Photo Credit: Daniel Sannwald
“Una mariposa, yo me transformo…Me contradigo, yo me transformo // Soy to’a’ la’ cosa’, yo me transforma,” sings Rosalía on the opener, “Saoko” to her third studio LP Motomami. In English, the lyrics translate to “Like a butterfly, I transform… I contradict myself, I transform // I’m everything, I transform.” It’s a fitting mission statement for 2022’s most eclectic and left-field LP, which sees Rosalia transform from track to track as she incorporates an array of styles rarely combined – flamenco, reggaetón, and experimental pop among them.
As a non-Spanish speaker, I’ve always felt somewhat unqualified to comment on Rosalía’s music – not least because my understanding of her lyrics is limited to what shoddy English translations I’ve been able to find online. That isn’t even to mention the hotly contested allegations of cultural appropriation that have followed her in recent years. What transcends language and cultural barriers, however, is how great Motomami sounds – a truly bizarre combination of sounds that somehow works; resulting in music that is as technically impressive as it is melodically pleasing.
Motomami is the sound of an artist refusing to rest on their laurels. It truly is astounding the variety of sounds that Rosalía doesn’t merely explore, but exceeds at, during her third LP’s runtime. Across 42 minutes, Rosalía moves from the ridiculously catchy “Saoko” to the understated beauty of “Candy” to the self-assured reggaetón anthem “Bizcochito” – all the way to the Soulja Boy-sampling “Delirio De Grandeza.” Even when these songs don’t stick the landing, like the biggest misfire on here “Chicken Teriyaki” (an obvious ploy for commercial success), you still have to commend Rosalía for yet again broadening her horizons.
Motomami, it should also be noted, is as thematically varied as it is sonically diverse; confronting themes of Godliness, fame, sexuality, and more. The fittingly explicit “Hentai” may be the most stunning ballad about sex you’re likely to hear this year. At the same time, closer “Sakura” is a wise-beyond-her-years examination of the fickle, transactional nature of the pop world that doubles up as a touching meditation on more universal truths about aging. “Delirio” is an absolutely brutal, no-holds-barred examination of lost love. The obvious highlight “G3 N15,” meanwhile, is a profoundly affecting number addressed to Rosalía’s nephew that captures the innocence of childhood and the guilt of an older family member who feels like they’ve been absent during their formative years.
Whereas Motomami has enjoyed merely a small – if fervent – fanbase in the English-speaking world (barely scraping the Top 50 in the U.S. and U.K.), in Rosalía’s home country of Spain it became her second chart-topping LP and has already been certified twice-Platinum there. Both “Candy” and The Weeknd-featuring “La Fama” hit the very top of the Spanish charts. Motomami, in many ways, really does feel like the album that undeniably made the thirty-year-old a star. What’s so exciting about the commercial success of Motomami is that it suggests this LP could be truly prescient – representing the future of popular music; and what an exciting future that would be.