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by Andrew Bosma Music Pop Rocks

Rosalía — MOTOMAMI

April 30, 2022

MOTOMAMI continues Rosalía’s superstar ascent with a record that’s as unpredictable as it is thrilling.

The long awaited MOTOMAMI from Spanish artist Rosalía arrives with a splash, her fame now reaching peaks previously not considered for her style of urbano, flamenco-adjacent pop.  With contemporaries and collaborators like J Balvin and Bad Bunny continuing their mainstream music ascent in the time since Rosalía’s last album, El Mal Querer, her popularity too has benefited from the increased exposure. MOTOMAMI, then, is the culmination of her career thus far, as well as a celebration of the genres that have helped launch her to these new heights. It’s a record that’s thematically cogent but deeply varied in its approach(es), a combination that rarely works well but here soars, replete with production choices that blow most modern pop artists out of the water.

There’s a distinctly percussive wave that guides listeners through MOTOMAMI. While most literally this can be felt in the intense drums that mark the reggaeton-inspired tracks, the general vibe seems to be largely sourcing an outside energy. Indeed, with the only new Rosalía music over the past few years coming in the form of a few remarkable singles, this album feels primed, almost impatient, and it explodes from the beginning like it’s been chomping at the bit to get going. Hype alone isn’t enough to make any project a success — often manifesting disappointment instead — but each excellent track here works in glorious tandem to validate the hype. There are industrial beats backing distorted synthesizers and jazz elements.  There are reggaeton drum loops under flamenco guitar lines. There are tracks that are light and playful, like “Chicken Teriyaki,” a jovial cut about a trip to New York. There are tracks like “Hentai,” where the singer delves into her sexuality, with rapid gunfire effects trailing along a light piano chord.

That’s to say, MOTOMAMI is an album of glorious self-expression, exploring the intimacies of Rosalía’s life, portrait of the artist as a young woman and vice versa. In the hands of a lesser artist, it’s easy to see how this would turn into a schlocky mess, held together by pomp and little more. Instead, Rosalía uses her honest lyricism, careful song constructions, and fine-tuned Latin sounds to weave together a work of impressive intricacy. It’s an immense risk artistically, both to lean so wholly into raw lyricism and experiment with such a broad mixture of sonics, but Rosalía makes the whole thing feel effortless.  Also unpredictable: it’s nearly impossible to predict the direction and shape each new track will take, and each unexpected course packs a punch, whether it’s the aforementioned gunfire effects on “Hentai”, the Burial sample on “Candy”, the Kate Bush-inspired vocal leaps on “CUUUUuuuuuute,” or the lightly distorted piano leading the beat on “Diablo.” Every moment is a triumph.

Even the most casual of music listeners will find something to celebrate on this massive, epically-scaled record, which further speaks to her facility with crafting monumentally broad appeal from within the  confines of her genre. Of course, none of this should surprise: even before this latest work, Rosalía seemed to be operating on another level from the slate of contemporary pop stars. The hype is real, and what MOTOMAMI proves more than anything is that we don’t know yet what Rosalía’s ceiling can be, though her stature as one of the pop greats is ensured while wait for what comes next.

Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2022 | Part 3.