How Música Mexicana Went From Regional to Global

Getty / Mindy Small / Stringer/Illustration by Ava Cruz

Regional Mexican music has officially gone global. A new wave of artists has redefined the age-old sound of Mexico, aiding in it resonating with a new generation of fans. Acts like Peso Pluma, Eslabón Armado, Grupo Frontera, DannyLux, and Conexión Divina have turned the music of their roots into a multi-genre movement.

“It’s a super-cool moment for our culture and our music, and being able to contribute to this musical movement is a dream come true for all six of us,” Adelaido “Payo” Solís III, the lead singer of Grupo Frontera, tells POPSUGAR. “We feel incredibly proud and privileged to be a part of this música Mexicana explosion happening on a global scale.”

Regional Mexican music is a catch-all term for all the genres that are rooted in Mexican culture. Over the years, that has encompassed the ranchera music of late Mexican icon Vicente Fernández, the Tejano stylings of Selena Quintanilla, the banda music of Jenni Rivera, and the mariachi music of Mexican superstar Christian Nodal. There’s also the corridos and sierreño music from the brief career of Ariel Camacho, who inspired many of the new-wave acts before his untimely death in 2015.

“The beauty of regional Mexican music is that it is not one genre, it’s not from one specific place, and it has evolved in so many ways throughout the years,” says Michelle Gas, a senior industry relations manager at Amazon Music. “There’s a huge legacy and body of work that legendary bands and artists have left and that the new generation of artists have been inspired by and built on.”

In 2013, Camacho was one of the first artists to refresh regional Mexican music. He pioneered the sound of sierreño, a more guitar-driven and electrifying take on the sound. Camacho also shifted the stories of Mexican corridos to reflect romance, heartbreak, and a show of Mexican swagger. He directly influenced Mexican singer Natanael Cano, who spearheaded the corridos tumbados genre in 2019. With his label Rancho Humilde, based in LA, he fused the corrido with elements of trap music, reflecting life on both sides of the US-Mexican border. Fellow Mexican act and frequent collaborator Peso Pluma has since taken that genre and raised up the flag of regional Mexican music on global stages like Coachella and the MTV Video Music Awards.

“We’re super blessed to be a part of and make songs with artists like Grupo Frontera, they’re going crazy, and Peso Pluma, who is on some other level,” says Pedro Tovar, the lead singer of Mexican-American group Eslabón Armado. “We’re happy to collaborate with artists that like to collaborate with us too, because both of them are fans of our music.”

Through Eslabón Armado, Tovar makes sierreño music that reflects his bicultural upbringing in Patterson, CA. In 2020, he added some emo edge to the genre, which ushered in an era of sad sierreño. Tovar recalls that while collaborating with Peso Pluma and Grupo Frontera, both acts revealed to him that they were avid listeners of Eslabón Armado before their big breakthroughs.

“It feels good knowing how they met us and how they heard us,” he says. Earlier this year, Eslabón Armado seamlessly blended its sierreño soul with Peso Pluma’s corrido sound in “Ella Baila Sola.” It became the first regional Mexican song to hit the top 10 of the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 4.

“It was probably one of the easiest songs to write,” Tovar says. “It took me like 30 or 40 minutes. Peso, he liked it and recorded it. A month in, I posted [a preview] in my Instagram Story and it blew up. A month after that, we released it and it blew up even more. It’s a blessing. The song put the regional Mexican genre on the map.”

At the start of this year, Grupo Frontera made history as the first act to land multiple regional Mexican music songs on the Hot 100 chart. The Texas-based band built on the momentum of its viral cumbia cover of “No Se Va” by Colombian group Morat. Since then, the guys have taken cumbia, norteño, and regional Mexican music to the top. Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny brought out Grupo Frontera as a surprise guest during his Coachella set to perform their collaboration “Un x100to,” another one of this year’s biggest hits.

“We all admire him, and to know that he was super excited to work with us is more than we could have ever dreamed of,” Solís says. “He was super kind to us. This collaboration represents a powerful fusion of our musical styles, and it’s a memory we’ll all cherish forever.”

Another act who proudly represented regional Mexican music at Coachella this year was DannyLux. Before his big hometown show, the Palm Springs-based singer broke through in 2021 thanks to his collaboration “Jugaste y Sufrí” with Eslabón Armado. As the sole writer of that song, he pulled ahead of Bad Bunny on Billboard’s Latin Songwriters chart. With his latest album, “DLux,” DannyLux is pushing regional Mexican music to never-before-seen places. He embraces bachata influences in “Mi Hogar” alongside Venezuelan singer Maye and teams up with Jordyn Shellhart on the country-infused “La Lluvia.”

“I feel like [my album] represents evolution,” DannyLux says. “I would just add new sounds. I didn’t realize that it would turn into me mixing different genres, but I would just add different instruments that you wouldn’t really hear in the regional Mexican genre.”

Even with the successes of Selena and Jenni Rivera, the regional Mexican music scene continues to be largely dominated by men. Conexión Divina, the first all-women sierreño group, is changing that in this next generation of artists. The Mexican-American act consists of lead singer Liz Trujillo and bassist Sandra Calixto; former guitarist Ashlee Valenzuela decided to go solo earlier last month.

“There are young girls that we want to inspire to play music like us,” Calixto says. In addition to singing from a woman’s perspective, Conexión Divina are also pushing back on the machismo ingrained in the genre with Trujillo, who identifies as gay. Their music videos for “Odio” and “La Receta” show Trujillo in a same-sex romance.

“We’ve always said since the beginning that we always want to represent ourselves,” Trujillo says. “This is who we are. We’re not hiding who we are. If anything, we’re just empowering other people to be themselves. That’s the biggest thing we do.”

Mexican-American pop star Becky G enlisted Peso Pluma and DannyLux to feature on her first regional Mexican album, “Esquinas,” which was released on Sept. 28. Following Bad Bunny jumping on Grupo Frontera’s song and Puerto Rican reggaetonero Jhayco recently teaming up with Eslabón Armado, regional Mexican music continues to break through thanks to crossover collaborations. At next year’s Grammy Awards, the genre’s category will be changed to música Mexicana because there’s nothing regional about it anymore.

“It’s a really exciting time for música Mexicana, and I’m excited for it to continue to grow abroad, especially in European and Asian markets,” Gas says. “Collaborations between artists of different genres certainly have helped to expand the reach of Mexican music, crossing borders and breaking stereotypes. This is just the beginning!”

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