Why I Love and Hate Apple Music

When the digital music age took off, I was one of the first on it. Yes, I might have been on Napster. It’s how I found Belanova. I was all for getting rid of the excess in my life even though I don’t think music is an excess; CDs are.

Before digital, I had lots of vinyl and lots of CDs that I owned. I listened to everything in my collection. I knew all the songs, the tracks, track listings, names of the songs, and knew every band/artist in my collection. You could ask me questions about my collection and I could tell you most anything.

Once digital became the norm,  I ripped them all on to my computer at the highest quality and uploaded them to my iPod. It was the biggest iPod they had at 160GB. My entire collection fit on that one device. I didn’t grab a few files online but once I learned about a new artist, I purchased their music legally. My collection grew.

As I added new music, digitally, I became less connected to it especially as my iPod was set to shuffle all the time. Maybe I didn’t it to myself by shuffling but I have a wide variety of music and want to listen to it all. I stopped buying physical media and only purchased from the iTunes store, until Apple Music.

Apple Music is wonderful. Period. A lot like Spotify, Apple Music gives you music streaming. You listen to what you want, when you want, and they give you recommendations based off your listening habits. This is awesome. I have found so much new music and new artists that my library has grown by leaps and bounds.  And for writing music reviews, this is perfect. I can pull up new music, listen to it over and over while I writing my review, and done. I don’t need to own it, purchase it, or waste money if it’s bad.

That sounds great, right? Its is until your music library is filled with downloaded music that you can’t remember ever downloading. When I find out about a new artist, I don’t always have time to stop right then and listen to them. I might have heard one song that was amazing and I downloaded the album for later. Later never comes because you have still a bunch of other albums still in your later pile. Sadly, there is no pile. It is just taking up space on your “cloud” and you never come back to it.

Just recently, Apple Music gave us “new music” based on our listening habits. Every Friday, we tune into the new music. A good song comes on and I go to add it to my library, just to find out I already downloaded it. A band, SIENNA, had already been added and I didn’t even remember it. This is my life with music right now. I have so much music, that I have too much music.

Without the tangible disc in my hand, I am disconnected with music. I don’t see the names of bands anymore. I don’t know the names of the albums, either. Heck, I don’t even know the names of the songs. There is a band called VEINTIUNO and I really like their music, but I can’t not tell you one name of a song. This is how digital and streaming services have changed the way we listen to music. Or maybe it is just like radio. You hear a song and you like it, but you have no clue of who sings it.

I love Apple Music… and I hate that it has made me disconnected from it too. It seems that unless you stop and play a downloaded album over and over, you never truly connect like you did with physical media.

RIP Ray Reyes (Ex-Menudo)

Today, my heart aches for the loss of a man that has been a part of my life since 1983. Ray Reyes passed away April 30, 2021 and the fans of the group, Menudo share the pain. As of this morning, the cause of death is still unknown.

Ray was my childhood crush before I knew I figured out that I liked girls. I remember going to the hotel and standing outside with Ray, along with Johnny, Ricky, Roy, and Charlie on their balcony. We stood out in the California heat and screamed up at them and through little stuffed animals at them. Yes, Ray caught my teddy bear.

Over the years, I saw Ray perform many times with the group between 1983-1985. He might have only been in the group for a short time, but none the less, he was one of the strongest supporters of the group. He helped reunite six of the members to form El Reencuentro: The Menudo Reunion. Even after that, he remained a strong presence for the group with the fans.

I finally had the opportunity to meet him in Houston, when the Menudo reunion came to town. So humble, he was Menudo’s loveable Teddy Bear.

Ray will always be a part of my life and he will never be forgotten.

Fandango – “Que No Acabe Navidad” Single

Today, the reunion version of the female pop group, Fandango, released a holiday single. While die-hard fans wanted to see the group record a new and updated version of their own song, “Dime Nino, De  Quien Eres,” the girls settled on a cover of Timbiriche’s 1983 classic Christmas song, “Que No Acabe Navidad.”

The girls did an awesome job with song and the music is very festive. Lots of extra jingle bells can be heard in the background making the music extra festive.

During the verses, Sandra, Alexa, Rocio, and Anabella, each had solo parts though there seemed to be help with background vocals during those solos. It is nice to hear each one of the girls singing and we can finally hear that they sound like as mature women instead of teenage girls.

