As the lights dimmed for Rauw Alejandro’s sold-out show at Miami’s FTX Arena in April 2022, Rosalía — wearing head-to-toe black, eyes hidden behind enormous shades — was quietly ushered to a second-row seat. For once, the spotlight was not on the stylish Spanish artist, but on her boyfriend: a compact, wiry dynamo who, for the next two hours, steamrolled relentlessly from hardcore reggaetón to ’90s-inspired dance bops, supported by a troupe of dancers performing dazzling choreography.
“What Raúl does — sing and dance in a show from beginning to end — no other Latin artist does that,” Rosalía whispered, her voice low but bursting with pride.
A year later, the moment still encapsulates the dynamic of perhaps the most fascinating couple in music right now. Rosalía and Puerto Rican reggaetón star Rauw, both 30, have been together for nearly four years. But even as their relationship and individual careers have flourished — he was No. 3 on Billboard’s 2022 year-end Top Latin Artist chart (behind only Bad Bunny among men), she No. 14 — they’ve rarely appeared in public or given interviews together, and have yet to perform or even collaborate together. Until now.
On March 24, the duo released RR, a three-track EP that is as public and passionate a declaration of love as it gets. On the trio of songs — “Beso,” “Promesa” and “Vampiros” — both artists manage to sound like themselves, while creating an entirely different, beautifully intertwined sonic mix of techno pop with urban beats that moves from dreamy romantic to ’90s dancefloor. At the end of the recently released “Beso” video, Rosalía tearfully displays a diamond ring — confirming the two are now engaged.
Out jointly on Columbia/Sony Music U.S. Latin (Rosalía is signed to Columbia; Rauw to Duars Entertainment, which releases his music through a joint venture with Sony Music U.S. Latin), RR arrives as two of the top recording and touring acts in the world have launched separate outings. Rosalía’s 20-date festival tour, which kicked off at Lollapalooza Argentina on March 17 and includes prominent billings at Coachella and Primavera Sound, follows her Motomami world tour, which grossed $33.7 million and sold 443,000 tickets worldwide, landing her at No. 65 on Billboard’s year-end Top Ticket Sales chart and No. 7 on the year-end Top Latin Tours list, according to Billboard Boxscore.
“Rosalía is truly a global artist, and we focus on markets all over the world. Anywhere where her music is played, anywhere where there is a fan, is important to us,” says her mother, Pilar Tobella, who has always been part of her management team.
Rauw’s ambitious 80-plus-date global arena tour, which kicked off March 4 in Tampa, Fla., and already included back-to-back sold-out dates at the Miami-Dade Arena, comes on the heels of his Vice Versa tour, where he played 100 smaller shows globally between July 2021 and July 2022, grossing $24.5 million and selling 327,000 tickets across 54 of those shows.
Both artists’ growth in capacity underscores their individual appeal and the growing global appetite for Latin music. But the concurrence of their individual treks and RR’s release is a happy accident — the culmination of intense personal and artistic commitment finally ready to be unveiled.
“We wanted to make our relationship solid and build its foundations, and then, if music was meant to come, it would come,” says Rosalía.
“Plus, we were in different stages in our careers, and we wanted to make our fans focus on what we were doing, which was our individual projects,” adds Rauw. “People love drama in the entertainment world, and a romantic relationship will always take precedence. We felt if ours came to light, the effort we’ve both done toward our projects and our music would come second.”
Seated side by side in matching black Gucci suits and starched white shirts, Rauw and Rosalía look, and act, symbiotic. In conversation, their speech patterns mimic their musical collaboration: They finish each other’s sentences, pick up where the other leaves off and fill the tiny pockets of breath that remain open.
“I love the absolute independence they have with their creations, their careers and their ideas,” says Sony Music Latin Iberia chairman/CEO Afo Verde, who has been close with both artists throughout their careers and who invited them to record portions of RR at the label’s 5020 recording studio in Miami. “But you clearly hear both of them in what they’ve done together.”
Rosalía has gained a cult-like following — not just for her genre-defying blending of flamenco with hip-hop, reggaetón, electronica and Latin dance rhythms, delivered with her ethereal yet powerful vocals, but also for conceptual concerts that straddle performance art and more traditional music and dance shows.
