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"Being a motomami is an energy, it's a way of feeling and being in the world: I can be a motomami, you can be a motomami," Rosalía said a few days ago in an interview with El País Semanal just prior to the launch of her long-awaited third album. Motomami (Sony), a collection whose character of power-taking and metamorphosis was already intuited in the tweets with which the Catalan musician has been enumerating the different connotations of the concept, as well as in the first single, Saoko: the caterpillar has broken the chrysalis and transformed into a butterfly to leave behind the mal querer - ill will - of her previous album, which catapulted her to world fame in 2018, when she was inspired by a medieval text to talk about sexism, toxic love, and the psychological and emotional submission of a woman who is captured by the jealousy of her husband - a sequential story that goes from the initial love affair to the final Chapter 11: Power in which she imposes, in a voice forced until broken, that "I consent to no man / dictating my sentence."

Today Motomami is out, but it's neither Los ángeles (Universal Music) nor El mal querer (Sony): it's something else just as titanic. This third album, which Rosalía presented on Friday morning in an exclusive concert on Tik Tok, is neither a defence of flamenco nor a continuation of her experimentation, but rather, delves deeper into an avant-garde fusion that mixes machine sounds into musicalities from trap, flamenco, R&B and pop. Rosalía is now a motomami who gathers up the ashes of that mal querer and is reborn from them, determined to take the reins of her decisions and contradictions, at the same time emboldened and condemned by a popularity that places her before the judgment of the globe. She talks about it bluntly in La fama, a bachata that she shares with Canadian artist The Weeknd: the ephemeral nature of success is the great, angular theme of the whole project, also present in the Caribbean cover Delirio de grandeza ("Delirium of grandeur") and Sakura ("You can't always be a star and shine / I'll laugh when I'm 80 and look back") because Rosalía shows a prudence in the face of threats and she owns that. There is more: the Catalan not only wants to show that she can create new musicalities and get away with it, very clearly; what she seeks here is to decriminalize the act of changing stylistic tack, and to show that mixing musical cultures doesn't have to be exclusive.

Portada MotomamiMotomami is Rosalía's third album, four years after the masterpiece El mal querer. / Sony

Not everyone has been convinced by or understood this move towards more transgressive melodies and musicalized slangs. The first rocks were tossed at Motomami in mid-January when she used 15 seconds of the song Hentai in a Tik Tok video. "Te quiero ride como a mi bikeSocial media filled up with memes against her drop-in use of English words, as well as concepts that were not understood. "Those who are angry about the Hentai lyrics, are you okay??" replied the singer herself in a Tweet, with the irony of one who knows that there will be no shortage of pretentious critiques who - once again - will say that she has passed over to the musical dark side. "I'm the same singer if I'm wearing a Versace tracksuit as when I'm dressed to dance," she sings now in Bulerías, the most flamenco song of the sixteen she has just released.

Some have looked aghast: why would someone with that incredible instrument built in to her throat opt to do something so vulgar and commercial? But she has not shrunk from it

The singer from the just-out-of-the-metropolis town of Sant Esteve Sesrovires has long been close to the mainstream industry and Latin rhythms. Ever since she released Con Altura with J Balvin - with over 615 million views on Spotify - or Yo x ti, tú x mí with Ozuna, some have looked aghast: why would someone with that incredible instrument built in to her throat opt to do something so vulgar and commercial? But she has not shrunk from it. She has no regrets about performing reggaeton songs like the ones she danced to as a child at the fair, in the same way as she speaks about Camarón de la Isla, La niña de los Peines, Lola Flores, Chavela Vargas, Kendrick Lamar and James Blake. They are all her references in this eternal and soporific struggle between high and low culture and she mixes them in her musical and artistic trajectory with the spontaneity that the street, and hard work, give you.

Don't let it go to your head

Rosalía has never trimmed off her outer-suburbs long nails, so much part of the image of El mal querer, nor changed her neighbourhood vocabulary, but she is also aware that the best designers want her to wear their dresses on the catwalks - and that this makes her privileged, removed from the popular classes. That's why Rosalía has made her new album into a warning about egocentrism and letting it all go to your head - which can happen if you're not careful, something she has had enough time to become aware of. Just four years ago, before the release of Malamente and when only 25 years old, she had only 100,000 followers on Instagram: today she has more than 19 million and is in the same league as the Kardashians, she has been on the cover of Vogue and last week appeared on Jimmy Fallon's Saturday Night Live.

