Rosalía Vila is no ordinary pop star. The young Barcelona native has crafted one of the most heralded albums of 2018 in her sophomore effort “El Mal Querer,” garnering millions of streams on multiple tracks and a widespread reach that breaks through all language barriers. Most recently performing at Coachella on a partly sold-out North American tour, she helped Latin artists cap the largest booking ever at the festival with 17 different performers — Bad Bunny and J Balvin among them.
This rise of Latin pop reaching America started back in 2015 and has since followed a fairly similar formula, so what sets Rosalía apart?
It started in her early school days, listening alongside her friends in the park primarily to flamenco — a widely popular Spanish music form dating back to 1774. Rosalía became entranced by the vocal acrobatics required to perform such an art. After high school she started to take the idea of making a career out of music more seriously, enrolling in the Catalonia College of Music with emphasis on the classical.
Though as much as she loved the style of the classics, to Rosalía, there was still something missing; A genre with such rich and beautiful history was still stuck in the past. Within this, Rosalía created perhaps the first successful take on flamenco-based pop music, a sound so unique to her alone it seems unlikely to be replicated.
“El Mar Querer’s” opening track “Malamente” and track seven “Bagdad” show the pop side of her style. They are led by hand clapping called palmas, small percussion instruments known as castanets, sunken keys and of course, Rosalía’s absolutely mesmerizing voice. It is songs like these that most likely allowed for features on tracks with big artists such as J Balvin’s rapidly approaching 100 million streamed single “Con Altura,” while songs like “Que No Salga La Luna” star the classical flamenco instrumentation Rosalía studied back in college. The lightweight guitar dances back and forth throughout as Rosalía hits more notes in a matter of seconds than imaginable, creating an incredibly emotional effect on the listener regardless if they know what she is saying.
Being nominated for almost every award possible in her genre’s categories at the Latin Grammys and going four-times platinum all in the past year prove that individuality and ingenuity really can outshine any accepted format in life. Rosalía took what she loved and made it new and refreshing. The end effort is one of the most moving pop albums in recent years and the creation of not only a new genre, but a new star.