On the Side of Worldwide Angels x Bad Gyal
Catalan’s finest dancehall-reggaeton gyal visits Austin for her USA & Canada Tour. Pull up to the narrated club where Bad Gyal and her fans make moments etched in riddum.
By: Nic Lindayag
Photography by: Nate Gibbs & Samuel Ibram
The night starts with my homegirl and I entering the backseat of an Uber. The seats were covered by a Navajo-patterned blanket, and the smell of car freshner masked the beer breath I had from pre-gaming. We had a small chat about how I had this old homie (who dated my ex) who would be in Austin for the weekend. I had this strange feeling I’d run into him. Old homie gets a canned response from me “Sorry I’m going to be out of town.”, as a reply to a DM asking if I wanted to kick it.
You see--this night is already special. I haven’t hung out with homegirl one on one before, but we connected via appreciation for an artist we grew obsessive over. Bad Gyal. AKA Worldwide Angel. AKA Alba Farelo.
My obsession began when I first heard “Fiebre”, produced by King DouDou, off Farelo’s 2016 release, Slow Wine. The dancehall beat with crystalline and bubbly synths had me. The mesmerizing high-pitch auto tune verse and chorus worked perfectly with the beat that was originally released with no vocals. Around that time, there wasn’t a mixtape I’d listen to that didn’t feature a remix to this smash-hit as well as many others. My favorite, “Mercadona”, is produced by Fakeguido. I’m a real sucker for dancehall drops with layered, stabbing, wide subs following an arpeggio infused intro.
Her latest 2018 release, Worldwide Angel, certainly lives up to the “worldwide” claims. The collaboration with artists from around the world include Jam City, Night Slugs protégé who produced for artists such as Kelela and Rosie Lowe; Dubbel Dutch, club-dancehall master who produced for one of dancehall’s finest, Popcaan; D33J, one of Wedidit’s mains who produced for Tory Lanez and Lil Yachty; Florentino, a UK-Columbian rythmician; Paul Marmota, one of NAAFI’s contributors to their historic rise; and many more. “Internationally” touts lyrics “Yo grabo en mi casa, sueno internationally” about Farelo’s busy life recording new music from her home, but dreaming internationally. She was also too busy to interview with us, something we can totally imagine during her US & Canada tour.
Scrolling through her Instagram, one can gather why her popularity is noticed by trendy teens, the LGBTQIA+ community, and clubgoers. Each photo screams Internet-popular accompanied by sex-positive poses in luxury brands. Her style is easily noticed and inspiring to many. Look a bit further, and you’ll find articles mentioning her iconic performance in assless chaps.
With such an iconic presence so early in her career, one can imagine that there are some tough critics as well. Farelo, who was born in Vilassar de Mar, Spain, uniquely developed a sound labeled as trap, dancehall, and reggaeton. She sings a blend of Catalan, Spanish and English. This is where the question arises: where is the line between cultural appreciation and appropriation? Dancehall, originating in Jamaica in the late 1970s; reggaeton, which developed in Puerto Rico in the late 1990s; and Farelo, a lighter-skinned artist coming from a background that can be critiqued as privilege (relative to the deep roots of reggaeton and dancehall).
Let’s not get stuck questioning whether Bad Gyal’s authenticity relies solely on her seeming disconnection to the cultural past. If you dissect music and feel offended by a particular artist’s contribution to cultural appropriation enough--you might find yourself listening to absolutely nothing in 2018. Instead, how does her music make you feel?
What meaning does it have to you?
Tonight - This club will be narrated par moi.
We get to the club and it’s dead. At the door, the bouncer argues with club-goers about the price. Homegirl was tired of waiting and offers to pay the difference for the young siblings. We chatted a bit. It turns out the older brother and younger sister are big fans of Bad Gyal. Us, too.
Homegirl and I grab a drink joined by the big brother, who offers to buy homegirl a drink (which she declines but regrets later). We figure we should grab our drinks and check out the courtyard. In the northwest corner, the siblings sit on a bench on their phones. We find a rando to bum a cigarette from, and wait while finishing our drinks.
We grab another drink and decide we should hit the dance floor and listen to the opening DJ. A wide variety of reggaeton, dancehall, FDM, club, and hip-hop keeps us moving. A few more groups start trickling in, joining us on the dance floor albeit, separated in pods.
By this time, homegirl and I are ready to take a break outside before Bad Gyal hits the stage. The courtyard is now packed with a diverse group of individuals. For most shows, I usually see a common theme of niche groups, but Farelo has found her way into everyone’s Spotify playlist. I can’t help but wonder if the Worldwide Angel’s collaboration from all corners has led to this mixed cocktail of fans drunk on her sound. Feeling good, I run into some old friends and catch up. Lo and behold, what do I spy in the corner of my eye--old homie is here tonight. Time to get over it. I decided to grab another drink and face my fears. Homeboy notices me pull up and stands to give me a hug. We hash our shit out and he introduces me to his crew while I do the same.
It’s finally time. Her DJ is all set up and the lights dim low with a magenta hue, accompanied by a backdrop of colorful visuals. There’s still a bit of background music playing for a now crowded dance floor, when suddenly--it stops. The audience becomes quiet for a split second when Farelo makes the stage. The crowd can be heard cheering her on. No assless chaps, but she’s sporting a long, flowy, nude sheer top paired with short-torn jean shorts and all-white Nike Air Force 1s.
The audience reacted very positively to her performance. It’s hard not to dance with her and to find someone in the club not dancing. Farelo isn’t afraid to move her body to her music. During “Tu Moto,” she can be seen gyrating her hips while seductively moving her hand down her torso and lower. As “Despacio” was performed, cheers filled the room as she bent over and twerked facing the audience.
She paused for a moment while still speaking in autotune. Farelo shares intimately with her fans that she hasn’t had the best day. Thanks to us, that’s all changed. She flips her hair, holds up her drink, then takes a sip during “Internationally”. I toast my drink up and do the same while singing along.
At some point, Farelo stepped off the stage and joined the audience during “Tra”. They open a circle for her to dance in, surrounding her like a superstar. She dances and holds the mic up for fans to sing along. All the while illuminated by several flash cameras recording this epic moment.
She ends the set with “Fiebre,” giving the audience everything she’s got. Each verse is sung slightly out of breath, but she’s still hitting mostly every note. Her forehead glistens with sweat and she goes all in for a proper send off. Still speaking in auto-tune, she thanks fans and the room fills with applause, whistling, and cheering. She still has a few more shows for her tour, but I hope Austin gave her something good to remember.
I’m hungover but still grinning from last night. Eventually I leave my place to grab a bite to eat. The restaurant I’m at has an over crowded bulletin board. I spot a flyer for the show with a picture of Farelo fronted by “Bad Gyal” in elegant and pink 3D type. I carefully steal it away from the board and slowly remove the adhesive. Now, slightly wrinkled with some print pulled off by the adhesive, I take it home with my soup. Feeling serendipitous, I decided to frame the flyer in memory of a special night and mesmerizing performance by Bad Gyal.