In 2020, Caroline Rose is shooting for superstardom. Rose started in the field of earnest Americana but cultivated a swaggering indie pop sound on 2018’s LONER. Here, she truly pulls out all the stops for a massive, glitter-filled pop record. The artist who said, “Pop music is so shallow,” years ago has fully embraced an ambitious pop turn on Superstar, while holding onto her own distinct aesthetic.
Superstar is conceived around a protagonist that is utterly assured that they are destined for fame. The album begins with a mistaken call from the Chateau Marmont, which they take as a sign of their fate. Opener “Nothing’s Impossible” sets the stage with a grand, synth-led instrumental. The song builds to a monumental climax, then comes crashing down. The underdog story continues with “Got to Go My Own Way.” Rose sings over infectious basslines and shimmering synths, as the protagonist outlines their upcoming star-studded life. They insist to their partner they are headed for better things—fame, fortune, and travel. In typical Caroline Rose fashion, the also song works in sharp satire in between the huge hooks. The protagonist insists that they will “Remain humble not like all these fakers/Always get bleachers seats sitting at the LA Lakers.”
Of course, the album balances these grandiose moments with equal moments of vulnerability. “Pipe Dreams” describes the protagonist’s vision of a white-picket-fence future where they leave superstardom behind with their partner. Rose conjures a dreamy, ethereal mood with the fantasy of marital bliss. They dream that they will “Dress in drag, get drunk and dance in the street on our wedding day.” Yet, given the song’s title, it is clear this fantasy exists only in their mind. The spacey “I Took a Ride” finishes out the album on a similar instrumental note, offering a heartfelt conclusion. The protagonist’s dreams of fame and fortune fall away in the closing track; they instead long to find their partner once again.
Similar to LONER, Caroline Rose’s effervescent, oddball personality carries the album. On “Freak Like Me” Rose writes a love ballad for a dominatrix. The sparse and sensual instrumentals let Rose’s production and spotlit vocals shine through, creating an alluring track. The chopped up piano sample is particularly beautiful. Elsewhere, “Feel the Way I Want” rides the line between self-love and shameless self-obsession. Lines such as “I’m so in love with myself/It’s so romantic” could appear obnoxious, but Rose imbues these songs with humor and self-awareness. The cheap-chic vibe of the “Feel the Way I Want” video is a perfect example of how well this formula works; Rose dances her way across America for an audition in Hollywood…Florida. She may be on her way to superstardom, but Caroline Rose is far from conventional.
LONER was an unexpected blast of indie pop energy. By expanding her sound into new directions, Rose found herself with a new set of fans excited for what would come next. Her follow up trades on this growing profile by creating an ambitious album that is one part a swaggering come-up story and one part reflective vulnerability. Rose marries these elements with her magnetic style, and the result is unmistakably her own. On Superstar, Caroline Rose is playing by her own rules, and it is a delight to see it. (www.carolinerosemusic.com)