A fewer weeks ago, Rosalía was onstage astatine the Latin Grammys performing her planetary deed Despechá, flanked by hunky, scantily clad dancers similar 2022’s reply to Blond Ambition-era Madonna. The 30-year-old Catalan vocalist and producer, calved Rosalía Vila Tobella, had spent 4 years moving her mode to the centre of the Latin popular world. Now she headed into the assemblage and started grinding connected her boyfriend, the Puerto Rican vocalist Rauw Alejandro. Within seconds, clips of the infinitesimal were each implicit TikTok. Without adjacent trying, Rosalía had generated different viral moment, successful a twelvemonth already afloat of them.
Ten days later, she got a harrowing reminder of the downside to fame. “Yesterday, successful Lisbon,” she tells me, “we had a weaponry menace successful the arena. There were a batch of police. I’m not gonna prevarication to you, I was scared, I was anxious – and I inactive had to spell connected stage.”
She’s speaking from a edifice country successful Milan, up of the 40th amusement of a 52-date circuit successful enactment of her acclaimed 3rd album, Motomami.
Since breaking retired with 2018’s El Mal Querer – a spellbinding medium of experimental flamenco euphony that became a colossal deed successful Spain, and a sensation everyplace other – Rosalía has go a household sanction successful overmuch of the Spanish-speaking world, pushing a imaginativeness of uncompromising fusion popular that recalls iconoclasts specified arsenic Janet Jackson and Lady Gaga. This year’s Motomami, and her collaborations with planetary stars specified arsenic Bad Bunny, Travis Scott and Billie Eilish, person made her fixture of tabloids, TikTok feeds and arenas crossed the globe. The UK has been dilatory to drawback on, but with a amusement astatine the O2 aboriginal this month, and appearances successful dozens of year-end best-of lists, that whitethorn beryllium astir to change.
Then came the weaponry threat. “It’s a beardown position, being connected stage,” she says, “but astatine the aforesaid time, there’s a batch of vulnerability, due to the fact that you person to beryllium honorable and unfastened your chest, your bosom and sing. I was like: ‘Wow, OK, adjacent though this is happening, which is terrifying, I’m gonna fig this retired and I’m definite everything’s gonna beryllium fine.’
“Because my squad told maine that everything was controlled, it seems contradictory but it was the amusement that I felt the astir connected and the astir free. I conscionable decided that I was gonna surrender and anticipation that we were going to beryllium safe. Nothing prepares you for thing similar that. You conscionable effort to spell done it the champion you can.”
I’m not definite Rosalía afloat intended to speech astir Lisbon, but moments earlier, she had mentioned that she “always needed utmost experiences to learn”, and that was the archetypal illustration that came to mind. Not each the experiences person been so, well, extreme: erstwhile Rosalía was 14 and dreaming of a vocation successful music, for example, she decided to participate Tú Sí Que Vales – fundamentally Spain’s reply to Britain’s Got Talent. In footage from the show, a young Rosalía, made-up to the nines successful the slightly-too-much mode that children often consciousness looks “grown up”, plays acoustic guitar and sings snatches of Alicia Keys’ No One. She didn’t marque it to the adjacent circular – her voice, portion striking, wasn’t yet the clarion, ribbony happening it would go – but it did instil successful her the information that, if she was going to prosecute popular euphony seriously, it would beryllium a batch of work.
“Nobody successful my household was connected to the euphony industry, truthful I didn’t cognize however to … we telephone it romper el melón, (break the melon), but I don’t cognize however to accidental that successful English,” she says, meaning interruption through. Although she speaks English wittily and fluently, she is inactive comparatively caller to the language, and an adjutant sits successful to construe thing she gets stuck on.
“Through going connected that programme, I learned that becoming a instrumentalist was going to beryllium thing that required humility and patience,” she says. “If I hadn’t gone connected that show, I astir apt would person ne'er realised however overmuch I had to work.”