While Fandango seemed to keep the lyrics the same as the original, I felt it might have been nice to modernize it with updated lyrics. It seems a little odd to have mature women repeating the lines of 12 year old, Benny Ibarra stating he wanted a space monster for Christmas. What if the members like Sandra wanted a diamond bracelet, and Alexa wanted two? It might have been cool and fun to see how the producer of the song could have changed the lyrics to represent each of the members as they are now.

Over all, the song is fun. As a Timbiriche fan, I was quite excited to see Fandango remaking a song from another group, especially one I love so much.

Fandango – “Sueños Magicos” (1989)

In all sense of the word, the group’s previous album was a success. While they may have only had one music video and limited radio play on the singles after the original release, EMI thought that the girls still had potential for another success but what do you do when two of the five girls left the group.

During the final promotion of Hola, Que Tal. Alexa left the group. Shortly after that, Evalinda decided to leave too. Sandra joined the group in place of Alexa and Janett took the place for Evalinda. Both additions to the group were great choices. Sandra added a little sexiness to the group’s image and Janett vocals were very regal.

Again, Miguel Blasco, Loris Ceroni, and J.R. Florez took the reigns of the album. I don’t know at what point did EMI decided that they no longer cared about the group but musically, this album lacked everything that made the previous album great. I talked about listening to an album and base my decisions on how many times I wanted to fast forward or skip to the next song. With Sueños Magicos, that happened quite a bit.

Before the the release of Sueños Magicos, fans never really saw the individualities of the members. On all of the broadcast performances, the girls sang altogether and were just one of five on stage. It wasn’t until the released of this album did anyone truly shine. When the girls debuted the album on television, my jaw dropped when Rocio took centerstage and sang the first solo track ever to be promoted. “Dos Corazones En La Obscuridad,” which was written by Pablo Pinella is hands down, the best track of the album and I am not just saying that because of my love for Rocio. Over the years when I have discussed this album with other music snobs, we all agree on this one track. There is a hint of rock, with a lot of pop, and Rocio provided the right vocals at the right time.

Among the other songs that the producers got right were “Todos Quieren Bailar Conmigo,” “Chicos De La Calle,” and “El Ritmo Del Amor.” Another track I have to mention is the wonderful ballad led by Janett, “La Otra Historia de Romeo Y Julieta.” Not only to we get another solo but Janett’s vocals can make anyone feel like she is singing just for them.

When the album is ten tracks long and the highlights are half, we have to look at where the producers went wrong. Luckily, we don’t have to blame the girls for crappy music. They didn’t write the music or produce it. Sometimes, that is the hazards of the music industry for studio made pop groups.

A few years ago, Sandra and I talked about Fandango’s music and how they had to sing a lot of the bad songs while the musically superior tracks were overlooked so often. Songs like “Telenovela” and “Deja De Volar” feel like they were rejects from other artists and given to the girls to fill this album. The title track, “Sueños Magicos” falls somewhere in the middle of good and bad. The solos by Moña, Liliana, and Sandra within the song are great and their voices are nothing but fantastic. It’s the chorus that pushes this music lover over the edge.

Sueños Magicos is beloved by the fans and often mentioned as a favorite from the die-hard fans but I think that love is mistaken for the rarity of the album. The release of the album fell around the time that CDs were making a start in Mexico but only the biggest names were getting released in that format. It is debated on if a true version of this album was originally released on CD or not. When EMI reissued many albums from the past, Autos, Moda Y Rock and Roll and Hola, Que Tal made the grade, but Sueños Magicos did not. Even to this day, the album is having a hard time finding a place in a digital world.

Fandango – “Hola, Que Tal” (1988)

There are not many albums that I can listen to without wanting to skip over a song or two, even when I am trying to subjectively dissect it. Another album comes to mind, Timbiriche 7, which has been debated on being one of, or even, the greatest Latin pop albums of all time. I can say, Fandango’s Hola, Que Tal comes pretty close.

As I sat in the car with the windows closed and the volume up, I turned on Hola, Que Tal, and began looking at each of the songs, openly and critically. I am not one to hold back on my comments about music, even when it comes to people I love and I know. I think it almost makes me a little more critical. At one time, Patricia Manterola and I sat down and discussed her entire discography and I had to tell her that one of her album was a complete piece of crap. She agreed. So when I look at Fandango, I don’t go into this review as a friend or a fangirl/boy. Honestly, I hate people who love an artist and think that everything they do is the best thing ever. I am not like that and will never be like that.