In Rauw, she has found an artistic kindred spirit, albeit one who occupies a slightly different lane. He is reggaetón to his core, but like her, he pushes his genre’s boundaries — in his case, by incorporating ’90s pop, house and club influences.
And so, when Rauw (real name: Raúl Alejandro Ocasio Ruiz) and Rosalía finally met at a Las Vegas hotel lounge during the 2019 Latin Grammys after months of Instagram DMs, their mutual reflection of each other’s innermost artistic essence unsurprisingly sparked a romantic flame.
She wore a black Alexander Wang jumpsuit, he a blue and yellow bomber jacket; she drank water, he had whiskey. It was love at first sight, says Rauw: “100%.” Behind-the-scenes collaboration quickly ensued, with Rosalía co-writing two tracks for his 2020 album, Afrodisiaco. Still, their careers remained on separate ascending paths. On the road, Rosalía scored key marquee festival bookings like Lollapalooza and Coachella, while Rauw worked his way from clubs to theaters to his current in-the-round arena setup.
Rauw, who is more prolific in the recording studio than Rosalía, has placed five top 10s on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart, including 2021’s No. 1 Vice Versa. Rosalía, signed to Columbia Records, has two top 10s on the chart, but two Grammy Awards and 11 Latin Grammys (compared with his two), including two for album of the year.
Finally, last year, they began recording together. “One day, out of the blue, Rosalía sent me the three tracks, and I loved them,” says Rauw’s manager, Eric Duars, who also books and promotes his tours. “People may think it’s a couple’s project, but I see it as two artists coming together to do something very special. I’m always involved in the production of Rauw’s music, but here, they knew exactly what they wanted.”
“I think this will raise the bar for both of them across the globe,” says Jen Mallory, president of Columbia Records. “It’s not as if it was two labels saying, ‘You should collaborate.’ It’s something they did together in a very special, safe, creative space. I think there’s a beautiful symbiotic opportunity.”
As Rosalía prepares for her European tour and Rauw crisscrosses the United States, onstage appearances together seem inevitable and should be an additive for both artists: Rosalía has a bigger following in Europe and among English speakers, while Rauw is firmly entrenched in the Latin American and U.S. Latin markets. But both say their respective fan bases have gradually warmed to each other.
“Many people who only listened to you before now listen to me, and the other way around, too,” says Rosalía. Much like their music together, “It wasn’t planned, but it’s a blessing.”
You’ve jointly released music and have often prepared for your tours together. What have you learned from each other?
Rauw Alejandro: Rosi has a more solid music base than I do in the sense that I’m more extroverted in my music, but she’s far more disciplined. When you work with someone so disciplined, it’s impossible not to take something from that. And I’m disciplined, mind you; otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.
Rosalía: You are, baby.
Rauw: But she’s a freak-crazy workaholic. Piano lessons, dance lessons, voice lessons; what else can you learn when no one sings like you? At the beginning, I didn’t really get it, but after some time, I said, “OK, let me try to follow her lead and see.” And the difference is huge. If doing something is positive for her career, why can’t I also absorb that if it adds to my career?
Rosalía: You are far more relaxed. You’re someone who really lets go. It’s as if you have a lot of faith and just an organic feel. You’re always telling me to relax, to let go more. And just telling me that teaches and helps me. You balance me.
Rauw: I tell her my secrets, and she tells me hers. The same energy I put into my things, I put into hers.
Rauw: And we watch each other’s backs. At a visual, stage level, we share ideas; also styling, outfits. We’re two individual, independent artists, but we’re a couple. And we kind of represent each other mutually. If I’m going to go out there and do something crazy, I sometimes think, “Heck, no: I’m Rosalía’s boyfriend.” I need to raise the bar, understand? We’re taking care of our prestige and our work and ensuring it always looks the part. We motivate each other to keep rising to an infinite level.
Rosalía: For example, he’ll be out there during my sound check, and when I’m done, he’ll say, “I noticed this or that.” It’s as if he were my ears. (To Rauw) When you’re taping a video, I’m there, and I’m not there as your girlfriend. I’m literally there as the stylist or the stylist’s assistant, or whatever they need me for. I’m there because I love you and I want to help. How can I help? And if I can help being your stylist’s assistant, well, that’s what I’ll do.
