Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía's third album gets devious with reggaeton bangers, piano ballads, and no shortage of bright ideas

Between the frothing bass and freeform jazz breaks on ‘Saoko’, Spanish artist Rosalía warns that she has trojan-horsed the industry and transformed into something far more stylistically devious. But what happens when an art pop querida submerges themselves in a shallower pool to satiate their fun side? We’ve seen this already in 2022 with FKA twigs’ CAPRISONGS mixtape, and now we see it again in Rosalía’s much-teased album MOTOMAMI. Since her rise to worldwide prominence in 2018 by modernising flamenco music on breakout album El Mal Querer, she has branched out into reggaeton without sacrificing her outsider approach, and seeks to bridge the gap here.

Much like twigs’ effort, songs of all flavours – flex songs, sex songs, heartbreak ballads and lamentations towards fame – are all given level standing. The highs here hedonistically bounce around big beats, and the ease with which Rosalía can rap coolly about her status and influence is just as easy as you get wrapped up in it. Even the most by-the-numbers reggaeton cut, ‘Chicken Teriyaki’, is contagious, and finds space to nod at the album’s inner conflict: "Yeah, fame’s a prison sentence," she raps, "but tell me what other girl’s gonna buy you dinner?

We still get a plentiful supply of her exquisite singing voice, however. The fittingly graphic ‘Hentai’ presents the act of sex itself as an art form, handed the grace of a theatre number. On the slow, ruminative ‘Come Un G’, she wanders lost over a piano that has flashes of Aphex Twin’s ivory brilliance. Her voice takes many forms as she digs deeper into her despair at having no one to dedicate her ballads to, and the emotional swing she takes in the chorus is perfectly paced.

Although MOTOMAMI diverts wildly from reggaeton banger to touching ballad, sometimes the two intertwine in orgasmic ways. With the brooding, atmospheric reggaeton that floods in to fill the instrumental break in ‘Candy’, it’s no surprise that Rosalía snuck in a clandestine sample of Burial’s ‘Archangel’. Moreover, tracks like ‘CUUUUuuuuuute’ and ‘Diablo’ are relentless in their hurtling rate of ideas.

Sadly, Rosalía does not find a way to organise her many ideas well. The tracklist’s brisk changes in energy and awkward hard endings deny any chance of momentum-building. An idea as golden as the title track being just an interlude is a Greek tragedy, and placing such a nutty sugar-rush as ‘Bizcochito’ in front of ‘G3 N15’ makes the ballad almost feel like a slog, regardless of its quality outside of the album context. Nonetheless, the individual songs dart away from the angelic image of Rosalía’s previous work, stirring the cauldron to create an outlandish, genre-hopping revision of herself.

Curiously, the album’s finale is a live recording. You spectate ‘Sakura’ alongside a stadium-sized audience cheering for her, yet the song is indirectly about them, and how many will still be around once her time in the spotlight is up. She’s having fun now, but she can’t wait for the freedom that awaits her.

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