This brings me back to Fandango and the group’s third (or fourth depending on the way you look at it.). As I said, at no time during my listening did I want to turn off a song because of its lack of substance that it brought to the album as a whole. While there maybe some weaker tracks, nothing screamed out at me like it did not belong.

Following up the success of the album, Autos, Moda Y Rock and Roll, EMI continued with their dream team of producers, Loris Ceroni, J.R. Florez, and Miguel Blasco. It worked once, it would work again. And it did. While the previous album was a summer party of songs, this new album bit a little harder and deeper. Many of the tracks had a harder beat and were not typical of what you would expect. Songs like “Demasiado Joven” and “Alta Tension” were just different enough to take the group to the next level, though those were not the songs that the girls performed on television during the promotion of the album.

The title track, “Hola, Que Tal” was the first single off the album. The girls followed up that song on television with “La Cuidad Es Un Oceano De Amor” and “Ricas Y Famosas,” both tracks that fans and the public could related to this pop quintet. The songs are perfect pop hits that were catchy and ideal for the group. I remember the girls first debuting this album in orange and white matching outfits. It worked and they were just awesome.

Back when the album was released, I was not a big fan of the one ballad on the album but as an adult and more musically knowledgeable, the song has a place and a purpose. It showcases the angelical harmony that the girls had together but wasn’t overly sugar coated like many ballads are. I wondered if I would have wanted to skip over it during this review; it fell at the perfect place and time on this album.

Overall, if I wanted to show someone why I love the group Fandango, I would start with this album. While the song, “Autos, Moda Y Rock and Roll” may be their anthem, this album is the showcase of everything that makes Fandango great.

Fandango – “Autos, Moda Y Rock and Roll” (1987)

Fandango became a household name when the five member all-girl group burst on the stage in bright colored outfits that represented the members’ personalities.

EMI knew they had a hit with “Autos, Moda y Rock and Roll.” It was the summer of 1987 and what a way to start off their newest artist. The song became the group’s anthem and a way of life. Cars. Fashion. Rock and Roll. They were the party group of the year and EMI was celebrating the success.

Rocio, Evalinda, and Moña continued from the early days of being a small local pop group. They were joined by two new members, Alexa and Liliana. This would be the group that the country would grow to love.

When the group hit the scene, EMI wanted to bury the past. If you find early articles of the group in magazines they talked about being a new group with an awesome debut album. This was definitely a lie, but let’s go with it.

Autos, Moda Y Rock and Roll was an awesome album. Right out of the gate, you are dancing along with the title track and that was the first single from the album. They group hit every television show they could find and were a regular on “Siempre En Domingo” to promote the album.

No longer was the music recorded out of a garage, the production was grade A quality with EMI’s star producers Loris Ceroni, J.R. Florez, and Miguel Blasco. They had tons of hits with artists such as Yuri and Tatiana, that they were perfect in creating the right sound for this unique group. Mexico had seen all boy groups like Menudo and Chamos having success but not female pop groups. Flans and Pandora were the first to break the ice, Fandango was right behind them.

Listening to the album thirty-three years later for this review, you can look back at the album with a different perspective. No longer am I bias over the fact that I was seriously in love with Rocio. She was one of my 80’s crushes. Big crush. Okay… let’s move along.

Musically, I am comparing the album with others released around the same time. I can hear the classic 80’s sounds of J.R. Florez and Loris Ceroni. They had a distinct sound that made you feel comforted. Thinking back, I remember the girls on television performing and I never remembered a song that I didn’t like.

The first seven tracks of the album are the perfect balance of a great pop album. The only track I would change would be, “Niebla.” As a music snob, this track doesn’t fit and brings the album down from a 10 to an 8. WHY???? It is just a bad song. If we can get past that, the album is nearly perfect for classic pop.

Fandango – “Contrastes” (1985 & 1986)

In the early stages of the girl group Fandango were singing and dancing to something other than “Autos, Moda, y Rock and Roll.”

The all girl group that hailed from Monterrey, Mexico began as a local pop group singing and dancing and parties and local venues before signing a contract with EMI Records. They released the album, Contrastes on a small local label.

The album was far from great. It sounded really low budget, but that had nothing to do with the group and the style that their creator, Abelardo Leal, wanted. He chose five girls to be the next hip and hot group. Female groups were a hot trend in Mexico with the creation of Flans and Pandora.

