It’s hard to believe that Bad Gyal has only been on the music scene since 2016. Since her breakthrough single “Pai,” which is an adaptation of “Work” by Rihanna in which she mixed lyrics in Catalan, Spanish, and English, Bad Gyal (real name: Alba Farelo) has done nothing but take over the dancehall world. In 2017, the UK's Fact Magazine named another one of her singles, “Jacaranda,” as their top single of the year. She’s received a glowing write-up in Pitchfork, in which they called her a mix of “American hip-hop attitude and streetwise femininity with a dose of musical futurism.” Over the last three years, she’s toured the world, performing in festivals in Iceland and Japan as well as the Red Bull Music Academy Festival in Los Angeles, and, of course, Sónar in Barcelona. Bad Gyal first performed at Sónar in 2017, but returned this year and left with a crown.
In her performance at Sónar earlier this month, Bad Gyal captured the audience’s attention with her larger-than-life personality and energetic dancehall-reggaeton-urban-electronics-hybrid performance. We caught up with the artist to learn more about her style and what it meant to take home the top prize in her hometown.
Explain to us your stage name: Bad Gyal.
In Jamaican culture, you often hear the name Bad Gyal. Among young people, in clubs, etc. I was an absolute fan of the name since I was a kid and it became my first Instagram profile name.
How was your performance at Sónar, especially since Barcelona is your hometown?
The show was clearly the most important one of the year, and probably of my life. The performance and choreography were done by one of Cardi B's main dancers. The fact of doing Sónar Barcelona, my city, was a great honor to me. Two years ago, I played for the very first time there on a small stage, and it was a concert that had clearly marked the beginning of my career. So, coming back here two years later is very meaningful to me.
Tell us about your beginnings in the music industry. How has your career changed since then?
I started in my room with my computer a few years ago while I was still working in a bakery. Since then, my way of writing songs has not changed much. I am able to write several songs in a day. For instance, my last song, "Santa Maria," which features Busy Signal, who is one of the legends of dancehall, was done in one day.
What's changed is the ability to record in great studios, with a good team of producers, with a big label. I often go to Miami or Los Angeles to make music. My last producer also made songs for 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and Rihanna.
Where do you usually buy your clothes?
I like wearing cheap stuff, clothes that you find in vintage stores of random markets anywhere. I like buying Galliano t-shirts from the ’90s, cheap Fendi dresses, even fake stuff. From time to time, I buy an expensive bag, but that’s it.
If you would have your very last performance tonight, what would you wear?
Thierry Mugler, feathers, and diamonds.
Your dream collaboration?
Alexander McQueen Spring 2000. I love the futuristic concept.
Your favorite Instagram profile?
Has to be Aleali May.
One person, on a desert island, for a whole year?
I would definitely go with Tupac.