On the first song of El Madrileño, Spanish artist C. Tangana’s latest album, the opening snare drumline and regal horns sound like they herald the approach of a powerful army, or even a king. What follows is not a collection of incredibly polished and perfect tracks, but this record still cements Tangana’s place as one of the dominant forces in contemporary Spanish music. Leaning into countless collaborators and his own musical heritage, Tangana creates a nuanced and introspective album that demands replay after replay.
Despite its exceedingly personal themes of love, loss, spite, and growth, El Madrileño embraces collaboration to the extreme—only two songs out of fourteen credit Tangana as the sole artist. Although individual tracks may seem to clash when taken out of their context, the record as a whole feels like one complete experience, flowing casually from one song to the next despite varying greatly in tone, style, and genre. El Madrileño features a plethora of artists and styles from the entire Latin American music scene in addition to those from Tangana’s home nation. Musically, the record is a masterclass in weaving the old and new faces of Spanish and Spanish-speaking music.
C. Tangana is not known for particularly beautiful singing, and he shows little vocal range on most tracks, though songs like “Ingobernable” and “Cuándo Olvidaré” see Tangana demonstrating the full extent of his singing ability. Instead, he mostly relies on his familiar rapped style, often aided by crackling autotune. His snarling delivery compliments sad and sometimes vengeful verses. In spite of Tangana’s reserved approach, El Madrileño celebrates the voice, especially those of its numerous featured artists.
One of the most surprising voices found on El Madrileño is Spanish singer Pepe Blanco, appearing on “Cuándo Olvidaré.” The recording of Blanco used on the track was taken from an interview before the artist’s passing in 1981. In the recording, Blanco can be heard replicating the voice of Sinatra as he claims non-Spaniards could never replicate the singing style native to the country. The arrogance of this claim fits the braggadocious tone of the album and C. Tangana’s own character, but this bold assertion is supported by an abundance of vocal talent on every track. Highlight “Tú Me Dejaste De Querer” features flamenco artist La Húngara delivering a haunting refrain that contributes to the song’s feeling of loss, and Niño de Elche later bursts into the track with his booming bass voice that cracks under the weight of heartbreak. On his repeat of the same verse at the opening of “Muriendo de Envidia,” Eliades Ochoa adds flair and positivity to an ostensibly reserved track, demonstrating the power of his voice over the mood and meaning of a song.
Tangana’s past works have seen the artist rapping on straightforward trap hits, delivering verses over bouncing bass lines in an aggressive style. This album combines his established rap ability with new stylistic and musical influences. On “Nunca Estoy,” he croons over a tight vocal sample that serves as a drumline for the bulk of the track. The thoughtful parable that opens “Un Veneno (G-Mix)” quickly yields to C. Tangana’s rapid and scornful style, but not before adding an air of wisdom and perspective to an otherwise straightforward song. Even as Tangana relies upon his typical melodic rapping, mournful voices, and staccato drumming, lush Spanish guitars swirl around him and contribute to a complex final product that seamlessly fuses genres. Closer “Hong Kong” touches on alt-rock to conclude the album on a resounding melancholy note, but it somehow fits naturally into C. Tangana’s artistic range and the context of El Madrileño. The entire album is full of moments where songs highlight influences and styles far beyond Tengana's previous work, but they never stray too far from his style or, crucially, each other.
Lyrically, El Madrileño often focuses on relationships, particularly flawed ones. “Demasiadas Mujeres” and “Párteme La Cara” feature Tangana’s thoughts on being lost in a whirlwind of fame and success at the cost of forming genuine bonds and relationships. Another important relationship is the one between the artist and his own success. The theme of fame’s downsides is addressed plainly in “Un Veneno (G-Mix),” as Tangana describes his own ambition and the poison that flows through every aspect of his life––the public eye. On this same track, he jokes that the press cannot even comprehend how an artist that supposedly cannot sing or play an instrument achieved such a following. Although he is open about moments of sadness and weakness, arrogance and ego constantly remind the listener that Tangana does not exactly feel sorry for himself, and that they should not either.
Another highlight that revolves around Tangana’s mentality is “CAMBIA!” which features two young Mexican artists, Carin Leon and Adriel Favela. The three trade lines about the expectations and examples set for them as children, and the sudden opposition they now face for embodying such images of materialism and masculinity. Expectations weigh heavily on C. Tangana, but he shrugs them all off on this ambitious and inventive record.
El Madrileño translates to “The Man from Madrid”; it succeeds as a personal piece about Tangana despite numerous collaborations. Overall, listeners are given remarkably personal insight into the life and headspace of C. Tangana. While a remarkable piece of music that stands as a triumph for Tangana, one can only hope that this record is a launching pad for even more experimentation and collaboration in the future. As many of Tangana’s ideas and influences synthesize across the record, a singular picture of a man grappling with issues of love and fame manifests through the genre fusions he orchestrates to express himself through it all.
Rating: I N D Y
Brendan Hegarty is the Suggests Editor and a freshman in the SFS.