The album featured a couple awesome tracks like “Ladrona De Amor” and a cover of The Go-Go’s hit, “Head over Heels” called, “Guerra Del Amor.” The sound was rough, almost like it was recorded in a garage somewhere.

When the group was discovered and signed by EMI, two of the five girls did not continue on with the future success of the band. To give the girls the start they needed, EMI reissued the album in 1986 with the new members and the new look of the group.

They also recorded new versions of some of the tracks including a solo for the group’s member, Alexa. “Te Siento Amor” was added to the album while EMI discarded a very bad rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop.”

The album was released nationwide without much promotion. It was not exactly what EMI wanted for the group’s official debut. Mexico really would have to wait another year to see EMI’s love for Fandango. Many fans did not know this album (either version) until the internet came to play a big part of collecting.

At one point, the group’s 1985 version of Contrastes fetched big dollars to collectors as it was once thought to be rare, but over time the amount of these albums have been plentiful and not worth what is once was. On the other hand, the group’s 1986 version seems to be a little less readily available and can cost a tad more for collectors.

EMI really did not enhance the sound of the album. There are a few noticeable variants to some of the tracks but for the average listener, the music and songs sound the same.

Its a decent album but not what you would except from the Fandango that Mexico has grown to love.

ABBA: Super Troupe (2019)

ABBA Super Troupe is a hour long documentary of the Swedish pop band’s origins and how they became a household name, as well as international sensations.

“Few bands have been able to dominate the industry in the same way as ABBA. Follow their journey to celebrity stardom, through archival interviews and performances from ABBA, with added inside knowledge from leading industry professionals.”

If you don’t know who ABBA is, you have been under a rock since the 70’s. The maker of this documentary uses vintage interviews with the band, DJs, and managers to discuss the history of the band. They also interviewed John Tobler, who complied and produced the ABBA Gold Greatest hits album; and Paul Gambaccini, a British radio presenter. Both of these experts were focused on ABBA during their glory years.

There was not much we didn’t know about ABBA that came out in the documentary, but it is always fun to listen to experts talk about artists like this so fondly that you can see the love that they have for music and the artists. It was an hour well spent.

Aleks Syntek – Trasatlántico (2017)

Aleks Syntek could be considered one of the greatest pop artists of this century. His work is consistently changing, evolving while staying true to the one principle of music. Aleks Syntek is synonymous with pop music. Trasatlántico is a journey through Spain, time, and history of classic pop en Español.

With Aleks Syntek Trasatlántico, the classic hits that music fans love are collected together with many of the songs recorded as duets. The album contains sixteen tracks that maintain a level perfection that Aleks embraces. He never half-asses anything when it comes to his music. Trasatlántico is perfection for the pop music lover. It borderlines on his best album to date.

To understand that love for this album, one must dig to the past to see how this tracks changed history. Aleks breathes life into them like no one else could do. It may sound like I am a die-hard Aleks Syntek fan and that is far from the truth. While I believe he is an important part of Latin pop music, he is one of the only artists that has not succumb to the pressures of mass popularity. He never sells out, which allows me to respect him as a musician and performer.

Aleks begins his transatlantic journey with the song “A Cara O Cruz” by Spanish rock band Radio Futura. A duet with David Summers from Hombres G brings up the second song. It is followed by a classic song by Veni Vidi Vici which he performs with frontman Javier Lozada. The next duet is with Javier Ojeda of Radio Futura with the song, “Sin Aliento.” Its a track that many won’t know by name but as soon as it plays, everyone sings.

Teo Cardalda of the band Complices helps Aleks perform their hit, “Es Por Ti.” While I thought I knew most of the tracks, Aleks surprised me with a song from Nacha Pop entitled “Vistete.” Not one of the most popular songs from the band, but with the help of member Nacho García Vega, the create a fun little number.

The voice of the Mecano, Ana Torroja helps with a duet of “El Cine.” Pablo Carbonell of Los Toreros Muertos performs with Aleks the song, “Yo No Me Llamo Javier.” “Sildavia” of La Union features Rafa Sánchez from the band. Up next is a fun little duet with Ana Belen with the song “La puerta de Alcalá.”

