Rosalía - Motomami review: Flamenco futurist zooms onwards

 (Daniel Sannwald)
(Daniel Sannwald)

Spanish singer Rosalía Vila Tobella was nude on the cover of her last album too. On El Mal Querer (translation: The Bad Loving) in 2018 she looked pure and angelic, with a dove flying above her head and what appeared to be a white shower curtain along her arms. On the follow-up the accessories are fingernails like knives and a motorcycle helmet that makes her look like a terrifying extra from Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a clear indication that the music within has changed too.

Motomami’s predecessor was a triple-platinum smash in Spain and won the Latin Grammy for Album of the Year, credited with bringing the handclaps and tempestuous singing of flamenco music into the digital age. It put the 29-year-old graduate of the Catalonia College of Music in considerable demand among English speaking stars, leading to duets with Billie Eilish, the rapper Travis Scott and on this new album, The Weeknd, who sings in Spanish on the slinky single La Fama.

Here, in plenty of places, she’s ready to be less serious. Chicken Teriyaki comes with a stomping beat, nonsense food-based lyrics and a ready-made TikTok dance in the video. Another song is built on clattering drums and an urgent, one-note bassline, begins with her counting to 21 in a robot voice and is called Cuuuuuuuute. She appears to be in more conventional ballad territory on Hentai, with its softly shifting piano chords, but violent, drilling drums arrive eventually and that title refers to Japanese pornography, so it’s still far from bump-free listening.

Some flamenco influences remain, as on Buleria, which finds her singing with great passion while male voices shout and urge her onwards. Delirio de Grandeza has a crackling, vintage feel, but elsewhere she zooms far into the future. The beat that dominates is the relentless tap, tap-tap of reggaeton, which underpins the hyperactive playground chanting of Bizcochito as well as the digitally knotted vocals of Diablo. That one also shifts into a ghostly James Blake cameo, who featured Rosalía on his Assume Form album too.

It can be an exhausting journey, full of unexpected twists. She sounds restless and impatient, ready to turn a song inside out just as it’s getting going. But you’re never that far away from the unadorned beauty of an extraordinary voice. Sakura in particular is a bravura performance, a live recording that closes the album with a richly deserved round of applause.