Basking in Madeline’s rose scene, and her new album ‘Raised on Porn’.
Indie pop-and-roll’s sweetheart Madeline Rosene takes no prisoners on her most recent album, Raised on Porn, which does not ask permission for its sourness, and blesses us with its sweetness.
A Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter hailing from Cleveland and New York City, Madeline Rosene sings “I don’t bite,” but her voice certainly does, sweetly; writing since the age of 12, her skill is inarguable, and her charisma tough to resist.
The seven-track album manoeuvres through the artificial sweetness of L.A. and millennial life altogether, popping bubble gum bubbles in miniskirts with the overwhelming façade of being almost too sweet. In a voice that is entirely her own, Rosene fights to find that authenticity that she herself feels is tough to come by.
Her music is maybe, she says, more honest than she allows herself to be in real life. The daughter of an astrologist, the Libra (October 16) doesn’t mince words. Her acerbic, to-the-point conversational tone is just as tangible as her lyricism, like your best friend, a neighbour from your childhood, a familiar face passing you on the street, and within minutes of introducing herself via phone from L.A., I feel as though I’m catching up with a friend.
Over three years, Rosene wrote and stylized these seven tracks, though she says it feels more like she’s “been working on it her whole life.” Such is the method of the first lengthier album, finally a place for an artist to stretch her wings and have that time to say exactly what she wants. Madeline Rosene does this exactly.
The American Beauty-esque album cover, shot and designed by Jeffrey Fountain, Jason Edward, and Hali McGowan, is almost too familiar – the Playboy magazines and pink carpet reminiscent of a room you’ve definitely been in before.
She makes sure to mention the laundry list of creative minds that went into her album, like Bob Varo, her producer, Justin Lund, her drummer and frequent co-writer (and genius, she says), and so many others.
Whether by divine intervention or pure luck, Rosene won a contest by Musiklists, who offered a six-hour full studio session at In Flight studios in downtown Los Angeles. Rosene and her band were given the chance to lay down her demo with the proper backing and equipment, realizing the tunes they’d been working with for months.
A few songs were recorded in a home studio in San Diego, and vocals at a North Hollywood studio called Neighborhood Watch. The Californian sun peaks through the blinders of her tracks, with her decade-long guitar skills proving themselves the only vehicle her sweet voice needs to reach our hearts.
First comes the serenading lullaby of “Little Planet”, a sweet pop dream that sounds almost as good as it feels, followed by “Numb,” a gypsy, salsa, R.E.M.-type track that picks up the pace. A highlight of the album comes with “Blew,” a collaboration with Dante Juhkel, which comes across as the pre-middle school dance, dousing in perfume, puppy love romance and excitement of being young.
The self-expression Rosene emits in everything she does is the result of a litany of methods of discovery: enrolling in boarding school (her own choice), attending college before graduating high school, studying pre-med, then journalism. What Rosene ultimately found, after all, was herself; her early maturity, travelling between Cleveland and New York for years, gave her a lot of time to herself. And the time was not wasted.
And now, for someone who considers human interaction the root of surviving in this cold world, Rosene wonders how she will connect during the coronavirus pandemic. In this moment of the world “taking a big, deep breath,” artists take to social media to reach out to their fans, using live streams in place of live shows. But fear not, Rosene assures, because there will be another album in 2020.
In the meantime, her focus remains on writing in her radio-rock style, supplying that authenticity that she’s honed so perfectly.
In a world that bids little authenticity, Madeline Rosene simply provides it herself, asking no one for permission and offering zero apologies. That is her charisma – that she is wholly, undeniably, boldly and unwaveringly herself. Not only that, but she believes you should be too – yes you, listening on the other side of those headphones, feeling those emotions that she’s put forth, understanding her, feeling her understand you. And when she strips away that outer layer, the false reality that precedes us always, what remains is exactly why we turn to music. It’s real.
That comes from listening to yourself, she says. That is perhaps the most powerful lesson she can offer – do not be phoney. “Not to sound like Holden Caulfield,” she quips, but she means it. If you can offer the world your authentic self, and create whatever art you can, then that is your wonderful contribution to the world. For her, it is only natural to sing the way she speaks, to present herself musically the way she is really. Never with affectation, never with the goal of sounding “like” somebody else. She is Madeline Rosene, plain and simple. When she strips that all away, the façade, the appearances, the social media, the crazy and oftentimes damaging world of music, we find ourselves in her softness.
Then, and only then, does she achieve exactly what she set out to: across that void, Madeline Rosene extends a hand, sings in a soft voice, shares a line that felt as though we could have written it ourselves, and maybe someday had whispered out into the abyss, hoping someone would hear. Madeline Rosene has, and she always will.