There are few albums as surprising as El Mal Querer. The shock of it hopefully wears off for future generations, though; flamenco deserves a spot in the mainstream and, according to the success of this title, it has staying power.
Rosalía is from Barcelona, and has studied flamenco for some time. Her first record was filled with various interpretations on the genre: traditional movements with a modern twist. El Mal Querer is an extension of that idea, using flamenco to color what ultimately is a pop release. The majority was co-produced by El Guincho, who helps marry sounds that may be disconcerting to unfamiliar listeners.
“Malamente” and “Bagdad” were two notable promotional singles that were the epitome of club music due to their incredibly danceable rhythms. The latter features a melody lifted from Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” one of many bold production moves and few easter eggs on the record. There’s a tribute to Destiny’s Child (“Di Mi Nombre” literally translates to “Say My Name”) and repeated allusions to Flamenca, an Occitan love story that is nearly a thousand years old. Themes of lust and love come through in double entendres through the trials presented in the novel. Rosalía uses the already overwhelming emotion of flamenco to further a text written in a region that borders her own home.
I hesitate to call this a concept record, though it most certainly is one. So much of the album’s origins follow in the footsteps of Rosalía’s career trajectory as a contemporary flamenco musician, and her sophomore album is an explosion of creativity and innovation in the artform.
Best Albums of 2018
7. Rosalía – El Mal Querer