International pop is having a huge moment. From BTS being the first Korean act to
headline a stadium tour in the U.S. to Latin mainstays J Balvin and Bad Bunny selling out arenas across the country, artists from all corners of the world are proving that they can hold their own in the States, perhaps even better than their native peers.

Nowhere was this more prevalent than on Tuesday night (April 30) at Webster Hall in Manhattan, where Spanish phenom Rosalía performed her second of two sold out shows as part of the Red Bull Music Festival New York. Considering that her album El Mal Querer became an instant critics’ favorite and put her on the map as an avant-garde Latin-pop sensation, her return to New York, after just one little-known show at Joe’s Pub in 2018, felt more like the stateside coronation of a new reigning princess than your average pop concert.

The fans who were lucky enough to nab tickets screamed so loud at times, you might
have mistaken it for a One Direction reunion. Rosalía earned those booming cheers
before she even began her first song, opening the show with an impressive display of
tightly constructed, military-esque choreography that proved she’s got the fierce star
power required to command any stage, big or small.

Taylor Hill, Getty Images

From there, she packed an hour-long set with her growing list of superstar collabs,
including her feature on James Blake’s “Barefoot in the Park,” a few unreleased songs like the hypnotic “Como ali,” and, of course, the majority of El Mal Querer, which was
brought to life with a quartet of background vocalists, an army of female dancers, and
simpl yet striking visuals — plus those fiery dance breaks, of course.

Rosalía’s set was part flamenco extravaganza, part hip-hop showcase, part Catalan
opera, and an entirely thrilling pop spectacle, carrying the power of an arena show
without many of the typical bells and whistles. Despite the heavy physicality on display,
her voice was just as rich and powerful live as you’d hope, especially when she went
a capella and (literally) silenced the entire room. Her subtle touches of theatricality,
whether it was a salsa dance solo, intricate rope choreo, or simply donning a dramatic
veil, went a long way in making the small concert feel like a cultural experience.

These were the her biggest headline shows in the city to date, and the significance was
not lost on the budding star. “This is the second night we’re here,” she said toward the
beginning of her show. “It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my people, to us.” She
joked that she was using the show to practice her English, sometimes falling back into
Spanish, but no matter what language she used, the crowd latched onto her every
word. By the time she performed her breakout hit “Malamente,” it felt like the cherry on
top of a revelatory show rather than its defining moment. If Rosalía isn’t packing actual
arenas like her male Latin counterparts soon, it would be a surprise, and a total
injustice.

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