Madison Rose Wants More Black Queer Pop Stars to the Forefront

Madison Rose Wants More Black Queer Pop Stars to the Forefront

For a lesson in pop perfection, look no further than Madison Rose’s debut album, TECHNICOLOR, which arrives today as a shiny deluxe edition with four additional songs.

Dubbed The Full Spectrum, the re-release fills a space in Rose’s story thus far, after a period of “losing, leaving and healing” that helped the rising musician finally reach a place of love. “But I had to love myself first,” she says, underscoring tracks that sound wildly optimistic and self-assured.

Packed with larger-than-life anthems and names like “Thunder” and “Chemistry,” Rose assembles a dream of her own design that unfolds like a love letter to herself. “I’ll give you magic, I’ll give you mystery,” she sings on the aptly titled “Fantasy,” delivering just that for a growing audience of queer dance-pop lovers.

“These songs are about my capacity to love and share that through music,” Rose says. “I’m very excited for them to come out and make new memories with them, and have my supporters make their memories, too.”

Below, Rose talks with PAPER about "finding the rainbow" after "going through the rain," as she sings about on the album's title track. From navigating a cut-throat industry to fighting for more representation inside her genre, she's finally ready for the big checks — and when that inevitably happens, "People should be scared," Rose warns.

You recently opened up on TikTok about a label deal getting pulled. What did you learn from that experience and how has it changed your approach to making music moving forward?

For those who have followed me for some time now, they know this is the second time that a deal has gotten pulled from me in the 11th hour. The first time around, I was sad, but felt pretty immediately scrappy and bounced back to blaze down the trail of independently releasing my album. This time around, I didn’t feel as resilient. I had to learn that was ok. You can’t move around your feelings, you have to move through them. I sat with disappointment until I could fully believe what I’ve always known to be true: I really don’t give a fuck what any suit thinks about me. I care about the young queer kids I got to meet in person over the summer on my Pride Tour, who cried to me about how much hope my album brought them. I care about the people who see me and love me. And most importantly, I care about what I think. So I would say my approach moving forward is to remind myself how much I’ve accomplished on my own and that I don’t need to build my kingdom just to hand the keys away. Rejection is often protection, so ultimately I’m sure I was protected by this loss.

As an independent artist, what’re some of the challenges you've face in breaking through the noise and what’re some of the upsides of having total agency?

The most frustrating part for me is budgets, period. You have these amazing, grandiose ideas and you have got to figure out how to make that happen on a nickel and a prayer. So you have to learn to scale down and find the beauty in the edit. Luckily, I have every time, but when I get these big checks, baby, people should be scared. The visuals are going to be a cataclysmic slay.

The upside of having total agency is I set the schedule. I would classify myself as chaotic good when it comes to art. I get these ideas and sometimes have a really harebrained time trying to make them happen. Perfect example is the deluxe: all these songs have been written for a while, but thank God for my ace, Arthur Besna, who did all the production in like two weeks — total rockstar. But this is how artists are: We get inspired, we make things, we want to share them. I don’t want to sit on things for years and I don’t want others telling me how to write my own stories. I’m happy I’m not beholden to anyone’s schedule but my own and I don’t need to adjust my art to anyone’s taste to get approval to put it out. It’s a blessing to know you’re showing up 100% as yourself.

"When I get these big checks, baby, people should be scared."

What is the biggest change you’d like to see across the pop music landscape? How do you think those changes can be achieved?

I want to see more Black queer pop artists to the forefront. These are communities that built these genres and have gotten stripped of their agency to make them. We built the table and we’re begging for a seat at it. I think people who support independent artists have to realize they hold way more power than they think. I would argue they hold most of the power. Sharing art you love with people you know has a trickle down effect that changes artists' lives.

What is the larger message you’re wanting to tell through music? How does this deluxe release build off that?

I really do believe everyone can have their happy ending, but I think the mistake is believing the happy ending exists outside of yourself — in people, in possessions, in jobs. I hope my music is building an awareness in my audience of how much power you hold inside yourself and your happy ending is within you, right now.

Love and all its nuances are at the core of your music and especially this deluxe release. What have you learned about love through making this music?

It’s beautiful, these four new songs have taught me a deeper layer of self-love. There was a time where I didn’t think these new songs would be released. I wrote them, I loved them, but in my mind they became solely about the people I wrote them about and those people turned out to not be so great. So, ultimately, when the lovey-dovey feelings subsided it felt like these songs only had these negative memories attached to them. I then had to realize I was de-centering myself in my own life and my art. These songs are about my capacity for love, and how I express that and synthesize that into art. It’s kind of like when people say they don’t want to go to their favorite places because they brought their ex and now it’s tainted. It’s like, that’s your favorite place. You’re the main character. Don’t give up things you love because someone ended up not honoring the space you brought them into. Remember why you loved the space in the first place. Reclaim that and make new, even better memories.

You recently moved to NYC after having lived in LA for many years. What inspired that change and how are you finding the performance and pop music scene in New York?

I lived in LA for 15 years and I was unhappy. Eventually, you have to look at yourself and be like, "Ok girl, are we going to make a change to be happy or stay stuck?" So I moved. I wanted to live in NYC since I was 12 years old and was always steered away from it. There’s this cult mentality that LA is the epicenter of everything if you ever want to be successful in most creative industries. Thanks to the internet, I don’t think that’s true anymore. I can connect with my supporters anywhere. I love the performance scene in NY and especially the pop scene. Everyone is more fearless here and I’m learning a lot.

"You get way better aerodynamics with a shaved head."

What was the thinking behind the artwork for this deluxe release?

This concept sat on my mood board for almost two years, so I’m so excited it was achieved. I wanted something that felt vulnerable, but within that you feel the strength it takes to be that vulnerable. I thought the juxtaposition of the nudity with the bright psychedelic paint represented that well. I look at the photos and I can’t help but feel proud of how far I’ve come to be able to put together an image like this. Also, it’s just fucking fierce and I love looking at it.

How has your sense of self and identity evolved since shaving your head? In many ways, that feels like the beginning of this album era's journey.

I definitely agree it’s the start. I released singles leading up to the head shave, but it was more so because I wasn’t sure if I could pull off releasing the whole album by myself. I think women are societally embedded with a victim complex. We "need" to be saved. I have definitely felt that way personally and it bled over to business. I was releasing these singles like, "Someone please step in and help me do this project fully." So when I was gaining my own momentum and it still wasn’t happening I had to ask myself, "Are you going to wait for someone else? Or continue to take control of your own life?" I held that shaving head concept for two years. I didn’t want to wait anymore. Ultimately, that really is the whole ethos of this work. Are you going to wait for your life? Wait for your healing? Wait to take a chance? Or are you going to dive head first into who you really are. I’m happy I dove, you get way better aerodynamics with a shaved head.

Photography: Casie Wendel