How many colours are you able to match right into a single syllable? For Barcelona singer-songwriter Rosalía Vila Tobella, the vary is close to infinite. Where her 2017 debut, Los Ángeles, was painted in gradations of slate, her new follow-up, the flamenco-pop fusion report El Mal Querer — which loosely interprets to Toxic Love — is dabbled with bursts of purple, gold and saffron.
“I respect the flamenco custom,” Rosalía tells Rolling Stone whereas seated inside Sony Music’s Manhattan headquarters. Wearing a pastel yellow utility jumpsuit and sneakers, she leaps out of her seat at occasions, excitable with a real ardour for her craft. “I really like flamenco,” she continues. “It’s very troublesome music to sing. But I consider any style as a snow globe — you don’t admire it for its stillness. You should shake it up and see the way it explodes.”
By utilizing the time-honored Andalusian artwork kind as her canvas, Rosalía brings excessive drama to a Spanish-language pop world that has in any other case stayed near the laid-back sensuality of upbeat, Caribbean-sourced feels like reggaeton and dembow. Yet she is aware of higher than to work towards the rising dominance of the city mainstream; in actual fact, she welcomes these components into her songs, the place each 808s and palmas, or percussive hand claps, cradle her vocal melismas with ease. Some critics have voiced considerations over a Catalan artist, a northerner, taking a lot liberty with a people style that advanced from the amalgamation of Jewish, Romani and Moor diasporas within the south of Spain. Rosalía, nonetheless, insists her interpretations will not be born out of any disrespect, however out of a pure curiosity for the medium itself.
“I realized the custom. I realized all the principles,” says the 25-year-old, who studied flamenco for eight years below native legend José Miguel “El Chiqui” Vizcaya, in addition to on the Catalonia School of Music. “But I’ve to be clear with how I perceive flamenco right here and now, with who I’m, with my references, with my age, with the second I’m dwelling, you understand? The classical foundation is so essential to me. But from there, I need to have freedom.”
Such a method, nonetheless unconventional, has labored wonders for the younger singer and multi-instrumentalist. Her flamenco-hip-hop hybrid observe “Malamente” received two Latin Grammys earlier this month (out of a powerful 5 nominations) — Best Alternative Song and Best Urban Fusion/Performance — knocking out “Mi Gente,” the worldwide #1 hit by Colombian reggaetonero J Balvin. There had been no exhausting emotions, although; Rosalía collaborated with Balvin on his chart-topping 2018 album, Vibras.
For the making of El Mal Querer, she referred to as on her then-boyfriend, Madrid rapper C. Tangana, to assist co-write lyrics for eight of the 11 tracks — and rang up Pablo Díaz-Reixa, a.okay.a. Canarian psychedelic-pop producer El Guincho, to co-produce the LP. “Most guys I [have worked] with, they don’t empower women,” she says. “They favor to have the reins of their hand. Pablo informed me, ‘You are a producer… You lead your venture.’”
After accepting her second Latin Grammy in Las Vegas, Rosalía shouted out not solely her collaborators, however a few of her favourite feminine artist-producers, together with Kate Bush, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott and Björk. “These ladies paved the best way for me to be right here,” she informed journalists backstage whereas clutching each award trophies, right down to the guidelines of her perilously sharp, bejeweled nails. “I’m going to should hold combating till I discover the identical variety of ladies within the studio as there are males.”
Rosalía persistently stresses the significance of girl energy, and never simply in her music. It’s additionally obvious in her all-woman assist group, which incorporates supervisor Rebeca León, her mom, and her sister Pilar, higher often called the stylist Daikyri. (“Playing with garments, taking footage has at all times been our approach of getting enjoyable,” says Rosalía.) Together, via Rosalía’s picture, the sisters amplify their imaginative and prescient of a powerful femininity — one which’s frilly and playful, however extremely pushed and maybe even liable to do one thing loopy if given the prospect. Ensconced in halos of tulle, rhinestones and pretend feathers, Rosalía and her all-woman dance troupe march onstage in white sneakers and bobby socks for many performances. At a current present in Madrid’s Plaza de Colón, the women rolled out an ATV, a favourite accent of the younger star’s, for the music “De Aquí No Sales.” Perched atop the car, a single tear rolled down her face as she revved up the motor for her screaming followers. “Super aggressive,” she says in English, her brows furrowed for impact.
The concept for El Mal Querer dates again to her college thesis. The album is a contemporary retelling of Flamenca, a 13th-century Spanish novel a few younger bride saved imprisoned in a tower by her possessive husband. “I dread if you exit on the streets, smiling/Because everyone can see the dimples in your face,” she sings in “Pienso en Tu Mirá” — sung from each the vantage level of the jealous lover and his prisoner. Striking lyrics set the scene for extra putting visuals: In the video, directed by Madrid’s Nico Méndez, male gangsters comply with Rosalía with an arsenal of weapons geared toward her neck; in subsequent scenes, she hundreds her personal rifle with the eyes of a bull.
“The visuals are there to boost my very own radical method to music,” she explains. “I [use] the Spanish cultural imaginary: My city may be very industrial, so truck drivers are a part of my imaginary. My grandmother took me to mass on weekends — I’ve reminiscences of all that. I exploit all these cultural components which are so current in my society, the Spanish society [in which] I grew up.”
Anglophone pop influences present up, too, as Easter eggs scattered all through the album. “Di mi nombre/Cuando no haya nadie cerca,” sings Rosalía, a professed Destiny’s Child fan, in “Di Mi Nombre” — “Say my title/When there’s no person round.” For her music “Bagdad,” which interpolates Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River,” she reached out to the American pop crooner himself for permission to borrow the melody. “I used to be so excited as a result of he by no means approves something,” she defined on Beats 1. Meanwhile, her penultimate observe, “Maldición,” encompasses a pattern from “Answers Me,” by 1980s avant-garde composer Arthur Russell.
“I’ve no prejudice about which music is best,” she says. “I take heed to Vivaldi. I like Nick Cave. I really like Travis Scott, James Blake, Lola Flores. Music can serve many features. And so I take heed to every thing!”
As if Rosalía’s star wasn’t vivid sufficient as a musician, subsequent 12 months might serve her a giant break in Hollywood. Prior to dropping El Mal Querer, Rosalía filmed a scene in acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar‘s upcoming movie Dolor Y Gloria. She is flushed with exhilaration on the likelihood to behave alongside heavy-hitters from his previous movies — similar to Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, with whom she shares her first silver display screen look. And whereas she’s mum on the small print of the movie, she is very happy to dish on Almodóvar, a Rosalía superfan who forged her after seeing her carry out dwell in 2017. “Pedro is an effective buddy of mine,” she says. “He mentioned that he at all times related with the best way I compose and the best way I do music.”
“He used to return to the reveals I did in Spain whereas I used to be touring with Los Angeles,” she continues. “I used to be singing this music, ‘La Hija de Juan Simon’ — it’s a really conventional music, from my [first] report. And I bear in mind him crying!”