Yolanda Pérez

Esto Es Amor

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Image-wise, banda could have easily gone the way of mariachi; it could have maintained a totally old-school, classicist aesthetic and catered to an older Mexican audience. It could have marketed itself as the Dixieland of Mexico, which is a good way to describe mariachi -- in other words, great repertory music that is proudly, staunchly traditionalist. But instead, banda has forged ahead -- and one of the most progressive, forward-thinking neo-banda voices of the 2000s turned out to be Yolanda Pérez, who maintains her eclectic outlook on her third album, Esto Es Amor (This Is Love). No one will accuse Pérez of being stuck in banda's past, and her sense of adventure serves her well whether she is combining the brassy banda sound with hip-hop on "Hoy Te Digo Adios" (which has a very R&B-ish chorus) and the title track, reggae on "Cuando Quieras, Como Quieras," or doo wop on "Cuando Yo Beso Tu Boquita" and "Todavía Duele." Pérez, who turned 22 in 2005, makes banda relevant to everything from Latin pop to the urban regional trend (a movement of Mexican artists who are putting their own spin on hip-hop and urban contemporary). And while most of the lyrics are en español, the bilingual Pérez throws in her share of English phrases -- which underscores her Mexican-American background. Clearly, Esto Es Amor is coming from the musical perspective of a Mexican-American who was born and raised in Los Angeles, not Mexico -- someone who grew up in a place where it wasn't uncommon to hear la Banda el Recodo one minute and Mary J. Blige the next. Pérez's second album, Aquí Me Tienes, is a bit more essential than Esto Es Amor, but even so, this is an excellent CD that takes more than its share of risks.

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