Mexican group Los Ángeles Azules were formed in the early ’80s by brothers Elías, José, and Jorge Mejía Avante. Playing a Latin style known as onda grupera, the band became a chart-topping act after issuing Inolvidables in 1996, soon achieving platinum status in Argentina, where they successfully performed live in 1998. Later, singer Carlos Becíes decided to leave the group, forming his own band called Los Ángeles de Charly. In 2001, Los Ángeles Azules were nominated to the Billboard Latin Music Awards; that same year, they toured the U.S. to celebrate their 20th anniversary and released Historia Musical, which peaked at number two on the Latin albums chart and hit number 161 in the Top 200. In 2002, the group introduced audiences to Becíes’ replacement, singer Erick de la Peña, via the charting single “Por el Amor a Mi Madre,” from the album Alas al Mundo. The full-length peaked at number six on the Latin albums chart and hit number three on the regional Mexican albums list. A live album and two compilations followed over the next two years, each placing on the charts.
Though Los Ángeles Azules drew large audiences wherever they played, their next studio offering, 2004’s Nunca Te Olvidaré, didn’t resonate as well and peaked at number 49 on the Latin albums chart. They continued to tour, playing soccer stadiums in Mexico and South America, and even at Yankee Stadium. When they reentered the studio in 2006, they recorded their first all-covers disc at the suggestion of Disa. Because of the similarity in pitch and timbre of de la Peña’s voice to Juan Gabriel’s, they cut ten of his songs for the album Interpretan Éxitos de Juan Gabriel. It was their last album for Disa. More personnel changes occurred and the band signed with Discos Musart/Balboa Records. Their debut, Tu Juguete, was issued in 2008; two singles followed, but neither the album nor its track picks charted. The band, citing lack of promotion, left Discos Musart immediately thereafter. They toured the United States and Argentina, and the South American nation became a second home for Los Ángeles Azules due to the popularity of their particular style of cumbia.
In 2009, they were invited to perform at the first El Paraíso de la Cumbia, where they shared a stage with Mexican Institute of Sound (Camilo Lara) and Argentina’s El Hijo de la Cumbia. The meeting with Lara would prove fateful. Without a label, Los Ángeles Azules continued to tour, but found inroads to the music industry difficult given its changing nature, with narcocorridos, hip-hop, merengue, and pop emerging as dominant forms. The group cut the independently released album A Ritmo de Cumbia in 2012 for the production and distribution label Casete Mexico, but given limited distribution and promotion, it didn’t sell. Los Ángeles Azules refused to surrender, though they probably felt like it.
In 2013 they were invited to play the Vive Latino festival. That performance proved a rousing success, and a reversal of their (mis)fortunes. They were signed by the Sony-distributed OCESA Seitrack. The label enlisted Lara and Toy Selectah to produce a new album. Entitled Cómo Te Voy a Olvidar, it showcased Los Ángeles Azules re-recording their hits in duet with guest vocalists including Carla Morrison, Lila Downs, Ximena Sariñana, and many more. A television program called Cumbia Fuzion followed, which featured the group in performance backed by the Mexico City Symphony Orchestra. The previous album was re-released as Cómo Te Voy a Olvidar Edición de Super Lujo and included a bonus disc with the symphony performance. It eventually landed at number five on the regional Mexican albums charts.
Later that year, the band went to Cuba to record, with Lara and Toy Selectah co-producing. They released Viernes Cultural. Its title track single featured Haydée Milanés in duet. Other guest vocalists included Gilberto Santa Rosa, Gustavo Parisi, and Banda Bastón. Its success in the Caribbean and Mexico, and throughout Latin America, offered them an opportunity to perform in Cuba and tour with its national symphony. Various American dates were booked and recorded as Los Ángeles Azules re-signed with Disa. The album De Plaza en Plaza: Cumbia Sinfonica was issued in September 2016, debuting at number 12 on the Hot Latin Albums chart in October. The group’s compilation album, Vision 20.20 Exiitos, arrived in 2018. ~ Drago Bonacich