El Madrileño

C. Tangana

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El Madrileño Review

by David Crone

Having swept up four Latin Grammys for his work in Rosalía's traditionalist revival, it's only fitting that Madrid's C. Tangana would be the next to shepherd its growth. Heralded by the record-breaking bachata-rumba hybrid of "Tú Me Dejaste de Querer," Tangana's sixth LP, El Madrileño, holds titular promises -- of both a new identity for Antón Álvarez Alfaro's wardrobe, and a statement piece in line with his city's storied musicality. Yet the project doesn't stake its claims with Madrid alone; using the city as a locus, Tangana folds the diasporic wavelengths of Europe and Latin America into his most vital vision to date.

Founded on two years of travel and collaboration, El Madrileño reimagines Tangana’s shifting ballads in the lens of the romance languages. Staggering R&B meets drifting bossa nova on “Comerte Entera,” “Un Veneno” offers a sultry, modernised take on the Cuban bolero, and “Cuándo Olvidaré” interpolates guajira, bulería, R&B, and tango into its cinematic blend. When collaborators arrive - and arrive, they do - Alfaro crisply builds himself into their frameworks: he skates over the Gipsy Kings’ pop-oriented rumba, croons alongside Omar Apollo’s patchwork R&B, and harmonises with the thumping guitars of Carin León and Adriel Favela. Yet for all the richness of his roster, Alfaro remains the album’s guiding star - his futuristic flecks, warbling tones, and unique structures propel El Madrileño through its sultry shimmies and despondent trenches. Surrounded by the palimpsestic voices of Rosario, Ñico Saquito, and José Feliciano, Tangana still secures himself top billing.

At first, Alfaro’s lyrical staples -- flashing lenses, hotel-room heartbreak, nocturnal longings -- seem at odds with the time-worn standards of his newfound muses. Yet the two find commonality in their fundamentals. “El Madrileño va de escribir cosas importantes con palabras Corrientes,” the vocalist coyly notes, hinting at a more fluid, simplistic lyrical approach -- an approach that comes into fruition across threads of devotion, desire, and growth. The most compelling flourishes are the fresh wounds of Tangana’s heartbreak, which lend themselves to the balladry of his collaborators - a perfect foil to the fawning of “Muriendo de Envidia,” a heart-wrenching boon to the “que todo está bien, que no ha cambiado nada” of “Parteme la Cara.” In the vein of contemporaries like Natanael Cano, the musician seamlessly translates his lyrical ethos into celebrated contexts, reconfiguring the sounds he finds there to suit his own designs. And when Tangana’s rapping eventually surfaces, it erupts with volcanic vigor - “Aún recuerdo al chaval hambriento, que no invitabais al baile” the vocalist snarls for a startling closer to “Un Veneno,” reflecting sour dismissals with triumphant bite.

Meticulously crafted and teeming with soul, El Madrileño represents the culmination of Tangana’s artistic development thus far, painting a world of rich cultures into his compellingly conflicted persona. A fantastical dialogue between frameworks old and new, the album superimposes his narratives onto the stories of the past - and in doing so, forms a singular story of its own.

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