Monday, 27 May 2019

Rosalía ‎– El Mal Querer (2018)

Style: Flamenco
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Sony Music

01.   Malamente (Cap.1: Augurio)
02.   Que No Salga La Luna (Cap.2: Boda)
03.   Pienso En Tu Mirá (Cap.3: Celos)
04.   De Aquí No Sales (Cap.4: Disputa)
05.   Reniego (Cap.5: Lamento)
06.   Preso (Cap.6: Clausura)
07.   Bagdad (Cap.7: Liturgia)
08.   Di Mi Nombre (Cap.8: Éxtasis)
09.   Nana (Cap.9: Concepción)
10.   Maldición (Cap.10: Cordura)
11.   A Ningún Hombre (Cap.11: Poder)

Mastered By – Chris Athens
Mixed By – Jaycen Joshua
Producer – Rosalía
Producer, Arranged By – Pablo Díaz-Reixa

She is already a star in Spain, where flamenco is a big enough part of the pop landscape for the singer to have first encountered it in a Barcelona park, booming from the subwoofer-boosted stereos of tricked-out cars in the same way you might hear grime or drum’n’bass in the UK. The fact that a major label clearly thinks she can be a star here – and indeed in the US – is presumably down to the ongoing vogue for Latin-flavoured pop. If Luis Fonsi’s Despacito proved that a song primarily in Spanish can top the charts, then perhaps that’s indicative of a wider cultural shift, signalling the end of British audiences’ traditional inability to treat pop in any language that isn’t English as anything more than a source of novelty hits.

But even if it is, El Mal Querer is a rather more complex, interesting and left-field prospect than any of the Latin pop successes to date. At its most commercial – as on the flatly brilliant single Pienso en Tu Mirá (a gold-selling hit back in Rosalía’s homeland) or the early 2000s R&B-flavoured Bagdad – it offers a sparse, spectral version of the kind of super-smart pop that Christine and the Queens produce. The rhythm tracks are decorated with flamenco palmas, or hand-clapping, the arrangements are minimal wisps of electronics and bass, with the vocals front and centre.

Even at its most pop, the focus on Rosalía’s voice lends El Mal Querer a head-turning freshness. She can really sing – when she lets rip on the more traditional flamenco-styled Que No Salga la Luna or the a cappella closer A Ningún Hombre, it’s a pretty visceral experience – but her voice is audibly rooted in a different musical tradition to the usual styles in which pop vocalists perform. The standard set of tricks (post-Whitney extemporisation overload, sub-Winehouse aged soul, please-compare-me-to-Kate-Bush kooky swooping, etc) are all noticeable by their absence. Instead, her voice is powerful and gutsily emotive: her melismas sound more Middle Eastern than Mariah Carey.

In addition, swathes of El Mal Querer are noticeably more experimental than most current mainstream British or American pop artists would countenance. Rosalía co-produced the album with sometime Björk collaborator Pablo “El Guincho” Díaz-Reixa, and she has also recently been working with another Björk cohort, Venezuelan-born experimentalist Arca. That figures: there’s a similar sense of exploration and space here as you might find on a Björk album. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to picture the Icelandic singer doing her stuff over the high-drama string arrangement of Reniego. Nana sets Rosalía’s voice against a stark backdrop built entirely from sampled and Auto-Tuned vocals. Reniego mixes castanets with distorted snatches of voices and sound effects that may have been ripped from a kung-fu film; midway through it dies away into silence and an eerie little wordless vocal loop appears, fighting for space with Rosalía’s voice.

A crisp 30 minutes long, El Mal Querer is clearly intended to be a concept album – each track comes with a chapter number and subtitle – although without either a translation or any fluency in Spanish, what the concept may be remains a mystery. It doesn’t matter: this is music potent and adventurous enough to grip you without you understanding a word of what she’s actually singing. Whether it’s going to appeal to the kind of audience who have bought into the vogue for Latin pop thus far is another question: even at its most straightforward, it’s not terribly straightforward and it’s a very long way indeed from Despacito. Or anything else in the charts. But that’s its appeal. Whether it heralds the arrival of a new pop phenomenon or not, El Mal Querer is the calling card of a unique new talent. 
Alexis Petridis / The Guardian

1 comment:

  1. na minha lista.melhor disco de 2018.