Rosalía – ‘Motomami’ review: an electrifying serve from a left-field mastermind

The star's third album is a dazzling grab-bag of flamenco, reggaetón, left-field pop, glitchy R&B and one song best described as 'despondent gospel'

Rosalía begins her third album by singing about transforming herself with “makeup de drag queen” and ends it with a burst of well-earned applause. In between are 40 minutes of the most thrilling, forward-thinking and discombobulating music we’re likely to hear all year.

On 2018’s ‘El Mal Querer’, her Grammy-winning second album, the visionary Spanish musician blended traditional and modern flamenco sounds with experimental pop flourishes. The results were often electrifying: ‘Bagdad’, a standout single inspired by a Barcelona strip club, cleverly weaved in a sonic nod to Justin Timberlake‘s ‘Cry Me A River’. Here, she pushes herself even harder to produce a dazzling musical grab-bag filled with flamenco, reggaetón, left-field pop, glitchy R&B, a smart Burial sample, hooks that sound like playground chants and one song, ‘Genís’, best described as ‘despondent gospel’.

It’s definitely a bracing listen. The delicate and sensual ‘Hentai’, which Rosalía co-wrote and produced with Pharrell Williams, begins as a stripped-down glide before exploding into life with an onslaught of rapid-fire beats. It’s made even more exciting by sex-positive lyrics including a line that translates into English as: “I wanna ride you like I ride my bike.” When ‘Cuuuuuuuuuute’ suddenly switches from clattering cyberpunk to piano balladry and back again, it’s baffling and kind of brilliant. ‘Diablo’, one of two tracks co-written with James Blake, lays Rosalía’s pitch-shifted vocals over ominous electronica and an off-kilter reggaetón beat. It suggests that if Rosalía ever wants to score an indie horror film, she’ll smash it.

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There are also some relatively traditional tracks including ‘La Fama’, a Bachata gem that teams Rosalía with The Weeknd. She’s said the lyrics ruminating on the dark side of fame were partly inspired by Patti Smith. But even when her ambitions are lofty, there’s nothing po-faced or self-conscious about ‘Motomami’. On the contrary, it’s often a lot of fun: the playful reggaetón romp ‘Chicken Teriyaki’ finds her rampaging around New York City, namechecking Julio Iglesias, Naomi Campbell and hip-hop producer Mike Dean. Rosalía rhymes the latter’s name with “drag queen”, which by anyone’s standards is a serve.

Actually, the same could be said of ‘Motomami’ as a whole. Rosalía isn’t so much carving out her own lane as building her own ultra-modern, super-bendy sonic motorway. It’s one you’ll want to hurtle down again and again.

Details

Release date: March 18

Record label: Columbia

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