Mafia presses hard on cumbia's Caribbean beat, skanking hard at reggae tempos, may be the funkiest sound we've had to date. As well as one of the tackiest — speaking as someone who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, there are class and taste implications in the cheap keyboard sounds and drum-machine presets La Mafia use here that still trigger hot floods of embarrassment deep in my subconscious. But I'm learning to own it, to even rejoice in it (the unlikely reappearance of similar off-brand synth textures on the radio in 2011 is some help here), and the groove bounces enough to forgive anything.

Or maybe I'm just overidentifying with the lyrics. "Me Duele Estar Solo" means "it hurts to be alone," and the fact that the self-pitying lyrics are sung with such a smooth, carefree delivery over a very sunny bounce only appeals even more to someone who prefers to wrap unflattering self-pity in a breezy irony that dares anyone else to feel sorry for me. (I didn't say I succeed.) If it's a little hard to imagine raising a maudlin glass to the chorus, that's only because bopping to the rhythm might spill the beer.

No comments:

Post a Comment