I wonder when they shot this Elle cover. The interview took place in person in early March, and then was completed after both the writer and subject had self-isolated, but the cover shoots usually predate those chats. This one turned out eerily prescient: A summer cover wouldn’t normally be so bundled up, but now that we’re in the middle of the soup, so to speak, it comes across as protective somehow. She is guarded, but strong, wrapped up in plastic against whatever the world will throw at her. But given that it presumably was planned before we knew just HOW deep in the shit we’d be come summer, I have one important question: Why is she so bundled up? In this series of photos, she’s as layered up as she can be, sporting a heavy suit and in one case a freaking down coat. Rosalia is beautiful and has an enviable bod, but is not your industry-standard size 0. She performs with rightful swagger in leotards and tight shirts and tiny shorts, so she isn’t styled modestly here according to any personal rules. I’m not at all saying she has to be naked, but they put Dua Lipa on the May cover in freaking lingerie, more or less, and yet these “summer” shots ALL look like October outfits. It’s jarring and I am cocking my ancient brow.
The headline, amusingly, claims Rosalia is rewriting the pop-music playbook, which will sound familiar to anyone who read the Vogue cover that claims Billie Eilish has already just reinvented pop stardom. Right now there is nothing less inventive than announcing that someone is reinventing something. In the interview, Rosalia mentions that she’s allowed herself to slow down during quarantine when she can:
“I’m making progress on my music, but notwithstanding, I wanted to remark on something that seems to be happening to a lot of people, myself included,” she says. “There’s this kind of pressure to be creative or busy most of the time, with lots of activities and progress, and I’m trying to run from that. I’m trying to do things that help keep me mentally healthy, and if that includes making music, then great. But I won’t lie—there are days when I just watch a show and eat a packet of cookies.”
That sounds very nice. We are also doing what we can to carve out some mental health time, while remaining appreciative that our jobs permit us to stay at home. I hope you guys are managing the same. It’s important to give yourself time to just… splat, if and when you can.
This was… something:
It feels strange to be writing about a pop star at this particular time, but the fact that it’s Rosalía makes it seem okay somehow, because now, even more than before, she feels emblematic of the moment. Maybe it’s the way she seems to have emerged out of nowhere, fully formed, as a rising global pop star.
Is the author… comparing Rosalia to Covid, which also emerged fully formed and went globally viral?
Or the way her music and her style fuse together cultures and traditions, referencing a variety of art forms and mirroring our interconnected lives.
And Covid also spread across borders and oceans.
Or perhaps it’s her seriousness and discipline, her intense scholarship, her burning passion.
And Covid is ALSO serious and intense and BURNING.
Okay, I’m starting to jest, but when you call someone “emblematic of the moment” without qualifying quite which moment it is, I’m going to assume you mean “the pandemic moment.” And it is a very weird choice to be like, “You are the artist for our pandemic moment because you, too, are like a pandemic.” Yikes.
If you don’t know anything about her, this profile and the one from back in October (when she played a more minor part in the Women in Music issue) will fill you in, along with discussions of her study of music and accusations from Spanish music fans that she appropriated Flamenco, which is not apparently native to the region of Spain in which she was raised. Rosalia addresses that directly, if you are curious:
Rosalía was taken aback. Flamenco was an integral part of the cultural fabric when she was growing up. “Andalusian culture is present in Catalunya because there have always been immigrants from that region,” she says. “That’s the way it is. It’s a fact. Flamenco is in Catalunya.” Flamenco itself is a fusion of cultures (Romani, Sephardic, Moorish, Spanish), and its echoes can be found in all kinds of popular music. Not to mention that many of Rosalía’s early influences—Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, David Bowie—came from outside Spain. “It’s so beautiful and so interesting that, in such a globalized world, we’re involved in so many different cultures, not just the culture that’s right around you.”
[Her manager Rebeca] León says the controversy is a sign something is working. “She’s going to make people uncomfortable because she’s changing things,” she says. “Today, any kid in any room anywhere in the world has access to any kind of music. You could be in your room in India, and you could be listening to Justin Timberlake, so it’s valid that that’s an influence of yours, because that’s what you grew up listening to. It doesn’t have to be in your culture for it to have been an influence for you.”
It’s always interesting to see these conversations continue and evolve, in other countries as well as our own.