As collaborators, Oneohtrix Point Never and Rosalía make a good match. Both delight in synthetic textures that cling, stickily, to acoustic remnants: a hammered dulcimer engulfed in a glossy digital smear, or a quivering melisma chromed by Auto-Tune. Neither is a stranger to excess, but on the new single “Nothing’s Special,” they let restraint be their guide.
The song is a reworked version of the melancholy closing track on OPN’s 2020 album Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, with the Catalan singer’s clarion mezzo-soprano in place of Daniel Lopatin’s muted vocoder. This is not the first time that Lopatin has reimagined one of his songs with a distinctive performer. He did it in 2010 with “Returnal,” inviting ANOHNI to turn what had been an eerie vaporwave lament into a stark ballad for unadorned voice and acoustic piano. This new version of “Nothing’s Special” constitutes a less radical intervention: The backing track is largely the same as in the original, though it has been transposed up a fourth, perhaps to accommodate Rosalía’s vocal range.
The song’s skeletal lyrics amount to a cryptic rumination on absence, though in translating them from English to Spanish, some of Lopatin’s wordplay around the idea of nothingness (“I’m still impressed/At how special nothing gets”) has been flattened out (“Aún me impresiona/Que no sea tan especial,” or “I’m still impressed/That it’s not that special”). But the translation has its own charms: In Rosalía’s trembling vibrato, wistful depictions of nature sound like they could come from Spanish poetic tradition, while references to screens are in keeping with her own imagery of smartphones and social media. Rosalía’s voice is the real star here, twisting and turning above Lopatin’s doleful chords, briefly pixelating into stair-stepped Auto-Tuned pitches before slipping free of the grid once again. Her breathy inflection makes a gorgeous counterpoint to Lopatin’s wheezy organ tones and aerated choral pads, and in the song’s second half, the clarity of her melodic line contrasts beautifully with the gnarled contours of his disintegrating digital palette. Their collaboration amounts to a virtuoso display of texture’s expressive potential.