You get a good sense of what Rosalía is up to on her stunning new album Hentai, a subdued and pained ballad – at least that’s how it starts out – spanning about a third of the 16 tracks. Motomami.”
With a high-pitched, trilling voice that evokes memories of Edith Piaf, the 29-year-old Spanish pop phenomenon traces a shapely soaring vocal melody over soft-toned piano chords; Finally, a swooning string arrangement springs to life behind her, giving the song a sort of wistful, classic Hollywood flavor.
But the title of “Hentai” refers to a very different kind of filmmaking – specifically to porn in Japan’s colorful anime tradition – while the song’s lyrics describe physical pleasure more vividly than those delicate tones have taught us to expect: “I want to ride you like I ride a bike,” she sings in Spanish, before completing part of her lover’s anatomy by imagining that he “has a diamond on top.”
Just then, a trembling drum machine beat pierces the production out of nowhere, blasting “Hentai’s” sense of refined calm but not, crucially, his aura of emotional longing. It’s not a bait and switch, this song; Instead, Rosalía’s idea seems to be that sex – even (or especially) in its hungriest form – is worthy of the lavish treatment that pop music usually reserves for romance.
“I whipped it until it got stiff,” she sings sweetly, drums pounding around her as she lays out her priorities in life: “In second place, f—ing you / In first place, God.”
Recorded around the world (including in Los Angeles, Barcelona and the Dominican Republic) and in collaboration with The Weeknd, Pharrell Williams, Q-Tip, James Blake, their longtime studio partner El Guincho and pioneering Puerto Rican producer Tainy, “Motomami”. is about rethinking established cultural boundaries; the LP, Rosalía’s third, vibrates with moments of rupture, discord and clash to conjure up a modern world that questions old folk tunes – yet seeks solace in them.
Time and time again, she makes unlikely connections without giving it a second thought in these shiny, pickaxe-sharp songs that mix reggaeton, hip-hop, bachata, R&B and jazz (to name just a few of the styles at her disposal). whether the seams are visible; At a time when assimilation has lost its luster as a social ideal, the seams may indeed be the crux of their work.
“I contradict myself/I transform,” she sings in Spanish over a humming bassline on the album’s punky opener Saoko. “I am everything.”
Rosalía broke through in 2018 with the Grammy-winning “El Mal Querer,” which revisited flamenco music with electronic textures alongside the ancient tools of form, acoustic guitar and hand percussion. In the years following the album’s release, she performed at Coachella and performed with Kylie Jenner; She appeared in Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” video and recorded songs with J Balvin, Billie Eilish and Travis Scott.
Motomami chronicles this meteoric rise to pop stardom, and not always with the giggly enthusiasm Rosalía displays in her frequent TikTok videos. In the dramatic “La Fama” she characterizes fame as “a lousy lover” and a “sneaky who comes as easily as she goes”; “Bulerías,” the only track here explicitly rooted in flamenco, tells of the hard work behind the glamor of being a celebrity: “To keep standing on my feet,” she sings, “I killed myself 24/7.”
Being separated from her family during the isolation caused by the pandemic made the trip even more confusing. Amid the mournful organ tones of “G3 N15,” she addresses a young relative whose eye color she can’t remember and another whose interests — “races or spaceships or sailboats” — are fuzzy in her mind. It’s a heartbreaking confession made only more poignant by the inclusion of a voice message from her grandmother reflecting on the importance of family.
But while fame has taken a toll on Rosalía’s personal life, success has clearly been an artistic boon. “Motomami” practically pulses with the freedom of someone gifted with creative capital; Its stylistic expansiveness has something in common with Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” while the album’s blend of harsh noise and sculptural pop melody may recall the music MIA made after “Paper Planes” became a left-field hit in the late 2000s .
In the hypnotic “Candy,” about breaking up with a guy who “just broke me a little bit,” she slips a sample from a Burial song (which itself samples a Ray J track) through a clattering reggaeton beat. “Chicken Teriyaki” employs playground-style vocals as she brags about “buying a chain that’s gonna break the bank like Naomi did in the ’90s.” The titular cut, with a bouncy beat obviously coined in part by Pharrell, is 61 seconds of pure cool-kid swagger; “Cuuuuuuuuuute” lashes out towards hyperpop with a wild spray of machine gun percussion.
“Hentai” isn’t the album’s only vocal showcase. Rosalía also sings the filling of “Delirio de Grandeza,” a cover of an old Cuban bolero that she tricks—hey, why not? – featuring a raspy Soulja Boy sample. And then there’s the slimmed-down closer “Sakura,” in which she imagines herself being 80 years old and laughing as she looks back on her days as a pop idol.
Not unlike MIA, to whom she praises in “Bulerías,” Rosalía has fallen in love with her carefree mixing and matching of genres and traditions; The reputation she has earned as a European for reggaeton has particularly angered some observers. But even flamenco was a found art for the singer, who says she wasn’t exposed to the cherished Spanish form until a friend introduced her to it when she was 13, after which she embarked on an intense study spanning decades.
Does “Motomami” show their attention to a fabled Latin American sound that has been gaining popularity around the world since “El Mal Querer”? Naturally. But what’s on display no less strongly is her love of reggaeton, two of its pioneers – Plan B and Tego Calderón – which she revisits by name on an album steeped in reggaeton’s street-level spirit. (Among the many other proper names dropped by this artist who has never hesitated to name her inspirations: Kim Kardashian, Lil’ Kim, Mike Dean, Dapper Dan, Willie Colón, Carla Bruni, and, uh, Apple CEO Tim Cook.)
Rosalía is also an extraordinarily smart turntable: for her version of bachata, the beloved Dominican style, in “La Fama” she didn’t recruit a proven bachata singer, but rather the Weeknd, whose light, pleading voice turns out to be perfect for the song – and whose megastar has helped garner massive audiences for their latest cultural mash-up.
Some will see their strategy as quite rich in song about the soul-crushing properties of fame. Rosalía agrees with the paradox.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2022-03-17/rosalia-motomami-new-album-review Rosalía remake Pop in her own limitless image on ‘Motomami’