For Superstar, Rose not only adds the glam sheen of pop production, but creates a roughly 40-minute voyage into the rise and fall of an overly ambitious pop star who is out to prove everyone who said they weren't good enough wrong. She remains torn on whether to play the album in its entirety for her live shows, which kick off Friday at The Hollow in Albany, N.Y.
"I wanted [Superstar] to feel the way that a movie plays out, where you have a storyline that you can follow. I wanted it to have highs and lows. I wanted it to feel like you’re falling down from a cloud," says Rose.
The album's storyline follows a non-gendered protagonist as they head to Los Angeles to become a star and along the way attempts to rub it in the faces of those who doubted them. It kicks off with the beat-heavy "Nothing's Impossible," where a phone call from the famed Chateau Marmont lobby beckons them from their small town to stardom in the city of angels and gets stranger and stranger from there.
"The album starts high and there is all this grandiose kind of attitude," explains Rose. "The further you get into the album, the more you realize this person is either having a mental breakdown or maybe they are all talk and having some regrets."
Billboard chatted with Rose about how she single-handedly produced the experimental album and created a character that she calls "all the worst parts of herself on steroids."
There is a consistent narrative throughout Superstar of the protagonist trying to shed labels and prove people wrong. Why did you choose that recurring theme?
I made this narrative around a person whose lover and family don’t really believe in them. The first track sets up for the whole record like ‘I don’t need you. I’m going to go do my own thing.’ I made the narrative relationship based, but you don’t really know what the relationship is. They are the embodiment of anyone who has ever doubted me and I’m like, ‘Give me my damn crown.’ It’s years of little comments that people make about not thinking that I am good enough.
I’m also paying homage to my past self that didn’t believe in me either. That energy that I was putting out into the world of ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m not knowledgeable enough’ or ‘I’m not capable enough.’ People make so many excuses not to do something. At some point, I had had enough. I had enough of people disappointing me. I had enough of feeling like I needed training wheels.
Was there a specific catalyst for taking the training wheels off?
I heard Greta Gerwig give an interview once and she is just the coolest person ever. I got to meet her once and I was completely star stuck. She was talking about wanting to become a director and how it took her so long because she was like ‘I wrote this screenplay and I really want to direct it, but maybe I should get a co-director. What if I screw up?’ It was the exact same thing I was thinking. Finally she had a moment where she said ‘I want to be a director’ and I love that. At a certain point you gotta take a risk. You’ve got to jump off the bridge and hope you can fly.
Was that the reason you created the majority of this album alone?
I just enjoy working alone. I love doing things myself. I do everything myself. I spend time alone all the time. A lot of people are like, ‘how come you don't like collaborating?’ I'm like, ‘well, a lot of people aren't that fun.’ People need to be as fun as me. I don’t enjoy anyone as much as I enjoy myself. I only half mean that.
The protagonist of Superstar feels emotionally all over the place, especially on the track "Do You Think We'll Last Forever," where they are filled with anxiety about a budding relationship. Where does that come from?
I took all the most embarrassing parts of myself and I injected them with steroids and turned them all into this person. I made a character out of all the worst parts of myself that I am most embarrassed about. That song is definitely an anxiety-driven song. One of my favorite parts of that song is the outro because this person has been bottling up all this nervous energy and is like ‘I’m cool. I’m cool.’ and then the last bit it just ‘I’m not cool! I’m not cool!’
The character also feels like a parallel to you in their attempt to break into the pop world.
I don’t actually want to be a pop star, which is why this album is so funny to me. I have friends who are pop stars and I know some people who aren’t friends who are pop stars and they have these huge egos. It always seems so stressful. I feel like when you hit that level of success and your ego gets so big, you end up on another plane of humanity where you no longer feel connected to people on the lower planes. I always thought that was so stupid.
Can you explain how you landed artist Signe Pierce to do your somewhat jarring album artwork?
I wanted it so you couldn’t tell if the person was real or fake. I cold emailed Signe Pierce and she is really into this hyper-real art movement. She’s one of the founders of it. The whole idea behind hyper real art is that it blurs the lines between reality and this sort of dream world or the world that we see on a screen. I love that idea because it fits perfectly into my concept of the album. This person who will do anything for success but then sort of starts to lose themselves and you don’t really know what is going to happen.