Jenni Rivera ma­tured as her pop­u­lar­ity grew

Singer, who died in plane crash, will be mourned by her fans around world.

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS - Byran­dall Roberts Los An­ge­les Times REED SAXON / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jenni Rivera was many things: a banda singer with a nim­ble voice, a chron­i­cler with a unique per­spec­tive from Long Beach, Calif., an ad­vo­cate of domestic vi­o­lence aware­ness, a re­al­ity show star, a sym­bol.

The mu­si­cian, who died Sun­day in a plane crash in Mex­ico, had her first child while in high school, en­dured a bru­tal case of domestic vi­o­lence and then bravely ad­dressed it in song and ac­tion, and rose in the ’00s to be one of the most suc­cess­ful fe­male banda singers in a male-dom­i­nated mu­sic style.

As her success grew, she ma­tured into an artist with more uni­ver­sal as­pi­ra­tions and seemed to be on her way there.

Rivera’s gifts as a singer pro­pelled her from her be­gin­nings in the late 1990s to a level of ac­claim that led many to know her quite sim­ply as Jenni. That life was cut short when the plane car­ry­ing her crashed on its way to Toluca, Mex­ico, af­ter a con­cert in Mon­ter­rey. Au­thor­i­ties said there were no sur­vivors. She was 43.

The daugh­ter of Mex­i­can im­mi­grants, Rivera cap­tured through her mu­sic sto­ries about a life that strad­dled worlds and spoke to a fan base that bought an es­ti­mated 1.1 mil­lion al­bums in Amer­ica and many more world­wide. Though she first gained fame through her banda mu­sic — the re­gional Mex­i­can style that features as its main push over­whelm­ing brass in­stru­men­ta­tion and lyri­cally doc­u­ments ex­pe­ri­ences from life — as her pop­u­lar­ity grew she recorded in Mex­i­can mu­si­cal sub­gen­res in­clud­ing the Latin pop, ac­cor­dion-cen­tric norteno and the rene­gade, drug-cul­ture-in­fused nar­co­cor­ri­dos.

Hers was a voice that im­me­di­ately stood out in con­tem­po­rary banda mu­sic for a sim­ple rea­son: It wasn’t a man’s voice.

By bust­ing into the boys’ club and de­liv­er­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, re­but­tals and cel­e­bra­tions from a woman’s per­spec­tive, she drew the at­ten­tion of a whole gen­der of lis­ten­ers no doubt tired of their hus­bands’ fa­vorite banda singers croon­ing out un­con­tested boasts.

Rivera, in fact, didn’t even get the first lyric on her de­but record. That honor went to her brother Lupillo, also a suc­cess­ful banda singer, as if to ease the mu­sic-lov­ing pub­lic gen­tly into the idea of a lady bring­ing her per­spec­tive into the poker room.

She con­tin­ued of­fer­ing mu­sic to a re­gional au­di­ence un­til 2003, when she re­leased “Hom­e­naje a Las Grandes,” on which she ex­panded her tra­di­tional sound with a more stu­dio-cen­tric and di­verse ap­proach.

She started in­fus­ing her voice with echo, which seemed to fill her al­ready sturdy tone with more depth. It also meant that when she nailed those bit­ter notes on “Juro Que Nunca Vol­vere” and spit out lyri­cal res­o­lu­tions and de­nials about help­less love, they sounded good on the ra­dio.

Over the fol­low­ing years, Rivera’s mu­sic grew more ex­pan­sive. On her clas­sic 2004 nar­co­cor­rido, “La Chacalosa,” the singer tells of be­ing the daugh­ter of a drug king­pin, run­ning the op­er­a­tion while re­main­ing un­touch­able, par­ty­ing the nights away while learn­ing to shoot and fight. At the other end, though, is the bal­lad “Por Que No Le Calas.” Trans­lated as “Why Don’t You Try It,” it pushes a lover to take a chance — with a tone that con­firmed her abil­ity to de­liver a solid love song.

Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can singer and TV star Jenni Rivera died in a plane crash in Mex­ico, the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board con­firmed Mon­day.

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