She had decided she wanted to prosecute euphony 5 years earlier, aged nine. Raised successful a municipality connected the outskirts of Barcelona, she remembers a puerility filled with singing and dancing “without a reason”; connected the weekends, her parents would tally errands successful their car, and Rosalía would sing on to Queen, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. The mode Rosalía paints it, her parent – past an enforcement astatine a metalwork factory, present her manager – was a rebel similar her daughter. She introduced Rosalía to Patti Smith (“Every clip I perceive her talk, I think, ‘This pistillate is truthful astute and free’.” I conscionable respect her from the bottommost of my heart”) and, on with Rosalía’s father, would thrust Harley-Davidsons. “She has a batch of determination, she’s precise strong, and she’s precise independent,” Rosalía says.
As a teenager, Rosalía was bewitched by flamenco – specifically, the enactment of the 70s caller flamenco vocalist Camarón de la Isla – and decided she wanted to larn everything she could astir it. After studying astatine the Taller de Músics successful Barcelona, she moved to the Catalonia College of Music, becoming the 1 pupil it admits to its flamenco people annually. It was determination that she began to fuse flamenco, urbano (modern Latin music) and occidental pop. Flamenco is simply a rarefied, fiercely protected contented – but Rosalía ever wanted to twist it into caller shapes.
“I person truthful overmuch respect for contented – that’s wherefore I decided to walk 10 years of my beingness focused connected studying flamenco. But astatine the aforesaid time, the much I grew up, the much I knew myself – and I deliberation that approaching things from [a constituent of] orthodoxy is not arsenic fun,” she says. “Freedom is simply a precedence for me. I didn’t spot euphony successful a compartmentalised mode – we unrecorded successful a globalised satellite wherever truthful galore cultures premix and stock communal spaces.”
What she prizes astir successful music, she says, is alteridade – a consciousness of otherness. “A batch of times, due to the fact that of our deficiency of cognition oregon our prejudices, we don’t worth capable euphony that isn’t from westerners,” she says. “I deliberation it’s truthful important to support yourself unfastened – there’s arsenic galore ways to marque euphony arsenic individuals successful the world. John Cage’s 4’33 tin beryllium music; birds connected the histrion tin beryllium music; Cameron de la Isla … each of that is music.”
You tin perceive that thirst for genre-bending connected El Mal Querer and Motomami. The erstwhile was an enlargement of a assemblage task based connected The Romance of Flamenca, a 13th-century enactment successful the Occitan connection (sometimes known arsenic Provençal). It recovered Rosalía fusing the DNA of flamenco with ghostly, experimental popular textures reminiscent of Björk – and weaving successful elements of Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me a River for bully measure.
Motomami, connected the different hand, leans hard into rhythmic modern Latin popular styles specified arsenic dembow, reggaeton and bachata, portion inactive uncovering clip to notation flamenco, fuse a 1968 bolero with a illustration of cult confederate rapper Soulja Boy, and rap implicit a fewer seconds of Miami bass. It mightiness beryllium the strangest grounds of the year, and it’s 1 of the astir successful. It’s already double-platinum successful Spain, and took medium of the twelvemonth astatine the Latin Grammys, different trophy to adhd to the 10 others she’s won determination successful the past 5 years.
Rosalía’s emergence hasn’t been without controversy. El Mal Querer was criticised by members of the gitano (Spanish Romani) community, who said it was inappropriate for a achromatic pistillate to utilise gitano vocabulary and aesthetics, and the gitano creation of flamenco successful general, for profit, portion gitanos inactive look unit and discrimination. (“I understood that the occupation successful the extremity was privilege,” she told the Fader successful 2019, “The visibility immoderate [gitano] artists haven’t recieved – I empathise with that.”)
Rosalía’s displacement distant from flamenco, meanwhile, besides produced a backlash, with fans questioned whether a achromatic Spaniard should beryllium capable to triumph awards astatine events similar the Latin Grammys for styles specified arsenic reggaeton and bachata, which originated successful non-white Spanish colonies. The mode Rosalía tells it, the clasp of Latin popular connected Motomami is simply a homage to the euphony she and her friends would perceive to arsenic kids, portion the wealthiness of non-Latin styles similar industrial, jazz, hip-hop and bass speaks to her bricolage attack to pop.
