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The Mexican American Singer Creating a New Latin Music Subgenre – Billboard

In the opening days of 2024, a pioneering new sound vibrated throughout the industry, capturing the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. The electrifying corridos track “La Diabla” (“She Devil”) was by newcomer Xavi, a relatively unknown 19-year-old Mexican American artist delivering an equally unknown sound.

The tumbados románticos single — which tells the tale of a bad boy’s romance with a bad girl — is crafted with the crisp strains of a requinto guitar — a signature instrument in regional Mexican music. But it’s Xavi’s combination of the rebellious corridos tumbados spirit with the tenderness of romance that sets him apart.

However, “La Diabla” almost never came to be. “I DM’ed him and he wouldn’t answer me,” recalls Interscope executive vp Nir Seroussi. He discovered Xavi in early 2021 thanks to the label’s A&R executive, Emerson Redd, who shared the soul-stirring guitar ballad “Te Quiero” with him. Intrigued by the artist’s raw emotion, Seroussi was determined to meet the young star — and his persistence paid off.

After two months, Xavi arrived at the Interscope offices in Miami, guitar in hand, and performed for nearly an hour. “It was love at first sight,” says Seroussi, who saw in Xavi not just a musician but an “old soul,” with a profound ability to connect. “He has all those qualities that differentiate a hobbyist from someone who could be a real artist, a career artist. It wasn’t about numbers. I fell in love with Xavi, the artist.” Seroussi signed him to a record deal later that year.

Raised in Phoenix and Sonora, Mexico, the artist born Joshua Xavier Gutiérrez says that his bicultural upbringing deeply influenced his own music, which blends Mexican corridos traditions with modern rhythms. “We are the first generation to move here, to give [ourselves] a better life,” Xavi says in Spanish.

Xavi photographed on January 11, 2024 in Los Angeles.

Daniel Prakopcyk

He drew early inspiration from his grandfather’s church singing — “when he sang, he did so with so much feeling, he sang with love for God” — as well as the emotive voices of Mexican crooners in bands like Camila and Sin Bandera. Still, the first song he learned to play on guitar was “Baby” by Justin Bieber. At just 12 years old, Xavi wrote his first original song; by 16, he started releasing his music to streaming platforms under Baga Music.

Around the same time, the corridos tumbados movement, led by Natanael Cano, had taken the internet by storm, paving the way for hit-makers like Peso Pluma, Fuerza Regida and Luis R Conriquez to break through. In parallel, the moving and melancholic melodies of sad sierreño emerged, led by a new cast of Mexican American Gen Z acts such as Ivan Cornejo, DannyLux and Yahritza y Su Esencia. Xavi navigates between the two with his own strain of tumbados románticos, a subgenre he coined as a musician raised on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. (His striking ruby, pearl and diamond necklace, a quintessential symbol of urbano culture, also symbolizes his fusion of eclectic sounds.)

However, his path to success was anything but smooth. A near-fatal car accident in 2021 that resulted in a cracked skull and an altered facial structure drastically changed his perspective. “It was a bad hit,” Xavi says, “but it changed my life.” Rather than deterring him, it inspired him: In the aftermath of the accident, videos of Xavi, bandaged and playing the guitar while recovering, began circulating on TikTok, fostering a deeper bond between fans and the rising artist.

In early 2022, after his recovery, Xavi channeled his experience into his music, emerging as a tumbados románticos pioneer. Within five months, he released a string of singles under Interscope, each marked by poetic lyrics and haunting acoustic riffs. These solo efforts, interspersed with a few collaborations with Los Primos del Este and Eduardo Soto, culminated in the release of his My Mom’s Playlist EP in May 2023. The seven-track set, an homage to his mother, featured renditions of beloved Latin songs like Maná’s “Rayando el Sol” and Luis Miguel’s “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar” reimagined in his sierreño style. “She’d always ask me to sing these songs she’d play while cleaning in the morning,” he recalls.

Xavi’s manager, Raczon López, who came on board at the same time, then helped leverage his social presence and shape his biggest hits to date. At the end of December, Xavi debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 with not one but two entries: “La Diabla” and “La Víctima,” which have since reached peaks of No. 22 and No. 55, respectively. His global appeal is further evidenced by his presence on the Billboard Global 200 and Global Excl. U.S. charts, with “La Diabla” reaching the top five on both.

“If you notice, Xavi is a kid who is not on social media much, so there is this mystery in [his] career,” López says. “People are eager to hear what’s next.” He adds that what Xavi has already released is only a preview of his potential: “This kid sings pop, mariachi, R&B — I mean, everything fits him… People will gradually see the different facets of Xavi.”

Having recently signed with WME, Xavi is already preparing for an upcoming tour. But as Seroussi sees it, there’s no rush. He compares Xavi’s development to that of award-winning superstar (and labelmate) Billie Eilish, emphasizing personal growth alongside musical evolution.

“When [Interscope CEO] John Janick signed Billie, she was 14. It took three years to develop her, not just as an artist, but as a person,” Seroussi says. “It’s about the experiences, the life lived that feeds into the maturity of songs and songwriting. That’s what we see in Xavi — a star who was always destined to shine.”

Xavi photographed on January 11, 2024 in Los Angeles.

Xavi photographed on January 11, 2024 in Los Angeles.

Daniel Prakopcyk

This story will appear in the Jan. 27, 2024, issue of Billboard.

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