Rosalía: El Mal Querer review – flamenco-pop star is a formidable new talent

Información / Noticias

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The Catalan singer’s potent, smart second album is more complex than any Latin pop currently in the charts: she’s a gamechanger

There was a time, not that long ago, when the second album by a twentysomething Catalan singer held to be revolutionising the sound of flamenco would have been automatically confined to the margins where world music lurks in the UK. Instead, Rosalía’s El Mal Querer is getting what you might call the full pop star treatment: released by a major label rather than a tiny specialist imprint, promoted with a selection of expensive-looking videos, and attention drawn to the stars who have apparently fallen under the spell of her music – a list that ranges from Dua Lipa to Pharrell Williams, with whom she has been collaborating for a future release. Her first UK gig was not at Womad but at hip east London venue Village Underground, and the kind of websites that make it their business to write earnest articles about the socio-political significance of pop stars have begun writing earnest articles about her socio-political significance.

She is already a star in Spain, where flamenco is a big enough part of the pop landscape for the singer to have first encountered it in a Barcelona park, booming from the subwoofer-boosted stereos of tricked-out cars in the same way you might hear grime or drum’n’bass in the UK. The fact that a major label clearly thinks she can be a star here – and indeed in the US – is presumably down to the ongoing vogue for Latin-flavoured pop. If Luis Fonsi’s Despacito proved that a song primarily in Spanish can top the charts, then perhaps that’s indicative of a wider cultural shift, signalling the end of British audiences’ traditional inability to treat pop in any language that isn’t English as anything more than a source of novelty hits.

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