Formed: 1995, Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico
Members: Alicia Villarreal, bandleader, vocals (Martha Alicia Villarreal Esparza, born Monterrey, Mexico, 31 August 1974); Gerardo Padilla, keyboards, accordion; Sergio Ponce, guitar; Johnny Cantú, bass; Carlos Ramírez, percussion; Frank García, drums.
Best-selling album since 1990: Partiéndome el Alma (1996)
Hit songs since 1990: "Te Aprovechas," "El Príncipe," "Sentimientos"
With sing-along choruses, energized cumbia rhythms, and photogenic appeal, Grupo Límite helped modernize norteño music and popularize it with Mexico's middle class. Norteño ensembles, which represent the rural musical folklore of northern Mexico, traditionally comprise a vocalist, accordionist, bajo sexto (twelve-string guitar) player, and a drummer. Límite added keyboards and electric guitar. The group's sound and look sparked a wave of imitators in the Tejano and norteño camps when they emerged in 1995. Other ingredients of Límite's success were the childlike vocals of the singer/songwriter Alicia Villarreal and the novelty of a female-led norteño act. Villarreal even has her own catch phrase, a flirtatious "ah -hah" that quickly became part of the Límite mystique, as did her blond braids.
Villarreal began singing in hotel lobby bars while still in high school in Monterrey. Eventually, she teamed with Padilla and Cantú to form the nucleus of what became Grupo Límite. After recording a demo, the band approached all the labels in Monterrey, but it was during a trip to Mexico City that Límite attracted serious attention from PolyGram (now Universal).
In 1995 Límite produced their debut album, Por Puro Amor. It came just months after the untimely death of Selena, who, at age twenty-three, was the best-selling artist in the musically similar Texas-Mexican genre known as Tejano. The album's bouncy style and female lead vocals drew inevitable comparisons to Selena. In fact, Límite is one of the few Mexico-based groups to be embraced by Tejano fans, who generally prefer their music made in Texas. Yet the group's original songwriting and accordion-rooted norteño vibe helped it stand on its own. The album produced "Te Aprovechas," Límite's signature hit, plus the cumbia singles "Esta Vez" and "Con La Misma Piedra."
The sophomore album Partiéndome el Alma (1996) kept the momentum going with the Billboard chart singles "El Príncipe" and "Solo Contigo." Límite's ingratiating approach helped spread norteño, often considered working-class music, to new upscale audiences in Monterrey. The group's impact on Mexico's pop scene was evident on De Corazón al Corazón (1998), which contained Villarreal-penned "Pasión," a duet with the preppy young crooner Cristián Castro.
Villarreal married the ruggedly handsome soccer player Arturo Carmona in 1998. The couple had a daughter, Melanie Aidee, but split in 2001. That year Villarreal took a chance with a mariachi solo album, Soy Lo Prohibido. The album rose to number three on Billboard 's Top Latin Albums chart, largely on the strength of the antimacho torch song "Te Quedó Grande la Yegua," which tells off an unfaithful lover.
Límite underwent a makeover in 2002. Villarreal undid the braids, and the group threw out the cowboy look in favor of a mall-rat wardrobe. Soy Así (2002) was produced by A. B. Quintanilla and Cruz Martinez, leaders of Texas-based cumbia-rap group Kumbia Kings. Featuring the rhythmic jam "Papacito," the album updated Límite's sound with overdubbed vocals and touches of funk.
One of the driving forces behind the resurgence of norteño music of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Límite has done much to urbanize and update Mexico's beloved rural-rooted genre.
Por Puro Amor (Polygram, 1995); Partiéndome el Alma (Polygram, 1996); Sentimientos (Polygram, 1997); De Corazón al Corazón (Polygram, 1998); Por Encima de Todo (Universal, 2000); Soy Así (Universal, 2002).