“This new Rosalía album is fucking awesome”, Flea tweets, and the community reacts to the praise for mom with a joy that even for the most open-minded has an element of surprise. “I love everything. ‘Bulerías’ and ‘Sakura’ touched my heart. And, of course, ‘Chicken Teriyaki’, because I am a great dancer, ”deepens Red Hot Chili Peppers bassistand one can interpret the gesture -according to one’s mental framework- in two different ways: it is one more chapter in the eternal fascination of the Anglo-Saxons for all that sounds more or less exotic (the whimsical label “world music “which is hits Fela Kuti, José Larralde or a Filipino ska band without guilt) or the trench rock against pop and urban music already exists only in the minds of the most conservative because the work of artists like Rosalía s is responsible for removing the stigmata product from its trade.
The reaction to another praising tweet for Motomami was different: that of his compatriot Carlos Jean. “I think Rosalía is going to be or already is the most important artist that our country has given… already. What do you think?”, said the musician, DJ, producer (he has worked with Alejandro Sanz, Miguel Bosé, Enrique Bunbury, Carlos Baute, Estopa and a long etcetera) and – not insignificantly – publicist. What his supporters thought was that it was a quality assessment when in reality he was talking about its “significance and impact in such a short time” (he clarified this later). late in response to disciple it reminded him of the existence of Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, Raphaël and Julio Iglesias). Contrary to what happened with Flea, Jean was criticized for not expressing personal taste but rather establishing a hierarchy, which – we know – should not be done on Twitter. But in the end, the important thing is the mention: Rosalía is probably not the most important Spanish artist of all time, but someone of weight puts her in the peloton.
All these factors – its “rarity” for Anglo-Saxon markets, its crossing with urban music, the alleged commerciality of disturbing pop intelligentsia rockera- are the bricks from which the Rosalía phenomenon is built and more precisely that of mom, an album released a little over a month ago that has more than fulfilled its goal of not going unnoticed.
The Rosalía Vila Tobella of 2022 is an evolution – not a negation – of the one who sang flamenco at the age of six under the influence of her father, of the one who appeared in the reality TV show Tú if that Vales when she was 16 years old (they did not choose her), of which he was part at twenty years of the group Kejaleo and of which he even recorded Angels, her first album, in 2017. Based in California since the previous year, she chooses for her debut the traditional cantaora costume in a purist and stripped-down work: little more than her wide vocal range and a nylon-string guitar is heard in these twelve songs. He also chooses a name that faces both forwards and backwards: an homage to the town he’s settling in, but in his native language (note the tilde in the a).
Equally fundamental to understanding the artist’s present is his sentimental and artistic relationship with C. Tangana, who in 2016 -when Rosalía was still a flamenco singer living in Spain- invited her to collaborate on his song “Antes de muerteme”. Thus, Tangana added to his song a color of voice that he certainly could not give him and which made him a weapon of mass destruction (it was a hit after its inclusion in the soundtrack of the series Elite) and she discovered that she could move with ease (“with height!”, she will sing in 2019 in her feat with J Balvin) in genres peripheral to hip hop (paradoxes of life: Tangana arrives in house format Small office of the American network NPR, highlighting the flamenco vein with their versions of “Me maten” and “Los idiots”, in the company of Antonio Carmona and Kiko Veneno).
This revelation that R&B, trap, reggaeton and different variations of rap were not foreign to him was what motivated Rosalía to make the album with which she finished devoting herself to the world: The bad will (2018), an album that was among the best of that year for international rock and pop media such as Pitchfork and The Guardian (more so: in 2020, the American edition of Rolling Stone magazine chose it as the 315th best album of all time, of any genre and from any background). The fusion between forms of the genre with Andalusian roots (the concept of the LP is ensured by Flemisha 13th century Occitan novel) and those of the dance rhythms of America and Central America set off the fever.
The bad will It was his final thesis at the Superior School of Music of Catalonia. It’s not a way of saying: Rosalía really recorded it as a final project at the conservatory. It approved, of course, and incidentally won a Latin Grammy for Best Album of the Year and a Grammy for Best Latin, Urban or Alternative Rock Album. (again the arbitrariness of the Grammys: everything doesn’t matter as long as they sing in Spanish). Without a budget, the artist invests his money to the point of being on the verge of bankruptcy. His “studio” was the house of El Guincho (producer of the album) in Barcelona and his equipment, a microphone, a computer and a console. One of the best cost-benefit ratios in universal music history.
Of course, there was still a but: that her (already then) ex-boyfriend C. Tangana signed eight of the eleven songs of The bad will Before Prejudice, he turned her into the aforementioned pre-made pop commercial product that barely put on vocals and curves. Someone had made the record for him. A man – or two, if you count El Guincho in the production – had made her a star. Although she conquered the world (or because she did), Rosalía was always asked to prove herself..
Thus we arrive at mom, an album that those who licked their lips at the thought of skating Rosalía were waiting with mockery on the tip of their tongues. The arguments for ignoring it without giving it cheek they were a couple stars very successful but less successful in the previous one (a disappointing “Lo vas a Olivar” with Billie Eilish; an earthquake “Las noche de noche” with Bad Bunny) and two advances, “Saoko” and “Chicken Teriyaki”, easy to if you don’t listen carefully.
The crux of the matter was a handful of verses (“pa’ ti naki, teriyaki chicken, pa’ ti naki, teriyaki chicken, pa’ ti naki, teriyaki chicken, your cat wants maki, my cat in Kawasaki”, for example) to which the literary flight that “authentic” music is supposed to have has not been found. What we didn’t see was that Rosalía’s interest was not to set up a story but precisely to take it apart, removing the meaning of what was said so that it becomes just another hard-hitting sound. .
What reformulates the alleged precariousness into experimentation is the release and listening to the full album, which – light years away from exhausting itself in a heap of disco singles – also features ethereal ballads like “Hentai “, where the vocal part seems to sound like a twisted synthesizer arrangement with the ultra-minimalist piano that serves as its base (it’s not for nothing that Lorde covers this song in his last shows). Everything is deconstructed and resignified in mom, like someone who dismantles a piece of furniture and assembles another with the same parts, and that’s not why dancing or crocheting are denied: “La Fame” (a bachata with The Weeknd) has 170 million of reproductions on Spotify and the album reached position 33 on the Billboard chart in the United States. So, even with an eternal list of producers and co-composers (including Pharrell Williams), hardly anyone dared consider the album a “product” that someone had made for Rosalía to show off. One would have to put a lot of effort into the negative evaluation and wickedly ignore the author’s creative journey to understand a work with such a level of exposure of the artist who signs it as an outsourced invention. This is exactly what Flea and Carlos Jean saw and celebrated: a personal, complex and seductive work that has well deserved all the noise it generates.