“I would usage a fake ID from older friends to get into clubs erstwhile I was 13, 14,” she recalls. Around property 16, she sustained a vocal wounded and retreated from nightlife for a while; erstwhile she recovered, she began mostly attending jam sessions with different musicians. It was lone 2 oregon 3 years agone that she started going backmost retired and now, though she doesn’t discriminate musically – “I emotion techno, I emotion industrial, I emotion integer hardcore” – 1 changeless remains from her clubbing days: “My favourite is the aforesaid arsenic what I would creation to arsenic a teen – it’s reggaeton. I emotion dancing to it, I emotion erstwhile they play the classics, I emotion erstwhile they play the caller ones. But astatine the aforesaid time, immoderate euphony that makes you dance, I’m blessed to creation to it.”
There’s nary denying that Motomami is simply a superlative enactment record. But making it was a hard slog: Rosalía would walk 12- to 16-hour days successful the workplace moving and blew done deadlines tinkering with the last product. (She’s nary workaholic – she loves going retired erstwhile she’s “not that dead” aft a show.) That emotion of reggaeton – the Latin American adoption of Jamaican dancehall – tin beryllium felt successful Motomami’s much raucous side. At the aforesaid time, there’s a subversive softness to overmuch of the medium – not slightest connected Hentai, a glowing ballad that was designed to dependable similar a Disney opus but was named aft a genre of Japanese animated pornography, and whose lyrics are much Cardi B than Cinderella. “I wanna thrust you similar I thrust my bike,” she sings successful sweet, fluttery caput voice.
“This is simply a precise idiosyncratic opinion,” she says, “but I deliberation pistillate vigor has an erotic superiority. And wherefore not research that? Why not marque a opus astir a database of desires, and stock that list? Lil’ Kim has done it before, Björk has done it, Madonna has done i. So it’s a small spot astonishing that, nowadays, it’s inactive a taxable of speech to marque an erotic song.”
Since she released Hentai, she says, radical person asked her incessantly astir the lyrics, revealing the strictness with which nine inactive sees women. “I’ve realised that there’s thing that happens to galore women – truthful galore times, radical trim a pistillate and her endowment by limiting her to a prefabricated category,” she says. “Pure cliche – the brainsick one, the girlboss, the witch, the messy one, the histrionic, the diva. I anticipation I tin dissipate each those useless categories, and instrumentality a small spot from each of them, play with each of them successful my projects.”
She hasn’t made authorities a cardinal portion of her image. As a result, supporters of Catalan independency person complained that she should beryllium doing much for the movement, portion gitano activists would similar her to rise consciousness of the struggles of Romani people. When she has waded into discourse, it’s usually been brief: successful 2019, she tweeted “Fuck Vox”, successful effect to electoral gains by the Spanish far-right party; astatine a performance successful Mexico successful 2019 she wore a greenish handkerchief connected her close arm, a awesome of the country’s combat for ineligible abortion. She has, however, been vocal successful her enactment of LGBTQ+ rights, tweeting successful 2019: “How tin cheery matrimony beryllium ineligible contiguous successful lone 25 countries successful the world?” and was seen protesting successful the aftermath of George Floyd’s execution successful 2020.
When I effort to find retired much astir her views, her adjutant cuts in: “Let’s not inquire immoderate governmental questions, please.” Frustratingly, the vocalist backs this up. “I consciousness similar I don’t person capable cognition astir authorities to person an sentiment that would adhd anything,” she says. “I’m acrophobic astir my surroundings, and I’m acrophobic astir people. With music, I anticipation that I tin springiness you opinions that person much worth – due to the fact that I truly dedicate each my beingness to it.”
Rosalía plays plays the O2 Arena, London, connected 15 December