It’s been a big year for Regional Mexican music. The Billboard Mexican Music Awards – the first ever music awards show devoted solely to the genre – were held October 20 in Los Angeles and broadcast on Telemundo, and while iconic figures such as Vicente Fernández, Jenni Rivera and Selena were honored, the night belonged to Regional Mexican music’s new generation, led by gutsy balladeer Gerardo Ortiz, whose six-award haul included Artist, New Artist, Male Artist and Norteño Artist of the Year.
But as enamored as the world has become with the brazen new guard of young corrido singers like Ortiz and fellow award-winner Larry Hernández who write and perform songs that explore the hard-living that defines so many lives in modern Mexico in unsparing detail, troubadours like Juan Diego Sandoval and Juan José Leyva who have perfected the traditional sound’s softer, romantic fare are also writing for growing audiences. Better known together as Los Juanes, ace songwriting duo Sandoval and Leyva took home Billboard Mexican Song and Banda Song of the Year honors for their ballad “Ni lo intentes,” recorded by Julion Álvarez y su Norteño Banda.
“We write songs that hopefully affect the lives of young people positively,” says Sandoval of his recent successes, which also include a 2011 BMI Latin songwriting award for “Ni Con Otro Corazón,” recorded by Pedro Fernández. Los Juanes’ creations are love songs first and foremost—expertly crafted, sing-a-long stories of break-ups, dedication, emotional insecurities and passion whose success is somewhat surprising in a climate where songs about drugs and violence flourish. “It means that good music also brings good results,” says Sandoval.
While they’re unquestionably in the midst of a hotstreak, the two artists, who have been writing together for 10 years, have been recognized before. Sandoval won his first BMI songwriting award last year for writing “Déjame Vacío,” by El Potro de Sinaloa, which he penned with Leyva, who won his first BMI award in 2005 for La Banda El Recodo’s “Para Toda La Vida,” which he wrote alone.
“Ni lo intentes,” which translates to “Don’t Even Try (To Forget Me),” is “a universal song that could be sung by a man or a woman without changing a thing,” says Sandoval when asked why he thinks the song became such a huge hit. After all, he says, “Who has not felt this way?”