We can all recall the late 2010’s Latin music renaissance. If you were around at all in 2017, you know how hard it was to escape the reggaeton-fueled earworm that was “Despacito.” You probably witnessed Bad Bunny’s historic rise from unknown Puerto Rican prince to chart-topping global phenomenon. Spanish language songs went international. The takeover was undeniable.
But within the past two years, a previously untapped subsection of Latin music has taken the world by storm. The sounds of Musica Mexicana can be felt in the airwaves and eardrums of not just native Mexicanos, but anyone tapped into the mainstream music pipeline around the world, with notable stars like 24-year-old Peso Pluma leading the pack and breaking records.
But what exactly is regional Mexican music? The umbrella term encompasses a wide array of sub-genres including sierreño, norteño, banda, grupero, mariachi and corridos — traditional Mexican sounds and formats that have existed for centuries. These are the acoustic-driven love songs that soundtracked an array of drunken nights from the Mexican Revolution to the narcos boom of the late twentieth century. But whereas the ancestors of this genre sang of horses, ranches, and gun fights, the new generation of young Mexican stars sing about Balenciaga, Lady Gaga and ghosting.
With such a rich, populated roster of new voices popping up in the regional Mexican stratosphere, we know it can feel overwhelming to get your toes wet. That’s why we rounded up our seven favorite rising stars, below.
Upon first listen, 19-year-old Ivan Cornejo's ominous vocal quality will have you mistaking him for much older regional Mexican acts. Ivan first blew up with his viral song, “Esta Dañada,” in 2021, and since then has become one of the most well-known and admired personas in the sierreño space. His mournful lyrics about heartbreak, paired with his haunting, husky voice, make him an instantly classic troubadour — and the numbers agree. Currently on a sold out tour and with new music slated for early next year, it’s no doubt that Ivan’s star will only continue to shine brighter and brighter.
Natanael Cano mastered the art of the “corrido tumbado,” or “trap corrido.” Corridos, which historically have been defined as narrative-style poems that chronicled controversial characters during the Mexican Revolution in 1910, took on new meaning in the late 2010’s when artists like Cano embedded the traditional format with diamond chains, Burberry jackets and blunts. Not only did the 22-year-old infuse trap aesthetics into the genre, but he also incorporated sonic elements that made him a trailblazer — look no further than his 2019 album, aptly titled Corridos Tumbados.
Yahritza Y Su Esencia
In a genre that is primarily male-dominated, Yahritza Y Su Esencia's singular voice feels much needed. The sibling trio makes sad sierreño for the TikTok generation, even having collabed with contemporaries in the space like Ivan Cornejo. With an inherent focus on family and community, the band cuts through the noise and pierces through your heartstrings with norteño-infused songs that stick.
DannyLux looks like the East LA boy-next-door, but his guitar-driven corridos will hit you where it hurts. With a voice like silk and curly hair that undoubtedly makes tweens across the country swoon, he’s primed to be your sad boy sierreño internet boyfriend. Like all artists in the genre, DannyLux sings about melancholy (take his banger “Infeliz,” directly translated to “Unhappy,” as an example). But having gone to his live show, it’s clear his sad songs make the kids happy — the Elvis-like fanfare in the crowd was palpable. With an invigorated army of fans behind him, DannyLux is leading us into the future.
Signature ‘sad boy’ Junior H knows a thing or two about melancholy. Alongside his Rancho Humilde labelmate Natanael Cano, Junior paved the way for corridos tumbados to be taken seriously in the mainstream. In photos and album art, he tends to hide his face, making way for a more animated/VR version of himself to take center stage. His influence can still be felt, though, sometimes perhaps too much: this year, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador and many other top Mexican officials banned live performances of corridos tumbados, saying that their lyrics promoted violence and glorified drug smugglers. Needless to say, it’s a critical time in history for the genre and Junior H is a steady stalwart who just wants to make ‘sad boy’ music for the masses.
What happens when you combine Selena with Gwen Stefani, maybe dip in a little bit of Lana Del Rey? Well, you get Estevie, the 19-year-old Beaumont, CA native who is bringing the sounds of cumbia and traditional norteño to a whole new crowd of pop-loving young listeners. Her debut EP Cumbialicious cements her as not only one of the single females in the male-dominated genre revival, but perhaps its most promising pop-star-to-be.
When Eslabon Armado dropped their album NOSTALGIA in 2022, a seismic shift could be felt in the regional Mexican space. With family and community being such an important aspect of the Mexican diaspora, the quartet serves to be a proponent of that through their music, having brought many of the rising players (including most of the names mentioned above) to sing on the album. For those unfamiliar with the music, NOSTALGIA and the Eslabon Armado discography in general serves as a solid starting point.