1. Not exactly a beginner
You might not have heard of her, but this 25-year old Catalan living in Barcelona is already a big star in Spain. The video for her hit tune Malamente has been watched more than 32 million times, making her something of phenomena. She’s done contemporary dance festivals and released an album Los Ángeles, in 2017. Part of the “new flamenco” movement, she is ruffling traditional feathers by combining this primal music with an indie rock. Vocally the brunette sounds like a cross between the falsetto of Rihanna and the tormented tones of Janis Joplin. With her second album, currently on release, El mal querer, her hybrid charm and timbre seems explodes from deep within. The album, produced by El Guincho (remember the electro hit Bombay played everywhere in the summer of 2014) even reconciles the generations as she mixes the soul of flamenco with R’n’B sonorities, pop and trap. She kicks arse on the dance floor without a single pair of castanets in sight.
“She has the voice of an old school flamenco singer and a wisdom beyond her years. She should be proud of being indefinable.” Pedro Almodóvar
Rosalia – “Malamente”
2. Feisty videos
Rosalia’s perfectly polished videos made by the Barcelona collective Canada (also behind ads for Adidas, Nike and Stella McCartney) have played an important role in her race to success. Similar to the videos of M.I.A., the choreography of Beyoncé, the movies of Tarantino and the arty short films by Nowness, we see a singer dancing flamenco against an urban backdrop (lots of concrete, car parks and big cars). The love at first sight comes from this very clash of cultures. It’s the work of a singer-songwriter who consumed YouTube in the 2000s and the hegemony of hip-hop culture but since adolescence has devoted herself to a cult of ancestral sounds (she even wrote her thesis on flamenco). Beyond the crop tops and low slung sweatpants there’s an aura of an old soul and a mystical presence of an Iberian sorceress. And from beneath the festive, synthetic layers comes a concept record about love and passion in which she is something of a femme fatale. El mal querer is inspired by Flamenca (“Flamboyant”), a romantic novel written in the 13th century about a young woman whose fiancé is so jealous he locks her up so no one can see her. On stage and in her videos, there is a melancholic Isabelle Adjani in Possession edge to Rosalia. It’s hard to not look her straight in the eyes, it’s even harder not to fall in love with her.
The young woman who looks like she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown has already caught the attention of Pharrell Williams, Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, Angèle, Kiddy Smile, Emily Ratajkowski and Arca
Rosalia – Di Mi Nombre
3. A complete artist
Last July, Rosalía started filming in Pedro Almodóvar’s new movie Dolor y gloriaalongside Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas. The director, “magnetised by women with character” fell in love with her charisma, her verve and her colourful style. He has said about her, “She has the voice of an old school flamenco singer and a wisdom beyond her years. (She) should be proud of being indefinable.” The young woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, like all Almodóvar’s heroines, has also caught the attention of Pharrell, Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, Angèle, Kiddy Smile, Emily Ratajkowski and Arca, with whom she’s composing new tunes. Suffice to say Rosalia won’t be curbing the hype currently pouring out of Spain right now (the girl band Hinds, the TV shows Casa De Papel and Elite and the Primavera Sounds festival). A vibrant mix of being attached to her roots and turning out to the rest of the world, of tradition and futurism, of sex appeal and a warrior attitude, Rosalia is redefining the contours of a heroine anchored in her own time. She recently confided to Dazed and Confused, “I’ll never get tired of fighting until I see equal numbers of men and women in a recording session. I’ll fight until all those women are given the same value as naturally as it is given to men.” We couldn’t dream of a soldier better suited to the fight for women’s rights…
Rosalía El Mal Querer (Sony), now available.