19th November, 1994

Already Selena has begun changing the landscape of Latin Pop. Los Rehenes, a zacatecano band (from the central Mexican state of Zacatecas) which had had some local popularity on an independent label, suddenly zooms to the top of the charts not because they're anything special, necessarily — lots of local regional dance-and-corrido bands could have done as well — but because they're working the cumbia beat with modern electronic flourishes: those drum-machine fills are almost identical to the ones on "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom."

Which isn't entirely fair to Javier and Roberto Torres and their bandmates. Their sound, both classic and modern, was what the moment demanded as Selena opened up an appetite for tejano and related music in the U.S. Latin market, and they could write. "Ni El Primero, Ni El Último" means "neither the first nor the last," and the shrugging fatalism and class-consciousness of the lyric — he's not the first to strike out in love, he's not alone in being despised for his poverty, he doesn't offer the sun and the moon because they're not his to give — is charming and refreshing after the steady diet of extravagant emotionalism which the past eight years of baladas románticas have fed us, punctuated occasionally by silly dance songs.

This is in fact the closest we have come yet to the Mexican version of what country music has traditionally been in the United States: the place where showmanship meets heartbreak, where lower-class solidarity meets pop tunefulness, and wry grins and cowboy hats go hand in hand. It's not quite puro regional, it's slickly produced and major-label poppy, with that pumped-out keyboard hook and those juddering post-industrial fills, but we can see regional from here. We'll see more of it.

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