In pop culture where nostalgia is music’s most powerful mercantile weapon, Rosalía’s Motomami is an affront. A challenge to familiarity, to the plainness of the ideal.
And it’s not that Rosalía doesn’t tap into that nostalgia – there’s enough merengue on Despecha, her most recent single, to invoke the good ghosts of La Patrulla Quince or Las Chicas del Can, to get fifty-somethings and twenty-somethings alike dancing.
What happens in this case is that nostalgia is not restorative. It does not intend to return to the past, much less do justice to the saying that “every past time was better”. Quite the contrary: he uses that past to rebuild the now of music, with all the risks that this represents.
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At a time when Runnin’ Up That Hillby Kate Bush, a song from 1985, caresses us with the warmth of past times or Master Of Puppetsby Metallica from 1986, returns to the radar of the new generations with its integration into the series Stranger Things, Rosalía’s third full-length is a dense, delicate and dangerous sacrilege.
Five years after the release of the acclaimed The bad want, Rosalía presents a repertoire that, like cats, loves you but at times. The musical selection is organized in such a way that those who come accompanied by the typical confirmation biases that invade all our conversations, leave quickly.
It’s not a radio record. It is not a mass album (in fact, today no album is). But the networks and musicology are not long in coming, especially when the ‘Motomami World Tour’ starts, the support tour for the new album.
That it is a toxic record, it is. Which is a frivolous record; also. Like all the hatreds aroused by the fury of having our own altars of opinion, mommy raise powders, gesta memes, weapon bonches.
Those who love Rosalía do not want to hear the argument of those who hate her. Those who hate her don’t want to hear from those who love her either. Such is art. And it is art, because if we have learned anything, it is that every form of art is, by nature, repulsive, and that such rejection is fostered by misunderstanding.
In his July 29 column for The country from Spain, for example, the musicologist Diego Manrique closes his criticism of the presentation of the performer Spanish writing that “in records, especially in mommytalks about herself but –with her hand on her heart– she is not well understood due to her vocal peculiarities and her mixture of jargons and languages”.
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It’s not a radio record. It is not a mass album (in fact, today no album is)
Despite the stoic gaze of the musicologist in the face of the strangeness of the live repertoire, he also begins his editorial by saying: “Rosalía has dragged Spanish pop into the 21st century”. And perhaps she has done the same with pop in contemporary Spanish, regardless of its origin.
Manrique’s misunderstanding is not exclusive. It is often repeated among skeptics of mommy: It is the same excuse that is obtained when asking them what they think of the album: “it is that you do not understand anything that Rosalía sings” – as if we had understood The Beatles when we read or sang the lyrics of come together– someone explain to us what “Joo Joo Eyeball” or “Walrus Gumboot” means, please-, or as if we had ever known what Michael Jackson meant when he sang ‘Mama Se, Mama Sa, Ma Makossa’ in Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.
“The first time you hear motomami – says the Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler from his home in Madrid in a call by Zoom – one gets scared. I listened to the first thirty seconds of Chicken Teriyaki because of the sound, I thought it was a TikTok album and I said: ‘what a shame’. But when I entered, I realized that it was a record about language. The disc of neologisms. They are his main tool. And if one puts up with Góngora’s neologisms, why shouldn’t one listen to the ones in Motomami?
It is this fear of the incomprehensible –and the nature of the Internet, a wild Tower of Babel in which the monolithic successes of the past no longer exist– that puts mommy in a special place of the so-called modern “urban culture”, which is no longer tied exclusively to the boom bap nineties –that fantastic hit with the smell of New York petrichor–, nor to the G-funk of Compton of Dr. Dre, and which has expanded into bachata, merengue, house and the indie with cyberpunk sass, but enough blood ties to rebuild it.
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“It’s that you don’t understand anything that Rosalía sings” -as if we had understood The Beatles when we read or sang the lyrics of “Come Together”
Rosalía is central to these structural fractures since she undertook the heresy of joining those worlds so apparently disparate in The bad wanthis second full-length.
“A lot of people blamed her for cultural appropriation when she made The bad want –adds Drexler. Even so, she already had a path carved out between electronic music and flamenco, a decision by a Catalan to break with the previous model. Many people from traditional flamenco have been angry. And come back and break everything. It’s the Bob Dylan of that.”
The frivolity of mommy is a double-edged sword: it destroys the traditions of hip-hop with impenetrable languages: “If you are the lamp/nobody can stop you,” he says in Saoko, the first single from the album. Immediately the feeling of being at the wrong party – or not being invited to it – overwhelms the user. But those who remain participate in an experience as tribal as the neologisms that Drexler mentions. He scares but shelters; he reveals but hides.
