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Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalia will be a strong contender at the Latin Grammys

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The Spanish superstar Rosalia defies all conventions. Her latest album, "Motomami," combines lots of genres, and it was just nominated for best Latin rock or alternative album and for best music film at the Grammys. She's also in the running for more awards at tomorrow night's Latin Grammys with nine nominations. NPR Alt.Latino co-host Anamaria Sayre recently interviewed Rosalia, and she said there's just no labeling her any one thing.

ANAMARIA ARTEMISA SAYRE, BYLINE: I think that she is someone who just sees the boundaries of music as so completely fluid. She's, I want to say, almost playful in how she approaches creating her work. She really is able to reach into all different sounds, past and present, in the music that she makes. She did that a lot on her new album, "Motomami," and I think an excellent example of that is the bachata and poppy track she did with The Weeknd, "La Fama."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA FAMA")

ROSALIA: (Singing in Spanish).

SAYRE: She's now flamenco, bachata, pop, jazz. You name it, she's probably incorporated some piece of that sound.

MARTÍNEZ: On the name of the album, "Motomami," I'm going to put myself, Anamaria, in the shoes of our non-Spanish-speaking friends and ask, what is motomami?

SAYRE: (Laughter) I love the way that she talks about it. She's kind of like, it's just this energy inside of you. Moto kind of being in reference to this biker kind of aesthetic that she embodies, and mami being like...

MARTÍNEZ: Mami.

SAYRE: Mami.

MARTÍNEZ: That's what that means. That's all you need to say. Yeah.

SAYRE: (Laughter) Like, I don't know what to say besides mami. But it's something that she's really built out and tried to, I think, communicate across all the music and all the visuals, like I said. She has a serious motomami energy in everything she does.

MARTÍNEZ: I think we all - or at least most of us - like to get our music in a nice little box that it can be easily described and consumed. But that's not Rosalia. I mean, she sees herself in a completely different way.

SAYRE: She absolutely does. We actually were able to talk a little bit about the way that she really does view her own art and her own work.

ROSALIA: I don't see music in a compartmented way. But then I think that that - it's always been there. It's just that now it's more radical because I've been traveling, because of all of that, and my life changed, and I'm more like - I have more stimulus from more places and people. Before, all my lyrics would be full Spanish. But now, because I was going to the grocery shop and then I would buy some stuff and I would talk in English, and then those type of things would make me even think in English in my head, and then that would affect how I write.

SAYRE: That, like, encapsulates - right? - what she does because you can talk about, you know, writing in English versus writing in Spanish and the barriers and the ways that people are able to mix fluidly across those boundaries, and then thinking of music almost as its own - right? - like, compartmentalized, distinct, separate languages and some artists staying within their initial language, right? Like, they know how to write in a certain way, or they know how to produce, you know, in a certain style. And then to kind of ignore those boundaries or to rather overcome them and truly just pull from all possible sound, I mean, it really is a unique ability and something she's been able to capture so effortlessly.

MARTÍNEZ: And she's received a number of Latin Grammy nominations and actually wins, too. She's won a lot, too. Tell us about her latest album, "Motomami."

SAYRE: It has swept all kinds of awards leading up to the Latin Grammys. It has broken all kinds of records, which is really incredible because it's not your typical, you know, these tracks are going to be pulled out and made for huge radio play type of pop album. You know, it's really - she stuck to her guns, and she said, this is going to be an album that is made to be listened to as an album, which is really challenging in today's industry to be able to do that because all the record companies want is the two-minute repeatable track, which she definitely has some of those. But overall, it's a really impressive body of work as a whole that crosses all kinds of genre boundaries.

MARTÍNEZ: Which is your favorite song from "Motomami"?

SAYRE: I think probably "G3 N15," honestly, today. I'm feeling a little emotional today, and in that one, she includes a beautiful moment with her abuela, who talks to her and gives her some life advice. And I just really feel that one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "G3 N15")

ROSALIA: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned that's your favorite for today because you're feeling a bit emotional. What about maybe other days? What would be some of the other ones you'd pick out from "Motomami"?

SAYRE: "Saoko" is a classic that just gets me dancing no matter what, which is like - for me, pop music, an amazing metric is, like, if it's got me moving before I can even think about it, that's a win. She plays with some really interesting jazz moments in here, which I really - like, opens the album, immediately struck me as something incredible.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAOKO")

ROSALIA: (Singing in Spanish).

SAYRE: "Bulerias," too - oh, my goodness, her going back to her flamenco roots and really - I mean, her vocals are...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BULERIAS")

ROSALIA: (Singing in Spanish).

SAYRE: I saw her live, and I was crying (laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: Who do you think she is trying to reach? Who is she trying to get people to move, in a way?

SAYRE: Oh, wow. I think both the whole world and also maybe no one but herself. I think one of the most striking things from our conversation that really stood out to me is that she is one of those artists that is just doing it for the music, and I think the creative process matters to her the most. And so that's one piece of it. But I think she also is trying to speak to a larger Latin American diaspora, which is something that she maybe is a part of, maybe isn't. But speaking to a larger Spanish-language world is definitely, I think, part of what she's doing.

MARTÍNEZ: That is Anamaria Sayre, co-host of Alt.Latino. Say hi to Tio Felix for me, would you?

SAYRE: Oh, of course. I know he wishes he could sit here and talk about this with me (laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: Anamaria, thanks.

SAYRE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MALAMENTE")

ROSALIA: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Anamaria Artemisa Sayre is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.