Review: Rosalía, ‘MOTOMAMI’

Rosalía elevates her compositional experiments on her third studio album Motomami, traversing through different genres from flamenco, dark pop to reggaeton.

In the space of a year, Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía propelled into international stardom. Her 2018 album El Mal Querer brought flamenco to a mainstream level, securing commercial–critical success with a Grammy to top it off. The rise has been purely organic, maintaining her cultural tenor up till present day. Four years removed from her breakout release, the stage is set for Rosalía to permanently stamp her name in modern pop.

Motomami is Rosalía’s most daring and adventurous work to date, challenging pop expectations for an album packed with diverse production and invasive songwriting.

Photography: Daniel Sannwald

At first listen, the album seems to jump from the softer sounds to the harder, edgier ones from one song to the next. The album starts with “Saoko”, a track that epitomises the experimental nature of the album as it contains elements of cyberpunk mixed with the characteristic boom-ch-boom-chick rhythm from reggaeton as well as an unexpected piano jazz interlude in the latter half of the song. The combination of contrasting sounds can make the listening experience a bit unsettling but contributes to the theme of the song – change, and the celebration thereof as she employs imagery such as “cuando es de noche en el cielo y se vuelve de día, ya to’ eso cambió“, portraying the everyday transformation from night to day.

The second track “Candy” introduces the softer soundscape of the album, followed by “La Fama” where Rosalía returns to her Hispanic background with a bachata track combined with electro-pop. “Bulerías” resonates with the singer-songwriter’s first album El Mal Querer, not only through the genre of the song but also through her singing style as it showcases the technical vocal abilities in flamenco that are present in El Mal Querer. “Chicken Teriyaki” brings back the harsher sounds of the album as it features kick drums that can be found in reggaeton and a monotonous air horn sound. Rosalía’s experimental venture culminates in “CUUUUuuuuuute”, where the choice of mashup, both compositional and vocal, could be argued as the most disorderly one in the album.

The themes of Motomami are more personal than her precedent album as she explores experiences of fame, relationships and sexuality amongst others in addition to the previously discussed theme of transformation. “La Fama” and “G3 N15” both depict the negative consequences of fame; in the latter, the Spanish singer laments her absence in a family member’s life due to her career and includes a personal voice note from her grandmother who highlights the importance of family.

In tracks such as “Candy” and “Como un G”, Rosalía opens up about her past relationships and letting go of people she loves. With the same tenderness found in “Candy” and “Como un G, “Hentai” is unexpectedly erotic, although the title leaves little to the imagination. “Hentai” adds to the changing narrative of female sexuality within the music industry as the theme is not only explored by a female artist, it is also approached with as much gravity and emotion as lost love and value of family.

Motomami is personal, playful and full of surprises. Rosalía’s ability to combine and blur the boundaries of different genres to create avant-garde sounds challenges the conventionality of multiple genres, solidifying her uniqueness in the modern music landscape.

8.5 / 10

Best tracks: “CANDY”, “LA FAMA”, “COMO UN G”, “LA COMBI VERSACE”, “G3 N15”, “SAOKO”