Everything Is Coming Up Rosalía



Gianfranco Tripodo

Rosalía is speaking a mile a minute. She’s in a van driving to a rehearsal for her Lollapalooza performance, after landing in Chicago mere minutes ago. Yesterday she was in Canada to perform at Montreal’s Osheaga Music and Arts Festival. Before that, she was in Sicily, playing for an elite crowd at the Google Camp on climate change.

Osheaga Festival 2019

Rosalía performs at the Osheaga Music and Art Festival at Parc Jean-Drapeau on August 2, 2019 in Montreal, Canada.

Mark HortonGetty Images

It’s just a normal week in the life of the rising Spanish singer-songwriter, whose catchy mash-up of traditional Andalusian music and contemporary R&B has set her on a path toward becoming a household name—and who also happens to be making her big-screen debut this month in Pedro Almodóvar’s loosely autobiographical film Pain and Glory (she shares a dreamy scene with Penélope Cruz in which the women sing a Lola Flores song while washing laundry in a river).

The line “Vivo rápido y no tengo cura” (loose translation: “I live fast, and I have no cure”) from “Con Altura,” her hit song with reggaeton superstar J Balvin, springs to mind.

The Google event was “super cool,” says the 26-year-old artist, born Rosalía Vila Tobella. “It was flamenco, palm trees, really getting back to my roots.” (Later, photos of Bradley Cooper, Oprah Winfrey, Katy Perry, and Orlando Bloom on a dinghy bound for said event will show up online.) “I met people I really admire, and it was an honor to get to perform in front of them,” she says, before adding, “To tell you the truth, it was also very weird.”

This frenetic energy—apparent in the velocity of her speech, as if each word is pushing the last one out of the way, and in how quickly she pivots from earnest gratitude to admitting how truly bizarre sudden fame can be—is the same energy that has catapulted Rosalía into the spotlight in less than a year.

It crackles throughout “Malamente,” the haunting first track on her critically acclaimed second album, El Mal Querer. In the song’s video, Rosalía dances in a series of tracksuits and fuzzy coats, and stares defiantly at the camera while keeping the syncopated beat with perfectly manicured hands.

While she wasn’t born into an especially musical family, Rosalía says she could tell it was the weekend when her parents blasted David Bowie, Super- tramp, or Queen. But when she discovered flamenco at 13, in her hometown of Sant Esteve Sesrovires, near Barcelona, it completely changed her life. “[My parents] always said, ‘You can do whatever you want to do; just make sure you go all the way,’ ” she recalls.

“[My parents] always said, ‘You can do whatever you want to do; just make sure you go all the way.'”

By 16, Rosalía was working, playing “the smallest bars in Barcelona, weddings, basically anywhere they’d let me.” Eventually, she enrolled in the Catalonia College of Music and studied under a flamenco virtuoso for almost nine years.

Her debut album, Los Ángeles, released in 2017, was filled with stripped-back but conventional flamenco songs.

Last November’s El Mal Querer, which started out as a college thesis project based on a thirteenth-century poem called The Romance of Flamenca, made her a star.

Presentation Party - Madcool Festival 2019

Rosalia performs during the MadCool Festival Presentation Party on July 10, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

Mariano RegidorGetty Images

The idea was to create a live show inspired by, but different from, a traditional flamenco performance, Rosalía says. “I started working on the compositions, the visuals. The challenge was creating a whole universe, and a work that started from the music but at the same time went absolutely beyond it.”

While Spanish- and English-speaking audiences alike have embraced Rosalía’s pop twist on flamenco music, some have accused the singer of cultural appropriation, since she hails from the Catalonia region but incorporates traditional Andalusian elements into her music.

“I understand that flamenco has very specific rules and codes, and there’s the weight of tradition, so I can understand when people do not enjoy something that is more heterodox,” she explains. But she also sees herself in the tradition of other flamenco artists who’ve broken rules and are now considered part of the canon, like Camarón de la Isla, deemed by many to be the king of flamenco.

“Camarón has been one of my greatest inspirations,” she says. “I remember watching an interview with him where he said, ‘People can’t understand what I’m doing.’ I realized that there have been so many artists who have made some- thing of their time yet have not been able to connect with an audience, so I feel very blessed that there are people responding to my music.”

That’s putting it mildly. A few days after we speak, a Rolling Stone reporter will position Rosalía as the heir to Ariana Grande’s pop throne in a review of Lollapalooza’s closing night. It was also recently announced that she’ll appear in the 2020 Juliet-themed Pirelli calendar, shot by Paolo Roversi—a sign as sure as any that she’s made it.

2019 Lollapalooza - Day 4

Rosalía performs on day four of Lollapalooza (August 4, 2019) in Chicago, Illinois.

Michael HickeyGetty Images

“I know that when you take a risk, the consequence will never be a neutral response; it will either be very positive or very negative,” Rosalía says in defense of her experimental sound. “I don’t want to look back in a few years and think that I didn’t try anything new because it wasn’t how you’re supposed to do it. That’s not how I am. My music is a reflection of my way of thinking, and I take risks because I know I must. If I win, I win, and if I don’t, I still win.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of ELLE.



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