Madison Rose has previously declared her "ICONIC" status, and now the rising LA pop star is doubling down on self-love. Arriving in time for Valentine's Day, Rose's new single, "Better Off Alone," is a breakup anthem that pushes through all the heartache and gets straight to the good stuff. "I hope you feel better while you're sleeping on your own," she sings, confident on the chorus, which appropriates Alice Deejay's famous 2000 hit of the same name. "I may be hurting now, but I'm better off alone."
The release is a collaboration with producer KANDY , and feels like a bold introduction — though it's far from Rose's first. You've likely heard her grizzly, technicolor track "rainbow phone." spread across TikTok, with videos of users flaunting their rainbow-dyed hair, color-blocked outfit transformations and more. Still, "Better Off Alone" ushers in a fresh, new year for the artist, whose vocals sound untouchable above massive dance floor synths.
For PAPER , Madison Rose talks confidence, songwriting and 2022, below. "I’m not just declaring 'I’m better off alone,' I’m shouting it through a bright pink glittery megaphone for all to hear," she says.
Have you always had the confidence to declare, “I’m better off alone”?
I had to rediscover it. I was wildly independent and sure of myself, but those qualities in a woman can often attract men who want to tame them. First, your light and presence are very attractive and then suddenly, it’s too much. I fell prey to a relationship that slowly stripped me of who I was. After a lot of heartache and finally separation and a lot of soul searching, I got the privilege of recapturing who I am again and now I’m proud to say I’m not just declaring "I’m better off alone," I’m shouting it through a bright pink glittery megaphone for all to hear.
How’d you arrive at these lyrics? Is there a specific story that inspired this?
Oh yes, there was a specific story and, girl, it was tumultuous. Anyone who’s ever dated a narcissist unfortunately knows exactly how it goes. Last January, I was in complete denial about this toxic loop I was stuck in with my ex. Deep down I knew how much I wanted to leave, but I didn’t feel strong enough yet. So naturally, because writing songs is cheaper than therapy, I attempted to sum up this two-year relationship in a three-minute pop song. I imagined that we were finally separated and what the withdrawal of that would ultimately feel like. I imagined how I would cope and how hard it would be, but how I would realize it was the best thing for me.
I can’t force my writing, so when a song comes I know it needs to come out. I know I need to hear whatever I wrote, even if I’m unable to process it fully. I find my songwriting often foreshadows decisions I need to make in my life. It’s almost like my higher self sends me song lyrics to download and is saying, "Hey girl, you like, actually need to pay attention to what you’re saying and take your own advice." Clearly, my song helped me manifest, and I finally left the relationship four months later and subsequently went through the exact healing process I described in the song over these past nine months. It truly has been a rebirth of self after a much-needed ego death.
What’re your favorite things to do alone?
Shopping some curated vintage with ARTPOP blasting in my ears and then treating myself to some oysters alone is my definition of heaven. I’m aware that’s giving major Taurus vibes, but I am who I am.
What’s the significance of releasing this track in time for V-Day? How do you hope listeners receive your message?
After the last couple of years, I knew I needed to “rewrite” what Valentine’s meant to me. Valentine’s is positioned as this holiday where it’s incredibly important to find someone else to tell you how great you are, how beautiful you look, to take you out. But for me, it’s crucial to my journey to learn that the love and attention I give to myself is the only kind of affection that will ever truly make me feel whole. My hope with this song (and all my music, for that matter) is that the people listening feel that way too and see how the relationship with yourself will always be the most important one. Take yourself out for dinner, buy yourself flowers. It’s a power move.
"I’m not just declaring 'I’m better off alone,' I’m shouting it through a bright pink glittery megaphone for all to hear."
As your first release of the year, how does “Better Off Alone” represent where things are headed in 2022?
It’s very poignant for me. I learned the hard way that when you put yourself in a position where you want to be loved and accepted so badly, you’ll stay in situations you know are wrong because you’re scared of what could happen if you leave, but we don’t have time for all that. Something better could be on the other side and you’re blocking the good energy by holding space for the bad. I’m protecting my energy this year very fiercely. Holding to my standards. “Better Off Alone” represents that if a situation isn’t meeting me where I’m at 100%, I’m better off without it at all. Not only in a romantic relationship sense, but in all relationships. Hell, you can even prescribe it to my relationship with signing to a label. I don’t need any validation other than my own because the minute you start relying on others' validation is the minute you’re in trouble.
What’s your larger goal in releasing music as an artist? How does “Better Off Alone” fit inside that mission?
Of course, I want the Grammys and sold-out arena world tours, but ultimately I want to leave a legacy of being a strong female role model who did shit on my own terms — even if, at times, it meant I had to do them by myself — and that I came out on top. We live in a world that tells women they must sacrifice and dim themselves just to “earn” a seat at the table, and for what? I want to motivate people that standing for who you are and what you deserve is the most radical thing you can do. “Better Off Alone” is the origin story of that mission.
Breakup songs are classic, if not essential, frameworks in pop music. What twist did you want to bring?
I wanted to highlight the healing process, specifically. We as a society are starting to get a grasp on what healing really means, but it’s been so misconstrued. We’re told to just “get over things” and, frankly, healing just isn’t linear in that way. Some nights you need to make out with a stranger and other days you’re girl bossing and gatekeeping with ease. All of those moments are valid and should be appreciated. We love a little duality.
The chorus is a massive dance moment. Who’d you work with on production and what was that collaborative process like?
I was fortunate to work with a longtime collaborator of mine, KANDY . We first worked together in 2019 on a track called “Keeping Secrets” and have always had a shared synchronicity for understanding dance tracks. When I’m making music I’m synthesizing many influences at once, from Donna Summer and Freddie Mercury to Gaga and Missy Elliott . MNEK and Labrinth are killer writers I love and who influence me, as well.
So I’m going into session for KANDY planning to write tracks for his project, and he plays me the beat for what would become “Better Off Alone” and the story spilled out. I think having the framework that the song wasn’t going to be mine also helped me to write what I was scared to confront. After cutting the demo of the song, it sat for a while and I’d play it for various people, industry and friends, and everyone was pushing me to release it as my own. I wasn’t confident I wanted to, but again I think that came from fear. Once I left the relationship I was in, I was ready to feel confidence in the song being mine and KANDY fully supported me. I’m so grateful that it all unfolded as it did because if nothing else, I’m proud of not only the art that I made, but that now I truly embody the words I wrote.
Photos courtesy of XKLAR