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by Rachel Devitt

December 28, 2012

Source Material: Jenni Rivera, Jenni

by Rachel Devitt  |  December 28, 2012

Jenni Rivera was already a big regional Mexican star by the time her self-titled 2008 album dropped. But Jenni made the "Reyna de la Banda" a reyna of global proportions. That self-titling wasn't titular laziness: The album introduced Rivera to a wider audience than ever before, debuting at No. 1 on the Latin charts (her first album to hit No. 1), thanks in part to hit singles like the salty "Chuper Amigos" and the pop-friendly ballad "Culpable o Inocente." It also introduced Rivera as a serious crossover queen with a wide-ranging, curious musical palate and the nuanced skill to pull it off. Jenni swoops from emotional, mariachi-inspired melodrama to badass, barroom-ready banda blasts to pop catchiness without ever losing a bit of the regional soul.

That sonic openness is what made the late, great Rivera such a massive star. It also makes for a fascinating excavation of her influences and interests. In our Source Material research, we heard plenty of banda forefathers and ranchera foremothers, of course -- especially other artists like Joan Sebastian, Vicente Fernandez and Los Tigres del Norte, who, like Rivera, helped bring regional sounds to wider audiences. And we hear connections to glorious pop divas like Gloria Trevi, gritty narco kingpins like Chalino Sanchez and, of course, her own brother, Lupillo. But we also hear bits and pieces of other sounds that might have influenced (or at least paved the way for) this American star of regional Mexican music: Wanda Jackson's sassy rockabilly; Etta James' tough, passionate R&B; Tanya Tucker's wild country twang.

And then there's Snoop Dogg. We can't exactly call him a direct influence on Jenni (though her penchant for cocky spoken word breaks makes a compelling case). But at the time of her death, Rivera had plans to collaborate with Snoop -- yet another example of the openness to sonic experimentation and musical diversity that made her such a compelling artist.

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