In making music, what does each of you bring to the table that the other one lacks?
Rosalía: I’m more of an overthinker in terms of the music process, and it’s helped me a lot [when doing] music with him because he’s super intuitive. His approach and his energy were especially positive to close the songs.
Rauw: Naturally, I help close the songs. Otherwise, we’d never finish. This girl is always looking for …
Rosalía: The twist.
Rauw: The twist. Rosi is very exacting. She can play anything on the piano, and I play more by ear. She has like seven doctorates in music; my doctorates are with my ears.
Rosalía: Your father, your grandfather [are both musicians]. I didn’t come from that, so I had to study. You studied, but in a different way. There are many paths to becoming a musician.
Rauw: But yeah, we complement each other in the studio. In music, we have a few different opinions, but we let each other flow.
You’ve collaborated with others. How is this different?
Rauw: In terms of collaborations, the big difference is you’re collaborating with the love of your life. At least, I am.
Rosalía: Me, too.
Rauw: That alone makes it more special, and it’s easy to open your heart because you’re with that person and the level of commitment to production and lyricism rises.
Was it scary to open up like that?
Rauw: Not for me.
Rosalía: But I understand what you mean. There was a point, for example, when I was writing “Promesa” where I wanted to make a list of all the things I wanted to do with you. And at the end, it’s like a declaration of saying, “I want to be with you my entire life.” Writing that in a way that I can look back at in 40 years and say, “I was honest” — well, that’s a challenge.
Dancing is such a big element in both your shows. What does dance mean to each of you?
Rosalía: It’s another discipline, another extension of my artistic expression. It’s something that helps me feel free onstage. I still don’t dance as well as Raúl, but I’m working on it because Raúl is a whole other level in terms of dance. I always think, “I have to try harder, I have to try harder!”
Rauw: (Laughs.) You dance well! It’s different styles. I also love watching Rosi. She’s so strong, so confident in her show. Her act is very, very heavy duty. She’s one of those people who practices seven thousand times. Rosi’s flamenco segments are very strong. People go nuts.
Rosalía: I practice twice as much as you, and you dance twice as well as I do. Even outside the scope of Spanish-language music, I don’t think anyone does it like you.
Can each of you describe your touring trajectory? How did you begin?
Rauw: I began in clubs, then festivals, then theaters, then small venues and then arenas and now stadiums. And it was all in the Latin circuit, until my  album Vice Versa, which allowed me to tour big venues in the U.S. for the first time. A big departure for me was playing [four sold-out dates] at el Choliseo [Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan] in 2021. It was my first arena, and everything changed after that. Expectations grew, and the perception was immediately different.
Has your audience changed?
Rauw: They’re mostly Latins. But here in the U.S., they’re Latins who speak English. They listen to music in Spanish, but they converse in English. I hear it when my videographers film the crowds here in the U.S. That says so much about the popularity of Spanish-language music.
And you, Rosalía?
Rosalía: Bars. Bars. I started in bars. Then theaters, then arenas and festivals. Arenas only in my country, and at the same time, I was playing festivals around the world.
Rauw: You’re always most popular in your own country. And then the goal is to conquer other places little by little. Used to be I could fill an arena in Puerto Rico but not in Texas. Then I could do New York, but not Ohio. Then, all of a sudden, all you play are arenas.
How did you conceive your current tours?
Rauw: My tour changes every year as I learn more as an artist, just as my recordings change. When I went into the studio to record Saturno [released in November 2022], I was thinking about the tour, and I began to plan musically around that. That’s something I didn’t do before. This project is very focused on dance and on musical energy because everything is very upbeat. Obviously, there are a few ballads inside the album, and I’ll sing some of my old hits, but the tour’s backbone is [that feeling of] “Let’s go crazy!” More uptempo, very ’90s. There’s a visual element, but this is a 360 show, so the focus is on the center and on the lighting.
Rosalía: I try to make every tour different. I start with the music; that’s the axis of everything. But at the same time, everything is connected. Everything feeds on itself. There are choreographies that lead me to make different music or music that I develop thinking about a choreography. Music is the spark, but the show gets created from many different points.
What can you tell us about your upcoming shows?
