The 20 Greatest Ranchera Singers of All Time, No. 20-11

Categories: Español Music
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Pepe Aguilar: CLASS...

See also:

*The 20 Greatest Songs of Vicente Fernández: The Complete List

Trying to explain what música ranchera is to non-Mexicans reminds me of the apocryphal quote attributed to--take your pick--Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington, when someone asked what jazz is. Ranchera isn't so much a genre as it is a sentido--a way of life, of viewing the world in all its melancholy, grandiose beauty.

It's no surprise, then, that ranchera is considered the quintessential Mexican music genre in a land with a dizzying variety of music. Ranchera embodies everything that Mexicans think of themselves when at their best--macho, romantic, backed by mariachi, dressed in splendid outfits, and stubbornly stuck in a myth of a bucolic Mexico that never truly existed. There is no corollary for it in American song--it ain't country music, it ain't Tin Pan Alley, it ain't even Western swing. It's ranchera, damnit, and here's a listicle for ustedes who don't habla to learn of the titans and for wabs to debate forever.

Criteria for this list: not just vocal ability, but whether you wrote your own songs, whether you were a pioneer or followed in the footsteps of titans, and my own biases (which will become apparent soon). One procedural note: I limited this list to artists who primarily sang rancheras throughout their career. I didn't include people who excelled at the genre, like Juan Gabriel, because I'm saving them for another list. Go ahead and hate--this is my list haha.

And now...música, maestro!

20. Tito Guizar


Guizar essentially created the ranchera genre, both in music and film, with his 1936 effort Allá en el Rancho Grande. This film set the template for all future ranchera singers: pastoral themes, elongated notes, dashing looks, lightning-quick changes between baritone and falsettos and the charro costume that's now so iconic that even hipsters like Mariachi the Bronx use it. Guizar actually had a diverse musical career, but Mexicans will always associate him with "Allá en el Rancho Grande," if only because he was able to sneak in the word calzones ("underwear" in habla), thereby making generations of Mexis giggle.

19. Alejandro Fernández


The son of ranchera icon Vicente Fernández (who'll be in part dos of this list), Alejandro represents a dying breed: the ranchera singer. Because while the genre is still beloved in Mexico, few singers nowadays devote themselves to the craft; in Alejandro's case, it's his heritage, so he's never delved into other genres or collaborations that cheapen the genre. Put this low on the list only because he's a young pup compared to the other legends here, Fernández took the best of his father's voice but with half of the bragadoccio, all of the machismo, and a bigger helping of the wussiness, making him this generation's ultimate chonis collector.

18. Amalia Mendoza


With a voice smokier than a smudge pot, Mendoza made her mark singing the songs of Mexico's greatest composers--José Alfredo Jiménez, Cuco Sánchez, Chucho Monge, and others. I personally find her crying vocals a bit overwrought, but she was one of the three great female Mexican singers in the ranchera genre along with...well, you'll meet them soon enough.


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36 comments
Luis C. Gutierrez
Luis C. Gutierrez

I think Gerardo Reyes is Top 10! Also, remove Alejandro Fernandez and insert Cornelio Reyna, post Los Relampagos years.

Eddie_Patino
Eddie_Patino

Jose Alfedo Jimeniz for top spot if not number one. Although he might not have had the best voice of them all, he was a writer and a composer not only for himself, but to other artists as well.  Very heavily talented. Vicente Fernandez sings a few of Jose Alfredo's songs for example ( El Rey) and people that do not know much about Ranchera music give Vicente credit for Jose Alfedo's master pieces. A true legend.

Belen C Bueno
Belen C Bueno

Javier Solis better be on the list. Loved him since I knew what music was.

Belen C Bueno
Belen C Bueno

I told my mom he is big and "a little heavy" She said "NO, NO! No está gordo, es hombre de rancho" What does that mean???

esoj1211
esoj1211

Pepe looks like a prototypical NW Indiana Mexican - tall and husky because they pay no state sales taxes on edible goods.

Ignacio Fletes
Ignacio Fletes

On your top 10 leaves Jiménez, Infante, Solís, Aceves Mejíia, Negrete, Antonio Aguilar, Chente, and Lola, for sure. Maybe Cuco Sanchez, Piporro, Luis Aguilar, and La Prieta Linda will be in the top 10. ;-) I enjoyed the songs you posted for the 20-11, gracias.

Erk Audelo Leon
Erk Audelo Leon

Nos falta el rey del falsete, Don Miguel Aceves Mejia. Para mi el mejor de todos los tiempos. Escuchar a ese señor hasta se me pone chinita la piel. Para mi no ha existido quien cante asì de "bonito" como esa leyenda. Para el mejor de todos loan tiempos, con la mejor voz. Los demàs son famosos por su trayectoria y con una voz buena a mi ver, pero Miguel Aceves Mejía tenía algo màs.

Viri Guerrero
Viri Guerrero

20. Pepe Aguilar 19.Alejandro Fernandez 18. Ana Gabriel 17. Lola Beltran 16.Tito Guizar 15. Charro Avitia 14.Los Dos Oros 13. Dueto Azteca 12. Hermanas Huerta 11. Lorenzo Negrete (nuevo en el genero pero con voz comparable a la de su abuelo Jorge Negrete)

Diana Pineda
Diana Pineda

Chalino Sanchez deserves credit for singing Noches Tenebrosas so beautifully. He's definitely not 1 - 10, but i just had a thought... He's also not 11 - 20 if he's right up there with Chavela Vargas and Rocio Durcal. Anyhow, it's still a good song.

Diana Pineda
Diana Pineda

Los Hermanos Zaizar wrote the most beautiful lyrics! Cielo Rojo is a masterpiece of pure and simple amor.

Meghann Thompson
Meghann Thompson

I love this list! I didn't know Chavela Vargas was Tica, nor that Zacatecas is the Golden Ticket to greatness. Is your family from Zacatecas Gustavo? :) Does that explain Pepe Alguilar's height? He is probably the tallest mexicano I've ever seen...

Ignacio Fletes
Ignacio Fletes

Nice -- David Zaizar was my uncle's compadre. My uncle wrote a song that David Zaizar recorded -- "Triste"

Ask a Mexican
Ask a Mexican

That's for the NEXT list! Who would you pick 20-11?

Viri Guerrero
Viri Guerrero

numero uno Javier Solis 'El Señor de Sombras'

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