Rosalía has spent much of 2019 proving as much, releasing a string of singles that showcase her diverse skill set. There’s the J Balvin collaboration “Con Altura,” an homage to classic reggaeton that hit No. 12 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart; the club-ready anthem “Aute Cuture,” which she decks out with a dance-pop edge; and the hypnotic Ozuna team-up “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi,” which the pair performed at the VMAs. “You can hum her songs, but they are complicated and sophisticated in terms of structure,” says Jody Gerson, chairman/CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, which announced a worldwide publishing deal with Rosalía in June. “It’s a very unique sound that is all her own.”
Despite widespread acclaim and internet hype, Rosalía’s music has yet to hit a mass-market tipping point: None of the aforementioned singles have broken into the Billboard Hot 100. At Spotify’s ¡Viva Latino! LIVE concert at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena a few days before our interview, the mostly Latinx crowd’s reaction to Rosalía was effusive but more curious than rapturous compared with the reception they gave others on the lineup, like headliners Bad Bunny and Nicky Jam. But experts say that may just be a matter of time, not an issue related to her appeal. “Interest from mainstream Latin radio is huge right now for Rosalía,” says Gabriel Buitrago, founder of Summa Marketing and Promotions, who is working her singles to Latin radio. “As a promoter, the hardest thing to do is work new artists. But I’m amazed at how quickly they have embraced her.”
As she works on her third album and prepares for more live performances -- including sold-out arena shows in Spain -- Rosalía is still processing how fast her career has moved. “I can’t walk around like I used to, and there’s always paparazzi waiting outside the studio,” she says. “It’s jarring.” Still, she never believed she would make it this far on her own terms. “Ten years ago, I thought, ‘Someday, I may have to make concessions because of the industry.’ I wish I had known it would be like this. Everyone around me has maximum respect for my vision. Everything has been organic. I’m so happy I can make the music I want at any moment.”
You have experienced a seismic shift over the past few months. What’s the biggest change?
What has truly changed is the doors that may open. The possibility of doing many things that I had in my mind but seemed very far away, like putting together a show exactly how I picture it without worrying about infrastructure or anything. When I began to record El Mal Querer, I didn’t have a label or a team. It was just my family -- my mother and my sister -- and my friends. To be able to work today with Rebeca [León, her manager] and so many other women who trust me is amazing.
It seems like every time you write a song, you’re thinking about it in 3D: the music, the video, the performance.
For most of the songs, yes, everything is connected. The music is the center, and everything stems from that. I’m a musician first, but I started from scratch: I would beg to be allowed to play, I would announce my events on Facebook, I would design my posters. When I sang in bars and weddings, where you have to fight to be heard, you gain incredible humility. I was on top of every detail so the vision would come to fruition.