2003 Music Awards

The readers spoke, and the RFT music staff listened. Find out who's large and in charge on the St. Louis music scene.

Only he's not a pop star -- yet. Over the past two years or so, Mendoza may have toured Spain, opened for Chuck Berry and G. Love & Special Sauce, and had songs used by the Sci-Fi Channel and MTV's Real World Chicago, but the big break hasn't happened. It's not for lack of work or marketing. The Great Latin Scare of the '90s doesn't seem to have legs, and Mendoza's music never really fit the Ricky Martin formula anyway. Take the song "Beautiful," the title track from his latest CD. The acoustic jangle, the sweet organ and the oh-so-'90s drum work may be pop, but it isn't quite slick enough to sell millions. Tunes such as "Beyond My Reach" might at first listen veer closer to the mainstream success Mendoza craves, but the mix of vague spiritualism -- "I know you're out there/I know you like to hide/But if I find you nowhere/Does that mean you're just a lie?" OK, you can scratch your head again -- cock-rock guitar solos and Latin percussion breaks is simply too strange to make sense on any radio format.

Bigger things may yet be on Mendoza's horizon. Unlike the vast majority of local artists, he's been able to pack venues such as Mississippi Nights and, over the last two years, the Javier Mendoza Band has actually built a bigger following in Chicago than in St. Louis. As mook-metal and frat rappers start to fade from the zeitgeist, maybe, just maybe, Mendoza's brand of bouncy, positive pop rock can slip in. -- Roy Kasten

Correction published 6/25/03:
In the original version of this story, Bottle Rockets' bassist Robert Kearns was mistakenly identified as no longer part of the band. According to frontman Brian Henneman, Kearns remains with the band and has never considered quitting. The above version reflects the corrected text.

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