Rotana is a Saudi Arabian artist who exploded onto the music scene earlier this year with her powerful debut single ‘Daddy’.
Growing up in one of the most conservative environments in the world, Rotana has been used to fighting for freedom and power all her life. In 2013, she moved to the States and began to pursue music whilst attaining her Masters degree at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. She soon came to realise that she was destined to do music, and quit her job to pursue it full time.
Her decision soon paid off and Rotana hasn’t looked back since. She has already put her stamp on the industry by releasing music which calls for your attention. Showcasing exactly what she represents as an artist, ‘Daddy’ demands listeners to unapologetically be themselves and get loud with it.
The singer has since released her second single, ‘The Cure’, which is another striking track. With more music due soon, we’re certain that Rotana is going to be the name on everyone’s lips.
Recently, we were able to have a quick chat with Rotana on the phone to talk about ‘The Cure’, how her Saudi Arabian roots have influenced her music, what 2017 has in store and much more.
Your second single ‘The Cure’ dropped on Friday. What can you tell us about the song and the inspiration behind it?
‘The Cure’ is kinda about the crazy, addictive, dysfunctional side that exists in all of us. It’s about the people and moments in life that surges that energy, but sometimes we can’t really let go of them. It’s kind of a moment in time where the girl, or whoever it is, is saying, ‘I think this is it, this is going to end all my vicious cycles and it’s going to cure me.” There’s just kinda like a respect to the crazy, attractive, dysfunctional side that exists in all of us, and not shaking it but celebrating it.
You also released the video for it today, which is very intriguing! Can you talk us through the thought process behind it?
The song takes you on a journey of someone that is getting a taste of that drug and then itching for it throughout the song, and just hearing an euphoric explosion at the end. With that, I will always be ballerinas…when I heard the song there was something very beautiful and romantic about it, so I thought it would be a beautiful idea to have an older woman that was looking back at the energy that she lost in life and coming back to that in the end.
Then there’s the two sides of me in the video – there’s the explosive side of me which is the girl in the red dress, then the one in the wig is the other side of me that I tend to not put on for the world. But when I’m in public places, when I need to get my shit together, I still feel the intensity of my emotions but I mask it and make it feel more graceful. Those two characters are just two ways in which my emotions exist. The girl in the wig is as it exists to the outside world.
Your videos for ‘The Cure’ and ‘Daddy’ are both quite thought provoking. Is it important for you to create videos with a talking point?
I’m definitely not thinking about that when I’m creating these videos. It starts with the song. The songs are written from a very thought provoking place, so inevitably the visual just has to follow. The songs come from a place of tension in my life, from a place of angst and confusion and beauty, so I dig really deep to find them. The visual just organically follows, without me trying. With ‘Daddy’, the song is all about stepping into your power and challenging anyone that is requiring you to dilute yourself. Because of that, I just move the way that I do in the video, that’s what it needed. ‘The Cure’ also going with the feeling in which the song was originally written in. Where I am in my life, as a new artist, a woman who’s changed careers and left a lot of familiar behind, inevitably right now all of these topics that I’m writing about came from a place of tension.
You’ve now released two incredible tracks, so can we expect and EP or an album soon?
Yes but I’m releasing singles at the moment. I don’t feel a need to release five or six songs first. But I will tell you this, I’m going to be dropping a new song every month…maybe after five songs I’ll release another two and call it an EP, but right now I’m just enjoying the freedom of putting song out after song. There’s so much content that it’s going to be consistent. I’m sure an album will come but I don’t think the industry is moving that way, it doesn’t really show light to me at the moment.
We find your music inspiring as it encourages listeners to unapologetically be themselves. Who are your musical inspirations?
There’s a few – I talk about this often, [saying that] Alanis Morrisette was a huge influence on me because I remember in Saudi Arabia as a nine year old girl, listening and watching her feeling such a sense of commission, to be that angry and explosive, that emotional as a woman. There was an animalistic quality about it and she was so unapologetic. Even as a kid, I remember paying attention to what she was saying in her writing, and the way that she was moving and using her voice. That was huge for me. Sade was another person who was really influential because, again, she was another woman that gave me permission to feel sensual and sexual, they were incredible. Then an Arabic artist, Fairouz, she was a cradle to me throughout my childhood and up until this day. Those three women were really integral in shaping me as a human as well as an artist. Music didn’t even enter my mind until I was 21, so they shaped me as a human before music came into the picture.
You mentioned earlier that your songs are inspired by personal events in your life. Is there a song or lyric that you’re particularly proud of?
Every song! I wouldn’t put out a song if I wasn’t proud of it. In ‘Daddy’, there’s so many moments…in the bridge it says, “Stand tall but your hands are shaking, ooh Daddy, you’re afraid to face me, it’s my turn after all you’ve taken”. It’s really that feeling of calling out a bully, and saying ‘you think you’re all big and powerful but your hands are shaking because you’re standing in front of me, who refuses to dilute themselves’.
In ‘The Cure’, there’s such beauty in the bridge as well, where I’m just blatantly saying “I’ve been so sick, I’m an addict”. There’s a voice inside all of us which is often shoved under the carpet and me admitting that sometimes they have addictive tendencies, it’s very powerful for me.
I have a song coming out in a couple of months called ‘Never Going Back’. It’s all about this desire to go back to operating some of the more animal and intuitive things, ‘I’m calling like a wolf to the night’. It’s a feeling of a wolf standing in the darkness , with no-one around them, but being brave enough to call out anyway.
How would you say that your Saudi Arabian roots have influenced your music?
Melodically and just the way that I sing is so heavily influenced by the music that I grew up listening to. From a writing perspective, I’ve always been quite loud in my emotions and very adamant not to hide them and I think it’s because I grew up in an environment that didn’t necessarily encourage it. It didn’t encourage challenging or asking a lot of questions, all things that were very natural to me so I learned how to ground myself in my thoughts and feelings, and keep loud. Now as I have the opportunity to create music, you can really feel that saturation, I think it’s kind of surged the music that I make…it feels bigger, more explosive, more cinematic than your average pop song I guess. It’s also inspired me in the sense that a lot of the gentleness and delicacy and vulnerability that you hear comes from my culture. Contrary to what you see on the news, it’s very vulnerable and delicate because it’s a collective culture. It’s not dependant on the individual, you really have to take care of the people around you. It’s interesting that so much of my music comes from the way that I am as a person because I was that before I became an artist.
What is the one thing that you hope people will take away from your music?
I hope the people that listen to my music feel permission to erupt. To just really allow what they are inside to explode, to not be ashamed of that and to understand that until they get to a place where they’re in touch with that animalistic intuition, it’s going to be difficult to be truly happy. I want people to feel a sense of permission when they listen to my music.
Finally, what does the rest of 2017 have in store for Rotana?
Amazing things! There’s gonna be a lot of upcoming shows in LA, and all of that information will be on my website iamrotana.com. I have a show in Abu Dhabi coming up at the end of this month, then we’re doing a show in Paris at the end of April. I’m really just rolling out the next three singles. Right now it’s all just upcoming shows and singles, rolling out new music and keeping the content coming.
Well we look forward to seeing what more from you later this year, we love your two singles so far!
Thank you so much, it was such a pleasure to speak to you!