Song of the Week: “Mal Hombre” by Lydia Mendoza

by Douglas Cowie on 16 June 2017

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Mal Hombre” by Lydia Mendoza:

“Mal Hombre” is probably the most famous song by the excellent Mexican musician Lydia Mendoza. I first came across it years ago while reading one of my favorite books of all time, America’s Musical Life by Richard Crawford. Last weekend I heard a version of it in passing (I’m not sure who it was by), and was reminded what a superb song it is, both musically and lyrically; I understand extremely little Spanish, but you can find English translations of the lyrics and they achieve an amazing feat of being utterly melodramatic while maintaining some kind of boundary that keeps them being just mawkish. I think some of the balancing act has to do with the shifts between major and minor–the major key first half of the chorus, for example–and also, just the powerhouse vocal performance.

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