#315: El Mal Querer, Rosalia
This is the first non-English language album on Rolling Stone’s 500 list. That made me realize something obvious that I’ve been missing, something that Rolling Stone also apparently missed: the non-English-speaking world. That’s a big chunk of it — like 75%. What an embarrassing oversight.
Rosalia is a hot nerd: this record was her baccalaureate project for the Catalonia College of Music, where she majored in Flamenco Studies. It was inspired not only by traditional flamenco music, but by the novel written in the Occitan language, The Romance of Flamenca. Each song corresponds to a chapter of the novel: Omen, Wedding, Jealousy, Dispute, Regret, Closing, Liturgy, Ecstasy, Conception, Sanity, and Power.
Listen to me: records and books are my two favorite things. The nerdier the references, the better. (Have you heard Grimes’ masterpiece Geidi Prime?) There is nothing I would love more than to English major this shit, but I can’t do it in a language I haven’t spoken since sophomore year of high school.
But Google Translate helped me interpret them a bit more. Plus, did I mention the sick-ass music videos? When you have a sick-ass music video, I don’t need to know what you’re saying.
This album is a mixture of old-school flamenco and new-school techy slickness, with strategic Autotune on each song. “QUE NO SALGA LA LUNA” (Yes, that’s right, you can tell that a grad student did this by the caps lock.) has classic guitar intro that explodes into a thrilling dance track, and “NANA” sounds like it’s coming from the depths of a cave inside a computer. By the end, Rosalia could be on the soundtrack to Dune: “MALDICION” shows her finally spreading her strange, digitized wings.
Rosalia seems to have two main modes. My favorite mode was the “rap god” mode. The breakout hit of El Mal Querer was “MALAMENTE,” a trilly techno song that absolutely gets stuck in my head, and “DI MI NOMBRE” is a classic sex anthem with a vocaloid chorus. “DE AQUI NO SALES” has the same energy, with literal car crashes happening in the foreground. (Also it’s got my favorite music video — she looks like a scary Catholic demon, riding a motorcycle.)
The second mode is “incredible, transcendent voice” mode. Some of her songs gave me Billie Eilish vibes, like “PIENSO EN TU MIRA” and “A NINGUN HOMBRE.” Some of them gave Mariah Carey, “BAGDAD” and “RENIEGO” particularly. Here’s Rosalia giving an off-the-cuff a cappella rendition of the latter. Imagine having a voice like this.
The rest of the world has been willing to listen to English language music for a long time. It’s kind of pathetic that the favor isn’t returned.
Most Useless Song: “PRESO” was kind of interesting and experimental, but, like, it’s just whispering.