Aleks presents the song, “Si yo fuera mujer” made famous by La 5a Estacion but the song was original recorded in 1986 by Patxi Andion. He comes on board to rerecord his hit song. This is the final song of duets on the album. Next Aleks records alone for the following tracks: “Santa Lucia” by Miguel Rios, “Como Pudieste Hacerme Esto A Mi” by Alaska Y Dinarama, and “A Cada Paso Que Doy” by Luz Casal but was made famous by the pop group, Flans. The final tracks are “Viaje Con Nosotros” and the classic anthem “Lucha De Gigantes” by Nacha Pop again.

The idea of recording an album as a road trip mix across Spain is an excellent salute to their musical history and it is worth every minute of the journey.

Music, before and after technology

Back before the internet, we had been there. In 1987 sitting on the floor of my living room, I spent hours and hours combing through the Spanish language magazines trying to translate articles so that I could write a monthly newsletter. At one time, I had hopes of being a journalist, maybe even the next Cameron Crowe, teenage music beat writer for the Rolling Stone. I worked on a typewriter and also an Apple II, then an Apple SE computer. I printed out page layouts then cut and pasted photos from magazines as well as promotional photos that were given to me by the record labels. After that, I took the pages to my local printer and photocopied them. With that box full of paper, I collated, stapled, folded, addressed, stamped and mailed all by hand.

And the next month, I did it again. I continued this process for four years. And each month of those four years, the quantities continued to grow. Latin music fans in the US and in Mexico sent cash in the mail and for $2.00-$3.00 a month, they got something that was put together with such love and devotion that they didn’t care it was photocopied photos.

During that time, I could almost count the number of artists I focused on with my hands. Menudo was at the forefront with people like Timbiriche, Flans, Tatiana, and Fandango a close second. Mostly, I wrote about artists I liked and occasionally, I threw in an article based on a press conference I attended about bands I did not know at the time like Miguel Mateos and Duncan Dhu. It was hard to get information back in the 80’s if the artist wasn’t popular enough to be in magazines such as Eres, TV Y Novelas, Ritmo, etc… I was relegated to Top 40 artists.

During the 90’s as the internet began and we were dialing into AOL, I toyed with the idea of bringing my love for Latin pop music back alive. Message boards were big, and we were able to get more and more news. There was also a lot more music coming out of Mexico and surrounding countries that made the selection artists I could cover grow. Teen pop was running hot and there was an abundance of new magazines to get each month. I tried a couple of different ways to bring the orginal “Estrellas Del Momento” back to life, but failed each time due to lack of followers and support. There is only so much you can do in an AOL forum.

Now with the open internet, and the world is connected, you would think that coming back alive should be easy. It is actually a lot harder. The internet has opened up a world of unlimited music from all Latin American countries and you have both major artists and indie artists that are out there promoting their works. Music isn’t about finding it in your local record store, we have digital music for purchase and for streaming.

It used to be that I would browse the genres at my local store and purchase a vinyl, cassette, or CD in order to listen to it and hope that I liked it. Now, I can listen to whole albums on Spotify or Apple Music without having to purchase it. This makes reviewing music cheaper and easier. Yes, cheaper… Easier? That depends on what you think is easy. With only about an hour or two a day, sometimes less…now I have to decide what to listen to and what to review.

I currently follow 648 artists (both indie and major) and that means my feed is going crazy during the day, plus 376 artists are followed on Spotify. There is no easy way to keep track of every artist, nor to see if any of these artists have new music out or even tell if there is any great news to write about. The internet made the concept so overwhelming that one person can not do it all. I even had help for a while and we could not keep up. Something that was supposed to be out of love can easily become a full-time job that no one is paying me to do.

I once made $2.00 for each newsletter I mailed out and at one time, I was sending out about 1000 a month. While you think $2000 a month was good, that had to cover photocopying, mailing, and supplies… and that didn’t include the magazines and music I had to purchase since the internet didn’t exist. Now, in order to just handle all the new music for the year, it would take me all day every day with no money coming in because no one pays to surf my website. Yes, really no money going out either…but how can you be on top of everything while continuing to work a full-time job. You can’t.

No, I am not complaining because some of the best music I listen to now I have found via this website. This website is a labor of love and sometimes, there are days and months when I can’t post. Half the time, I spend looking for the best thing to write about that I don’t have the time when I do find something. I wish life was simpler with the technology of today, because my reach is so much farther that ever. When I was posting regularly, I had about 200 visitors a day, which is about 6000 a month. My followers continue to grow, and grow faster when I am consistently posting reviews. And if I had the time and resources to do this full time, I know that this website could totally rock.