Motomami: From Rosalía to Taylor Swift: The Songwriters Wrongly Suspected of Not Creating Their Own Work | Culture
When Puerto Rican rapper Rauw Alejandro and Spanish singer Rosalía started dating, she was working on her recently released album Motomami for 18 months, as she explained a few days ago in an interview. Alejandro appears in the credits of two songs on the disc, but his contribution was minimal. Specifically, he provided the word “naki” in the very sung chorus of the song Teriyaki chickenand he removed a second from the drums of Bizcochito.
In style, Rosalía said she gave her boyfriend credit out of sheer deference, just like when a friend’s mother, she explained, appeared in the studio to visit and that hinted that she would also describe her as a co-writer on the record. “I include everyone, even if they only made 1%, or 0.01%, or whatever, because that’s my ethics as a musician. I always think things are a team effort,” the singer said.
It’s a generous practice, but also risky, especially for a writer, as Rosalía already knows. A year and a half ago, in a conversation with producer and artist Pharrell Williams who recorded for the Billboard Latin Awardsshe complained that streaming algorithms — and anyone who programs them — act sexist and marginalize female artists when there’s a song with multiple writers and performers, as typically happens in current pop.
She cited the example of what happened with the song Relationship. Even today, if you search for this song on Spotify, it shows up as a song by “Daddy Yankee, J. Balvin and Sech”, even though Rosalía is the lead remix artist. “Then there are major artists who have a large number and it’s in the interest of the algorithm that they are listed as main artists and women are listed as featured artists. That means they get all the royalties mechanics of digital streamers and she doesn’t,” she explained in the same conversation. And, she added, “Women always have to prove themselves, fight for what’s ours, put to the test all the time.”
Early in her career, Rosalía also had to listen to more than a few voices who said her best songs were the work of her then-partner C. Tangana, who has credits on eight of the 11 songs on her album. El Mal Querer.
The rule in the age of hyperpop is that all songs have a series of authors. Billboard has processed this data in 2020, and found that of the 283 songs that were number one on its global list since the turn of the millennium, only 13 had a single author. Some of them were worldwide hits, such as happy by Pharrell Williams, or To fall by Alicia’s keys. But these days they are the exception.
Another study from 2018published by the journal music businessfound that for a smash hit – the kind of song you hear in the supermarket as well as on the soundtracks of an animated movie – it takes an average of nine writers. Sick Mode, by Travis Scott and featuring Drake, has up to 30 authors listed. As has been explained in this article in QG, this is due to the fact that producers and arrangers are now counted among the list of composers. That is to say, if the Beatles were around today, the majority of their songs would credit Lennon/McCartney/Martin, including the producer of almost all of their songs, George Martin.
But it’s also linked to the nature of current urban music. The aforementioned Travis Scott song features a snippet from The Notorious BIG, and at the same time sampled three other hip hop tracks, meaning the writers of all those songs ended up on the already long list of credits.
The moment people see men and a woman on a list, they assume – you know what it is. I saw what happens to Björk
Spanish singer Rosalia
Although this is the norm at the moment, suspicions about the authorship and authenticity of songs are more often raised against female composers, as also happened with female writers, from Mary Shelley to Charlotte Brönte. In 2019, writer Zara Lisbon said Ariana Grande is just “a cartoon and a creation,” and drew unfavorable comparisons to Taylor Swift, given that the latter, she said, , writes his own songs. Grande reacted in an unusual way attack on a little-known author, who had less than 2,000 Twitter followers – perhaps because her pride was hurt – and began posting voice notes and screenshots of the conversations she had had with the producers of her songs, on which she normally appears as a co-writer, to show that she is involved in the process. Grande has also written songs for other artists, such as Normani.
Even Taylor Swift, who rose to prominence as a teenager with a guitar that sang very personal songs, was not above suspicion. A few months ago, Blur frontman Damon Albarn incurred the ire of “swifties,” as his fans are known (not to mention Chilean President Gabriel Boric), when he said she didn’t didn’t write his own songs. “I don’t hate anybody,” Albarn added, once his comments caused an uproar. “I’m just saying there’s a big difference between a songwriter and a songwriter who co-writes.” Sometimes the rumors come from the industry itself. Singer and songwriter Renee “Shi” Wisdom, who has created songs for Drake and Rita Ora, said in 2014, “For a very long time, Beyoncé didn’t write any of her records. Personally, I still don’t believe she wrote any of her records.
Rosalía herself, who highlighted the incredibly hard work that has been Motomami while she was promoting it, reflected on it during a interview with The New York Times, emphasizing his self-confidence. “I don’t care how small your contribution to the song is, I’ll put it in the credits. That’s how confident I am as a musician,” she told the American daily. “But I know it’s hurting my spotlight as a producer. Because the moment people see men and a woman on a list, they assume – you know what it is. I saw what happens to Björk. I have seen other women who have experienced this.
The truth is, however, that in this case there is not much danger of anyone suspecting that Rauw Alejandro wrote the Rosalía tracks. Teriyaki chicken Where Bizcochito. The Puerto Rican artist has assumed the role of his partner’s number one groupie since the release of the album. “Motomami is a vibe, the sounds and melodies are on another level,” he tweeted shortly after the record was released. “There are no other Latinos or gringos with that sound or that level of production… I’m going to leave it at that,” he concluded.
When someone on social media again suggested that C. Tangana was the mastermind behind El Mal Querer, Alejandro came to his defense once again. “The fucked up part of it all is that 95% of all that creation was just her. He’s a genius. A complete artist. And he dedicated the “100” and “brain” emojis in his message to his partner. He concluded the argument with a very motopapi tone: “While they hate, we make money.”