Today I received a quite a few inbox messages and social media tags from my friends asking if I’d seen/heard Juan Gabriel’s new cover and video of “Have you ever seen the rain?,” a great song popularized by the even greater band Creedence Clearwater Revival. I figured this is a good opportunity to update Rictus, which neither José or myself have done in a while — and both of us have a good reason but we’ll talk about it some other time — and also to vent some of my anxiety with the recent Juan Gabriel’s Dúo records.
First, a bit about this cover, according to Billboard:
The 66-year-old leading Mexican singer-songwriter, who won the Top Latin Album honor for his Latin chart-topping duets set Los Dúo at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, penned his own Spanish version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” titled “Gracias al Sol.” The sunnier take on the John Fogerty song that foreshadowed the 1972 break up of CCR will be included on the bilingual album Quiero Creedence, a Latin tribute to the Bay Area hitmakers, set for release by Concord Picante on July 29.
In case you haven’t seen or heard the song, here ya go:
Okay, the bad: I hate the way Juan Gabriel hippie’d up the song. The original lyrics are melancholic and sad, and they go great with the song’s melody:
“I want to know: have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?”
But for some odd reason, Juan “the meteorologist” Gabriel robbed some poor weather girl of her cue cards and presented his loot as song lyrics:
“No, today is neither hot nor cold. The weather is good thanks to the sun.”
Unsurprisingly, Juaga’s sunny attitude seems to be in line with the unnerving optimism which has stunk up his Dúo records. Like a lonely, depressed aunt who doubles up on her antidepressants during family gatherings, he’s creeping people out by being overly cheery and motherly.
The good? Lyrics not withstanding, the cover is actually decent, and Juanga’s outfit is fucking amazing. Also, this is the first time in a very long time that we actually get to see him in a more conventional frontman role. Unlike most of Juan Gabriel’s performances, where there’s always some 100 person band in the background, here Gabriel is actually part of the band, similar to the way Morrissey presents himself with his bandmates. Sure, Juanga and Morrissey are always gonna get top billing over anybody else, but in “Gracias al sol” the “Divo de Juarez” positions himself as part of the gang, as one of the boys.
But the real takeaway here is that Juan Gabriel doesn’t need to make shitty collaborations in order to hold our attention. Even if this is a questionably-translated cover, Juanga still dazzles, still fascinates. All he has to do now is get back to making music for himself and by himself.
Pope Francis dropped the sickest mixtape ever, and nobody noticed it
Titled Pope Francis: Wake Up!, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, aka the Dope Pope, dropped the sickest mixtape the streets of the Vatican will ever produce, and nobody noticed it.
No, you won’t hear Francis doing a trap version of “Spirit in the sky.” Jorge is darker. On his street-wise LP, Sir Preach-a-lot churns out hard-ass monologues, all of which have been written and recorded with various collaborators:
“Under the art direction of Don Giulio Neroni, who also curated other albums for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, various Italian artists and producers also contributed to the music like Giorgio Kriegsch, Mite Balduzzi, Giuseppe Dati, Lorenzo Piscopo, the orchestral director Dino Doni, and former member of Italian progressive rock band Le Orme.”
Sure, Bergoglio is not producing his own tracks à la Dr. Dre, but that doesn’t make Pope Francis: Wake Up! any less incisive, penetrating, and epic — like, Cradle of Filth level of epic.
Take “Wake up! Go! Go!” — sadly, it’s not a Wham! cover — but a fine prog rock track that’s been mixed with a horn section from the middle ages. On “La fe es entera,” Francis tells his listeners that “it’s scandalous that God arrived and became one of us — it’s just a scandal. The scandal of the cross is… well, still a scandal.”
But the real scandal are the Pope’s rhymes, which are quite somber. On “¿Por qué sufren los niños? [why do children suffer?], Bergoglio, true to Catholic dogma, preaches all the hard truths, such as “this world needs to cry more.” Why? Because Catholics mustn’t have any happy thoughts without feeling terrible about it. Doing so is like pounding ten rusty nails into Jesus’ already-mangled appendages.
Perhaps not sonically, but thematically Pope Francis: Wake Up! makes Bauhaus’ “Stigmata martyr” sound like “Despacito.” Not all of it, of course. “Pace! Fratelli!” sounds like an Enya-penned track that’s been produced by Giorgio Moroder, but sung by castrated monks.
Letters to Rictus: “My girlfriend supports #MeToo, but loves reggaeton. She’s tripping, right?”
Doña Rictus, my girlfriend is smart, young, fun-loving Latina. She’s college-educated, has a good job, pays her taxes, and comes from a relatively conservative family, like most Latinos.
She’s cultured and politically active. Earlier this year she participated in the Women’s March and, when she’s not going to design fairs, or some indie rock concert, she’ll digest all the lefty publications.
Then she gets drunk. After she sips on the Devil’s nectar, she turns into a Sábado Gigante model who’s been hypnotized and asked to sweep the floor with her ass. She’ll scream “¡Hasta abajo!” and “¡Dale con todo!” and other shocking phrases our Bernie Sanders-voting friends always reel from.
As a progressive, and as a woman, she’s obviously very supportive of the #MeToo movement. But we’ve gotten into arguments over how reggaeton has always been at odds with true feminism. She’s not a silly Maluma apologist yet, but I’m afraid she may turn into one soon, and that’s a strain our relationship can not handle.
– Yo También Quiero Que Te Respetes
*Takes off reading glasses*
Curiously, dear Rictus reader, NPR’s Alt-Latino published a podcast about this subject earlier today. In it, the participants discussed the advances “el género” (reggaeton) has made towards being less misogynist.
Most people will probably agree that old-school reggaeton is, without a doubt, extremely misogynist. New reggaeton has been sanitized for mass consumption. It’s less offensive, but calling it “feminist” would be like calling Don Francisco “entertaining.”
In fact, besides a few female performers, such as Ivy Queen, women still have almost no representation in reggaeton (see #7 here).
Some disingenuous people have been trying to pass “Despacito” as an achievement for women because it was co-written by a woman, but the harsh truth is that Luis Fonsi’s song is still about a guy who aggressively hits on a girl, and the lyrics leave a lot to be desired:
“Si te pido un beso, ven dámelo (If I ask you for a kiss, come give it to me)… Quiero, quiero, quiero ver cuánto amor a ti te cabe (I want to see how much of my love you can fit in)”
But talking about misogyny in music — or life, really — remains an uncomfortable subject. Even Roxanne Gay, a very smart, popular, and beloved feminist, has conflicting feelings when it comes to enjoying hip-hop, reggaeton’s first-world cousin:
“It’s really difficult. You hear some hip hop, and it’s just such great music, or great lyrics, or a great beat, and it grabs your interest. Then you pause and you listen to the lyrics, and they’re really damaging, or unnecessarily misogynistic. And you’re like, ‘What do you do?’
If you’re so principled that you decide that I’m going to have a zero-tolerance policy, the reality is that you’re not going to be listening to anything.”
I do have an idea, mijo. Wisin, a popular reggaetonero, revealed that women used to make up over half their audience, even when their music was at its most offensive:
“In the early days [of Wisin & Yandel], our lyrics were much more explicit and a lot of times it came across as offensive to women, who found it degrading. But women still made up about 60 or 70 % of the people buying our music, not just physical albums but digital sales.”
Considering those high numbers, it’s very much within the grasp of Latinas to influence the music industry through their buying power.
So fuck misogynist reggaetoneros. Next time your girlfriend gets wasted, begins to mop the floor with her butt, and starts shouting those aggressive phrases the Bernie Bros don’t know what to do with, put on some Mula, not Maluma.