Rosalía: In some ways, it will be similar to Motomami because a lot of the music is electronic, so having musicians onstage is not necessary nor does it make sense. Plus, I very much like the stage as a canvas for movement. That’s where I’m motivated now.
It’s interesting: Both of you are musicians’ musicians, but you’ve opted for more of a spectacle route.
Rosalía: It depends on the projects. If this were like my first album, which was voice and guitar, this staging wouldn’t make sense. There is no better or worse. Sometimes people have prejudices [about] if having musicians is better or not. Joder, I’m singing for an hour and 50 minutes; I’m playing the piano, I’m playing guitar. I think there’s enough music.
Rauw: I, on the other hand, come from a sports background. I’m a soccer player, and that really defined me. Athletes can play at their peak usually up to when they’re 33, 35, because it requires a lot of physicality. I can do these very physical and taxing tours now when I’m young. I don’t think I can play this type of tour when I’m older. I still have time to play concerts with a full band, a little more chill, a little more musical and project another vibe.
As you embark on new tours, what’s one word that describes each of you onstage?
Rauw: Beast mode.
Most people may not realize just how physical both your tours are. Rauw, when I walked in today, you were massaging your shoulders with your Theragun, and you’re still in rehearsal mode. How do you prepare? Do you train together?
Rauw: We have different routines because our bodies are different and our objectives are different, but cardio is always in there. Actually, at this stage [with the tour about to start], I do less cardio because there’s a lot of dancing onstage. We rehearse from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every single day, with a lunch break. And I travel with a physio[therapist] and a chiropractor.
Rosalía: We also train together at the gym. We combine HIIT and cardio workouts. I train five, six days a week from approximately 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then I stay till about 10 p.m., making music. I rehearse between five and six months for a tour, but if it were up to me, I’d prep a whole year.
Rosalía, how different is it to play European countries versus Latin America?
Rosalía: I don’t change the show. When all is said and done, a stage is a stage. The way I approach that stage, how sacred that stage is for me, never changes, no matter where I am, big or small. [Audience-wise], there are cultures who demonstrate their appreciation in different ways; some are louder, some are more internal, but that doesn’t mean it’s worse or better. It’s simply different, and I try to always be generous onstage.
So even though your tour is very rehearsed, you take liberties?
Rosalía: There’s improvisation, 100%. That’s the magic.
In the past three years, do you see a difference in the reaction and perception of Latin tours and music in Spanish?
Rosalía: People are very receptive to music in Spanish. You see its presence around the world, even in festival headliners.
Rauw: The movement has grown so much that today we can tour places we wouldn’t have been able to before. Reggaetón is my base, and countries like Germany and Holland were not available to us before.
Your tours look expensive.
Rosalía: To me, the audience’s experience is more important than the numbers. It’s something I apply to the way I make music and to how I build the tour and a show. Making the show as exciting as possible is more important than being profitable. Plus, people may think artists make lots of money on tours, but many times, you have to invest. Something that looks profitable may not be.
Touring is hard. How do you cope with the challenges of tour life?
Rosalía: Notwithstanding the joy and goodwill, and the love you get from fans, it’s very draining. It’s like constantly building and destroying your home. You arrive at a hotel, you organize everything with all the care in the world, and the next day, you have to dismantle everything and leave. Being a nomad isn’t easy psychologically or emotionally. But it helps me a lot that you and I speak so much over FaceTime.
Rauw: I try to think about the future and be as positive as possible within the sacrifices we make. We’re human. There are days when you really don’t want to do it; you feel that pressure. But thinking about the future helps me: There’s one life to live, it goes by fast, and this is only one little sliver of my life where I’ll be able to enjoy this. Afterward, the cycle of life will take us to another stage, and someone will be in this place, touring and living the moment. I’m just trying to enjoy it to the fullest because it’ll go by fast.
You’re both in such a good moment in your careers. What will happen when one of you is up and the other is down?
Rauw: When I met Rosi, she was positioned much better than me, and that was never a problem.
Rosalía: I’m lucky to be your partner, and I want to be there for you, sabes? And I feel you’re there for me, independent of the careers. For me, our relationship is first, and then there’s everything else. Of course my career is super important in my life, but at the same time, in my life, you’re my companion, and everything else comes second.
This story will appear in the April 1, 2023, issue of Billboard.