Thursday, November 25th, 2021

Rosalía ft. The Weeknd – LA FAMA

Still Thanksgiving, so here, have a second helping of The Weeknd…


Mark Sinker: Not fair to get strict about imagery in a language I don’t speak maybe, but the better songs about how terrible fame can be are probably the ones that get super-specific, not the ones that get poetically metaphorical (my reaction to the Bowie model was always more or less “please to scarf more coke and STFU dude I mean duke”). That aside this is super-pretty thanks to how the tremble in Rosalía’s voice is offset by that little laughing gnome of a synth kazoo, like the Infanta and the dwarf in a renaissance painting. I’m not sure who the Weeknd would be in such a painting, but not being sure who he is is pretty much how I always feel about him.

Ian Mathers: Manages to straddle the line right between pleasingly low key and…. bafflingly low key. Rosalía and The Weeknd have more compatible duet voices than I would have expected, and there’s a slinkiness to the production and delivery that’s very welcome. But then we hit the end and, although I know there’s a chorus, I’m still kind of waiting for the chorus, you know?

Leah Isobel: Those choppy “mm”s are a neat little trick: they approximate the way fame slices your being into pieces. Rosalía and The Weeknd glide above that with — approximately — the right combination of anguish and desire.

Alfred Soto: As aural experience “LA FAMA” is a delight, enthusiastically dismissing the complaints that Rosalia and The Weeknd take as seriously as necessary to make cool noises with their voices. The percussion overdubs are so winning that Mike Pence could sing over them.

Nortey Dowuona: Rosalía sounds fragile yet careful over the silt-made woodwind groove, while the Weeknd fills it, the tumbling guitar tapping in the edges of the groove as it deepens, Rosalía tunneling beneath him. It’s almost as if Rosalía knows she has no place keeping around, so she drops him, and the wilting synths carry the Weeknd away to his own pedestal, while Rosalía has disappeared into the bridge. So when she resurges onto the massive woodwind, she sounds just a little bit stronger.

Harlan Talib Ockey: First of all, that main synth line is not a horn, it’s something strange doing a slightly off impression of a horn, with the underlying threat that at any moment it might blink back into its true form and eviscerate you. El Fin de Semana’s voice is warped beyond recognition by the Auto-Tune. The lyrics begin as a standard tale about the impact of ambition on a relationship before careening off the rails into a feast of blood and gore. Rosalía’s delivery is so conversational, so understated; essentially, a complete stranger leans over at the bar and quietly says “by the way, I have five Grammy awards and I killed my husband.” Every element of “La Fama” drives it deeper into the uncanny valley. Rosalía’s repeatedly referenced Tarkovsky and Almodóvar as inspirations for this record, and the music video plainly owes a debt to From Dusk Till Dawn, but perhaps what this really sounds like is The Thing.

Thomas Inskeep: The bachata rhythm bewitches, and both Rosalía and Abel sound good — though I don’t love the processing on her voice, I much prefer his sweet vocals when he’s singing in Spanish.

Jessica Doyle: This plays to neither performer’s strengths (updating older genres, for her; synth-laced self-pity, for him) and what energy there is comes from Danny Trejo in the video. Have y’all read Danny Trejo’s autobiography, by the way? You should. The man has lived, and has both an abundance of stories and an admirable sense of self he can use to prioritize said stories, so that an exceptionally unfortunate fellow inmate he met in the mid-1960s gets more time than, say, Robert de Niro. It may be that Rosalía deliberately played it safe with this one to give older listeners a sense of comfort, give them something they could play at their restaurants or after their mixtapes. In which case I have to respect her priorities as well, and throw a couple points back.

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