“It’s a motherfucking record,” says Argentinian musician Tweety González, renowned pioneer of the middlei and the technique of samples in South America, the famous ‘fourth Soda Stereo’: “It raises the bar of what commercial music can be. It is not so simple. Is not a beatcito and a couple of ‘pendejaditas’ and that’s it. It is a complex vocal production, it is not a company invention. It’s not a bobblehead. You can shut the mouths of all the music professors at any university in the world.”
Raise the bar of what commercial music can be. It is not so simple. It’s not a ‘beatcito’ and a couple of ‘pendejaditas’ and that’s it. It is a complex vocal production, it is not a company invention
In the midst of the musical noise of our times in which 65 thousand songs are released daily via streaming services streaming such as Youtube and Spotify, mommy it’s a difficult listen, even though on the surface it seems quite the opposite. Saoko, the combi versace Y Chicken Teriyaki they play a playful but essential role in an intimate and psychological work, and create a powerful emotional connection with the audience that wants to be there, for whatever reason.
Through these songs, Rosalía intertwines talent, femininity, feminism, sex, fashion, machismo, technology, and overwhelming loneliness. In Saokothe beat It’s punk at its finest, as if someone had taken the speakers and slashed them as hard as they could with a razor blade until there was no trace of bass.
Vocal production is a patchwork quilt in some of these pieces. Our infinite desire to conquer robotics so that it does not destroy us is present in this production: a pure and human voice submitted by its own will to technology.
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Michael Ozowuru – producer and songwriter for Frank Ocean – cuts and pastes these verses that connect humanity with artificial intelligence. There are also traces of Bon Iver’s profound influence on the indie with his album 22, A million and Kanye West in My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy.
For seconds, jazz is present and for minutes, bulería. In Delusions of greatness stands on the shoulders of giants, men from other times, and his voice seems from another era, a ghost of the many that haunt the album between boleros and beats. James Blake returns the favors done for his album Friends That Break Your Heart with samples and melancholic dubsteps.
He makes The Weeknd sing bachata while he reflects on what a bad lover fame is. Pharrell Williams for his part, accompanies the singer in hentaione of the most painful R&B songs that have been made in Spanish music in history.
The blasphemy continues: between the desolate piano of the destructive passions that burn us in the depths of the secrets, connects the perversions of Japanese animation with Christianity, Spike Jonze’s rudimentary but brilliant video production of filming yourself having sex with someone you thought you loved but didn’t: “Make me a tape / Spike mode / Second is to fuck you / First is God”.
And between all the empowerment of being on top of fame, the catwalks, the fashion and the city gringo, between the cheery feminism of cupcake –another material that spreads with unbeatable memetics after beginning to present it live– is in the moments in which it descends into the hell of intimate relationships in which mommy It breaks one’s heart into a thousand pieces.
Rosalía, icon and iconoclast, is alone. And in those multiple solitudes, in her poetic obscenity, in recognizing herself as Alpha, Bandida, Flirty, Dynamite, Expensive, Flux Aeon, Pretty, Hondura, Artificial Intelligence, Jineta, Motomami, Orchid, Patron, Racineta, Rango, Sata, Titanic, Vendetta and “Bitch Too”, the impenetrable codes are disappearing and the accurate stab wounds that his prodigious voice is giving in the body are being located, as if making a sketch.
After having fun with processed batucadas and “butterflies loose on the street” in CUUUUUuuuuuute, he comes back and sits at the piano in like a G and adopts the gangster, hip hop’s invincible male figure so far and there, in what could be his strongest statement of power, he repents, beats his chest, swears in vain and goes to God (that patriarchal fabrication) and to the value of the family as those places to which one returns after romantic defeat, licking the wounds of the soul:
“Only love with love is paid / I owe you nothing and you owe me nothing / The love that does not occur, where does it end / If I find yours, it will already be a debt paid / If you cannot have it, it is better to let it go / What a shame when you want something but God has other plans for you / I don’t fall in love with anyone, I swear, like a G / I don’t even write love songs, but in this one I bend for you “.
In times of hetero-pessimism it is easy to call Motomami a ‘queer’ album. In times of supposed change and exaggerated progressivism, nothing could be more wrong. mommy is Sandra Bullock in Gravity of Cuaron.
It is the silence of a room, charged with power, delirium, sex, deceit and heartbreak. It is falling down the stairs with a crash and howling small death with the beautiful suffering of chilling music, which according to Jorge Drexler, “represents an artistic milestone that we will understand in 10 years”, but that even now, with detractors and furious lovers alike, It doesn’t stop feeling “so so so so so So good. Good. Good. So so so good. So so so so good”.
FOR THE TIME
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