Rosalía Chicken Teriyaki
The Catalan singer in a shot from the video for Chicken Teriyaki, song with a perfect rhythm for Tik Tok. / Sony

Thus in Motomami she is experimenting with her new life of luxuries and expensive cars, which have nothing to do with what her life was like when she studied at the Taller de Músics in Barcelona's Raval or later the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya. She boldly turns the focus on her own surge to fame as both a self-criticism and a critique of the global immediacy that exists in social media - and in the world at large - that can raise someone up in a moment and the next, bring them down again. But it's a wave that she has been able to ride, and on Motomami she does so with fresh melodies that drink from dembow, R&B, the ballad, jazz and electronica, sounds already recurrent in her music and which define her particular school.

Rosalía embraces the codes of youth and the diversity of language without complexes or phobias, without prejudice, or discrimination, or any desire to reappropriate anything or anyone culturally: she only seeks coexistence.

Rosalía embraces the codes of youth and the diversity of language without complexes or phobias, without prejudice, or discrimination, or any desire to reappropriate anything or anyone culturally: she only seeks coexistence. She advocates cultural pluralism and mestizaje in her proposal as an extension of herself, culturally influenced by having lived in Los Angeles and surrounding herself with friends from anywhere in the world, but without forgetting her family or her roots. In G3N15, perhaps the best song on the album, she offers a lullaby to her nephew Genís, apologising for being away in LA, "a place that I wouldn't take you, no one is at peace here between stars and syringes," and the song gently ends with an audio that was clearly sent to the musician by her grandmother, a loving message in Catalan that brings the tears welling up: “You are on a path that is a bit complicated. When I look at it, I think 'How complicated is the world that Rosalía has got into'. But well, if you're happy, I'm happy too."


Rosalía Sony
"Fuck el estilo, Fuck el stylist": Rosalía in an image from the video for the album's first single Saoko. / Sony

Motomami is also a representation of duality: moto in Japanese means "strong" and mami refers to "fragility", as she herself explained it. Rosalía knows that the balance of any artist - of any person - lies in knowing how to move within this constant dichotomy that goes from public glory to individual fear, two inseparable feelings on the path that she follows with dazzling sobriety. The singer is a genius storyteller and creator of worlds, and she blatantly plays with the message using aesthetics and superficiality, aware of the thousand interpretations in her artistic expression. But she plays with this risk and with the incoherencies and her proposal transcends: this is her greatness.

The singer is a genius storyteller and creator of worlds, and she blatantly plays with the message using aesthetics and superficiality

Motomami is the evolution of Rosalía's own life, what defines her at the point she is at now, and what legitimizes her as a 360º artist in all the songs on the set list. Candy sounds like classic reggaeton mixed with R&B, Chicken Teriyaki is perfect for Tik Tok - its rhythmic dance is already replicating like wildfire - and Combi Versace, in duet with Tokischa, screams at you to get on the dancefloor; in Abcdefg, Rosalía presents a spoken interlude, in the title track Motomami she mixes rave and electronic sounds, in Diablo - collaboration with James Blake - the reggaeton base mingles with a lyric that constantly transforms itself; combinations also enhance CUUUUuuuuuute, with hardcore, metallic and industrial sounds, autotune and a cappella voices that relax when the piano begins to sound in Como un G, a beautiful and very heartfelt ballad.

Sensuality versus empowerment

Like any female artist who shuns the classic role of quiet, submissive woman to become an active subject, Rosalía has been singled out and judged many times for expressing herself artistically through sensuality, frequently sparking debate over whether women's hypersexualization to appropriate their own bodies is self-empowerment or is really neoliberal slavery which the power of the patriarchy makes it difficult to even see. The latest controversy comes from Hentai (a name that refers to a Japanese animation style that objectifies women), a slow and explicit song about sexuality, masturbation and sexual desire - which the singer chose to reclaim in her song, and heated debate has followed. On the one hand, there is a part of conservative society that still unjustifiably looks down on a woman for exploiting her sexuality in public. On the other hand, the singer falls into the insult that many artists have used in the past to deprecate women: (in its translation to English) "Expensive, like with a diamond on the tip / 'always puts me ahead of that 'whore'". Using a sexist qualifier that degrades women and encourages radical competition between them makes no sense: it is aggressive, violent and gratuitous, as well as contradictory to her entire artistic proposal.

But the excellent marketing campaign behind this third album has been more than smart, it's been brilliant: the singer has fueled the desire of her fans as much as the critics, releasing first the songs that went furthest from the creative world of El mal querer in order to keep the audience in suspense, waiting there behind their screens for any opportunity to go for the throat and judge her new project, in which she has been working for more than 3 years. Rosalía knew that the public liked speculation and gossip, and the approach worked so well that, although many people still see an excellent singer making bad music, only a few hours after the release of the entire album there are already critical voices extolling the grandiloquences of Motomami's rupturism. She could have repeated the formula of her previous success, but she preferred to take risks, again, and see where they took her. She has already warned: "A motomami gladly destroys her previous works to make way for the next ones."