Premios de la Radio — the world’s longest-running regional Mexican music awards show — celebrated its 20th anniversary Thursday night in Dallas, TX. Unique to these awards are that they actually give nod to the diversity of the Mexican folk genre, by highlighting subgenres such as banda, mariachi, and norteño. American Spanish-language network EstrellaTV stacked the three-hour telecast with live acts that highlighted the past, present, and future of the genre — from Lifetime Achievement Award honorees Bronco, to young corrido urbano stars Fuerza Regida — and embraced the evolution that regional Mexican music has undergone in those two decades.
Instrumental to this shift has been regional Mexican music’s leading ladies, who have not only pushed further inclusion in the genre, but have helped take it to new heights. Mexican pop goddess Gloria Trevi blended the best of both regional and pop worlds when she opened the show with a cumbia version of her club-hopping anthem, “Ábranse Perras.” Her spectacular performance, flanked with sexy vaqueros, set the pace for a thrilling celebration of Mexican music and culture.
Women Rule the Night
Trevi also received an award for “La Mexicana Más Taquillera del Mundo,” or, the Best-Selling Female Mexican Artist. “I feel very grateful, but I’ve been through different chapters in my career where there’s only 200 people and they give their heart and soul and it’s the best show,” Trevi tells Rolling Stone. “Every time someone comes to a show that’s super full or it’s just one person, if they give their all and connect with me, that’s what’s important.”
“I would prefer the award to be called ‘Artist That’s Most Connected to La Raza,'” she adds with a laugh.
After a three-year absence, the Best Female Artist category returned this year to honor greats like mariachi singer Edith Marquez, grupera star Ana Bárbara, and Chiquis Rivera, the daughter of late banda diva and champion of women, Jenni Rivera. In the spirit of her mother, says Chiquis, “I have a playlist called ‘Chingonas’… that’s one of my first steps to unite us and to [support] more female talent.”
“I think women in these times are feeling more empowered every day,” Marquez says of women in the genre. “We’re stronger and more independent. We live what we sing and we draw strength from that to keep going.” In the end, Bárbara took home the award.
While in Texas, the aforementioned women and Latin pop princess Belinda united for a stunning tribute to Tex-Mex queen Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. It was an especially personal moment for Bárbara, who came up in the industry alongside Selena in the Nineties. “I’m so honored,” she says. “I met her when I put out my first album [in 1994] and it was very beautiful.”
Some of Selena’s most iconic looks — namely, her legendary hats and bustiers — were revived for the live tribute, which included performances of “Baila Esta Cumbia,” “No Debes Jugar,” “Techno Cumbia” and “Fotos y Recuerdos.”
Belinda also performed her Los Ángeles Azules smash, “Amor a La Primera Vista,” alongside the song’s writer, Horacio Palencia. A blend of cumbia with a bit of urbano, the original song features Colombian reggaetonero Lalo Ebratt, who was unable to attend the awards. “Nowadays everyone is doing mixes,” says Belinda. “You have to grow. You cannot think about music in a box. Now you have to do different things. You have to be at the next step.” Her next steps include another possible song with Palencia and new single “Mamacita” featuring a DJ and Venezuelan reggaetonero Nacho. “Amor” garnered the singers the award for Collaboration of the Year.
Corridos Urbanos Unbound
A new movement happening within regional Mexican music is the rise of corridos urbanos, which are acoustic ballads that speak to the streets and Gen-Z party culture. Many of the subgenre’s rising stars were invited to perform: including Adriel Favela, Natanael Cano, Fuerza Regida, Abraham Vazques, and T3R Elemento.
“It’s a vibe,” says Favela. “It’s a new wave. It’s a new culture we’re giving to people that they didn’t know about.”
Best Corrido Urbano winner Cano, who made waves this month with the Bad Bunny remix of his single, “Soy El Diablo,” called that collaboration “chingón,” or fucking awesome. “We’re the same,” the 18-year-old singer says about his young listeners. “I’m like them and they understand my music.”
T3R Elemento frontman Kristopher Nava, who won Corrido of the Year, revealed his plans to take the subgenre further. “We got a bachata song that’s about to come out on our next album Good Vibes and we have three songs collaborating with [hip-hop star] Berner.”
Traditionalists Remain on Top
The biggest-selling Mexican act of the moment, Banda MS, naturally won Artist of the Year. “It’s a reflection that people are liking regional Mexican music,” frontman Sergio Lizárraga says of the band’s success. “It’s not just Mexican people. It’s people in all the Latin American countries. It’s gratifying for us, that our music is crossing borders.” The guys later performed a heartfelt tribute to the late José José with a banda twist in front of his son, José Joel.
The genre’s golden boy, Christian Nodal, won Best Male Artist and Mariachi Song of the Year. During his acceptance speech, he proudly yelled, “¡Arriba la música regional Mexicana!” Nodal also delivered a swoon-worthy rendition of his single “De Los Besos Que Te Di.”
Legendary band Bronco ripped through their greatest hits after receiving a lifetime achievement award. “Some groups from our era, I believe they don’t want to fight anymore,” singer José Guadalupe Esparza says of Bronco’s longevity. “They’ve already taken off the gloves and are only working with the history they’ve made. Bronco has a fantastic history that we’re proud of, but we’re conscious that we can’t just be history. With hard work and dedication, we force ourselves to add new chapters to this story.”