The young Catalan singer merges flamenco and R&B to become one of the planet’s most vital pop stars
A breaking flamenco R&B artist
Flamenco music isn’t recognised globally for its contemporary releases, but Rosalía Vila isn’t any ordinary artist. The Spanish singer brought a brutalist intensity to her performances of an old art form on her 2017 debut album, Los Angeles. The album featured finger-picked nylon guitar by Raül Refree that was as much of an emotionally charged whirlwind as Rosalía herself, darting from quiet minimal moments to high passion with a beautiful, fresh voice that made her a star in Spain and put flamenco on a world stage in a way it hasn’t been for a long time.
Except, that story isn’t going to be written. Rosalía hasn’t ditched the genre by any stretch, but the 25-year-old has increased her scope and vision to take on R&B and pop sounds that were totally absent in her work before now. Ahead of her second album, El Mal Querer, Rosalía has demonstrated a more contemporary style that has her looking like one of the most vital pop stars on the planet right now, and she is clearly drawing from her eight years studying flamenco in terms of inner confidence. Pharrell and Pedro Almodóvar are both working with her soon.
Her two songs so far this year, Malamente and Pienso En Tu Mirá pitch themselves as flamenco-inflected R&B songs with handclap and finger-clicking percussion and a rhythmic vitality that transcends the language barrier. Production comes from El Guincho, a Barcelona electronic producer who brings a hip-hop beat modernity to these songs. As impressive are the music videos by famed directors Canada, who have made thrilling visual accompaniments drawing on the iconography of truckers, matadors and the hooded cofradías of Spain. The videos are sumptuous and detailed but it’s Rosalía scarlet vibrancy that holds the screen.