Rotana is the mononym for electro-pop artist Rotana Tarabzouni, who was born and reared in Saudi Arabia and landed in Los Angeles to attend college and expand her horizons. Her cinematic pop orbits the space inhabited by the likes of Halsey, Jessie Ware and Olivia Holt, but it’s Rotana’s native world — the patriarchal society of her homeland and its system of “male guardianship” — that provides her inspiration.
In short, she’s defying the restrictions of her upbringing by merely aspiring to be pop singer. Example: In crowd-funding the making of her EP, she was told point-blank by a family member that said relative could not make a donation, for religious reasons. So while her early singles “Daddy,” “Over You” and “The Cure” bob hopefully in an ocean of soundalikes, her backstory is distinctive.
Of the power of “the story,” she is well aware. She attended USC for a master’s degree in journalism, authoring her thesis on the role a narrative plays in creating a pop star brand. “It makes the argument that music is no longer the main product,” she said in a fascinating conversation on Swan Feather Radio earlier this year. “It’s become a marketing tool for the larger entity.” That said, she added that no matter the style of music, “if you are helping people identify parts of themselves and helping them self-actualize, then you’ve done your job.”
||| Watch: The video for “Over You”
||| Also: Stream the song here, along with her first single “Daddy”