Sometimes there’s a reason why the unexpected ends up being the best, and there’s definitely reason to think that with spanish singer Rosalia’s second LP “El Mal Querer”, which is more a statement of promise and confidence than anything else. Co-produced by the ever-so-underrated spanish producer and singer-songwriter Pablo Diaz-Reixa, better known as El Guincho, “El Mal Querer” sounds like the beginning of a prosperous career.
Where Did It Start?
Rosalia’s first LP, “Los Angeles” obtained minor success and did not immediately give people any clue of the big change that was to come except for maybe her cover of Bonnie “Prince” Billy cult classic song “I See a Darkness”, which resembles his own version featuring North Carolina-based Angel Olsen more than the 1999 original version in a pragmatic but soulful way. The step up from “Los Angeles” to “El Mal Querer” is not only in mere quality, but in production value, concept, vision and general approach. The album takes elements from urban contemporary music and merges them with Rosalia’s characteristic flamenco to create a sound that hasn’t really ever been heard before.
Ever since first single “Malamente” went viral (in no small part thanks to film production company CANADA’s tremendous video for the song), it was made clear that Rosalia was here to stay, and follow-up singles “Pienso en tu Mira” and “Di Mi Nombre”, as well as her collaboration with reggaeton star J Balvin in his own “Brillo” only confirmed what was already known, but “El Mal Querer” is much more than the sum of its parts.
Album highlight “Maldicion”, which features an arpeggiating bass synth line and samurai-fighting sounds, propels Rosalia’s voice into one of the best tracks of 2018, in which she gently, metaphorically sings about killing her beloved out of the sheer desperation that being in an abusive relationship creates. “Me han dicho que no hay salida”, she sings while Diaz-Reixa toys with sound and approach like a pro. The same can be said for another song on the album “De Aqui No Sales”, which features motorcycle sounds and tribal singing to illustrate the dangers of abuse. Rosalia is simply taking care of re-defining what is it to be a spanish-singing artist in a world dominated by anglo pop artists, and she’s come to claim the world as her own.
Inspired by 13th century novella Flamenca, the album tells the tale of an abusive relationship in which the narrator finds herself in despite knowing the danger that lies ahead (“Malamente”), being unaware of the extent of what is about to happen (“Que No Salga la Luna”) and not realizing the severity of the situation once she cannot take herself away from it (“Bagdad”). It is truly impressive that every single ounce of music, artwork and visual accompaniment demonstrates the amount of work and vision that went into putting this album together.
The album ends with spare ballad “A Ningun Hombre”, in which the narrator swears never to go through the aforementioned situation again. The song is backed only by distant sound effects and Rosalia’s own voice processed through a vocoder, and that’s really all she needs to get the point across. It’s truly heartwarming to think what such a determined artist has in store for the future, and we can only hope that she continues to grow and become the icon she is so obviously destined to become.