How ROSALÍA is revolutionizing flamenco

El Mal Querer, her new album, was dropped last Friday, but it’s been a while since she’s on everyone’s lips. From webzines and radio to the friend who said “I discover her firstly all by myself”: everyone talks about ROSALÍA, the Catalan sing-songwriter who’s revolutionizing flamenco.

We already listened to her first album, Los Angeles, a genuine debut album but too green to be pop: in those 12 tracks, ROSALÍA introduced us into her world of synthesizers, popular songs and Spanish musical traditions in which she grew up.

However, not so expert ears were needed to understand that, already in that debut album, there was a voice and an iconic figure. A fire for a fuse ready to explode.

And that real explosion arrived with MALAMENTE, the first single (and chapter) taken by El Mal Querer, released in May 2018 with the co-production of El Guincho and a video directed by CANADA, which has been definitely put in focus the ROSALÍA aesthetic, her attitude and the direction of this new flamenco wave.

A glaring, urban and bright colors styling: these are the elements that, combined with a strongly pop track, bring to ROSALÍA more than 28 million views on YouTube.
Certainly aesthetic is one of her greatest strengths. This happens because it is an authentic, credible and natural aesthetic: quickly ROSALÍA convinced us, and not for the scowl on her face but for the originality of her project, which takes flamenco and shakes it in favor of a more modern pop.

El Mal Querer, her second album, is the story of this revolution.

Each song is a capitulo (chapter) and the entire album generates a book: it is based on an anonymous manuscript of the fourteenth century (Flamenca) based on the story of a woman, imprisoned in a tower by a jealous husband afraid of being cheated on.
So in these 11 tracks, ROSALÍA’s voice tell us this sad story, switching between desperate, visceral flamenco and mystical liberation expressed through the palmas.

This alternation of registers, as well as confirming the extreme versatility of ROSALÍA’s vocal, makes the album a little bit easier to “digest”.

ROSALÍA opens straight, stunning with the pop of MALAMENTE (Ch. 1: Augurio), and then she brings us into the darkest flamenco of QUE NO SALGA LA LUNA (Ch.2: Boda): a few acoustic chords, palmas and a voice that remind us where she came from.

PIENSO EN TU MIRÁ (Ch. 3: Celos), the second single from the album, introduces some electronic elements to hybridize the traditional song.

On DE AQUÍ NO SALES (Ch. 4: Disputa) we are again overwhelmed by the desperate flamenco that becomes so much higher with the rhythm of the palmas and the motor roars. Once again we are surprised: a stunning loop vocalization closes the track.
The vocal is the absolute protagonist also in RENIEGO (Ch. 5: Lamento) which, as the title of the chapter suggests, is a lament in cante flamenco.

But the most alienating moment of the whole album is BAGDAD (Ch. 7: Liturgia): Justin Timberlake and flamenco coexist in the same song. She opens with a reinterpretation of Cry Me a River intro, engaging it in a liturgical chorus.

It’s stuff like this that makes me talk about El Mal Querer as a revolution of traditional flamenco: the spirituality coexists with folklore (NANA – Chapter 9: Concepcion), malice, aesthetics, pop (DI MI NOMBRE – Chapter 8: Extasis), the past (A NINGUN HOMBRE – Chapter 11: Poder) and the future (MALDICION – Chapter 10: Cordura).

El Mal Querer is an innovative and successful experiment, even if it is not for everyone: ROSALÍA wrote an album firstly for herself, for Spain and for flamenco and, secondly, for those of us who will appreciate her revolution.

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