‘til death do us part

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Originally published as the cover story of Schön! Magazine's Issue 35. (October, 2018)

Rosalía’s enigmatic voice and poised presence are taking the music world by storm, one chapter at a time. Meet the Spanish wunderkind representing flamenco’s flourishing future.


“I want to do this until I die,” the 25-year-old artist roundly proclaims. Rosalía Vila, known simply as Rosalía, appeared in the global music scene less than two years ago with her debut album Los Ángeles, alongside Raül Refree. Now, the Catalan singer is gearing towards the long-awaited release of her sophomore oeuvre, El Mal Querer. If Los Ángeles was a poetical ode to death, El Mal Querer sings to love, although with her characteristic darkness. “It’s about non-idealised love – a love with spikes,” Rosalía explains.

Rosalía’s distinctive murmurous voice emanates thoughtful sweetness, despite the heartrending motifs behind her music. Ranging from the softest lullaby to lyrical ballads and electronic innuendos, she is at the forefront of a resurgence of talent. But she has been through a lot to get to where she is, including the life-changing experience of hearing that she had to have an operation on her vocal cords. “It was a moment for silence, reflection, questioning and relearning,” she recalls. “When I was younger, I did not place as much importance on technique as I do now. After the operation, I went one year without singing. I spent time focusing on listening rather than speaking. I gained discipline, which is crucial in my current work and I’m so thankful for it. After the operation, I dedicated myself fully to music. I am both the instrument and the instrumentalist, so I completely changed my lifestyle.”

Before awing the world with her anthemic Malamante – and the accompanying visuals taking a shot at clichéd Spanish folklore – Rosalía delved further into the art of flamenco. “If you want to create your own artistic proposal, you must have a knowledge of that which you want to build upon,” she asserts. “Foundation is key. That’s why I give so much importance to classical training. I had to have a solid foundation that would allow me to build my own personal vision. I had to know and honour tradition.”

Approaching flamenco with the “utmost respect and love” and with “humbleness” at the forefront, now she’s ready to release her quasi-anthological album, El Mal Querer, comprised of 11 chapters: two of which are already out to the world. Taking inspiration from Flamenca, a 12th Century anonymous manuscript, Rosalía delves into the world of love — one that’s realistic, imperfect and, sometimes, even toxic. “I’m excited to see how people decipher the project chapter by chapter,” she announces. “It’s been stimulating for me because I got to write, compose and produce it. I have developed myself in these areas, which make you as an artist. I want to be an all-rounder, not just a performer.”

This project has seen her in the studio for the last year and a half, working alongside fellow Spanish artist El Guincho and collaborating with creatives all around the world – both for the music and the imagery. “Visuals carry a considerable weight in this project. Music videos accentuate and ultimately help my musical proposal to be better understood,” Rosalía explains. “This album is radical and conceptual at the same time. It merges experimental sounds from flamenco’s imaginary with electronic sounds from a historical standpoint.”

Mixing rhythmic clapping with synthesisers is a testament to Rosalía’s ground-breaking and genre-blending approach, something she says comes “organically.” “When I’m making music, I put freedom, experimentation and risk-taking first. That’s my mindset when I step into the studio,” she proclaims. “Inevitably, that gradually dissolves genres and the borders between them and that’s what interesting. That’s what makes for new sounds, but I don’t set out to do it. I don’t do it just for the sake of it.”

“There are a lot of clichés and codes in flamenco. What’s right and wrong is clearly established,” she continues. “I don’t believe in rules when it comes to music. There’s no right or wrong. I put emotion first.” Now signed to Sony, Rosalía’s potential and creative vision are even wider: “I went through a lot of hardships being independent. My freedom remains unchanged, but the possibilities are now endless.”

There’s no doubt Rosalía has a lot on her plate, with not only the new album on the horizon, but also an appearance in Almodóvar’s upcoming film Dolor y Gloria (‘Pain and Glory’), already under her belt. Yet, her aspirations are crystal clear: “I want to make the most of the present. I want to keep on learning and discovering. Dedicating my life to this is the most important thing for me.”

words. Sara Delgado

photography. Vince Aung
fashion. Douglas VanLaningham @ Photogenics Army
talent. Rosalía
casting. Anissa Payne
hair. Darren Hau @ OPUS Beauty using Bumble and bumble.
make up. Mynxii White @ OPUS Beauty using Lime Crime + Temptu
nails. Denise Bourne @ The Rex Agency using Deborah Lippmann
retouch. Studio Navona
fashion assistant. Jeremy Friend