It doesn’t take long for Ashley Monroe to seize control on Rosegold. “There’s nowhere else that you would rather be,” she sings on album opener “Siren.” Okay, then.
Monroe has good reason for her artistic confidence after the acclaim for Sparrow in 2018 (produced by the brilliant Dave Cobb) and The Pistol Annies’ lauded Interstate Gospel in 2019 (with fellow Nashville songstresses Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley). The last few years have been kind to Monroe, including a Grammy nomination, so it makes sense to find her on Rosegold with a songwriter’s head held high.
What is surprising is the direction she’s facing these days. While Monroe’s vocal style will always reveal her Tennessee origins, Rosegold is an about-face from her work with Cobb. Instead of one producer, Monroe chose to work with six on her new LP. And while she’s certainly no stranger to pop sensibilities, Rosegold’s pop polish is thickly applied, a musical lacquer whose sheen won’t wear off.
The aforementioned “Siren” shifts the imagined footwear from boot to stiletto, and the seductive, synth canvas marks each of Mikey Reaves’ contributions to Rosegold (the darker synth-pop of “Drive” and the slight and summery “Groove”). Reaves’ previous work with Maren Morris on Girl makes a lot of sense here and opens Monroe up to a wider audience base in the process.
Monroe’s collabs with Jordan Reynolds (“Silk”, “Flying”), who has penned songs for Morgan Waller, Carly Pearce, and Dan + Shay to name a few, veer closer to her country roots but remain firmly rooted in commercial territory. The same can be said of Nathan Chapman’s (Taylor Swift) contributions (“Gold”, “I Mean It”).
As for Rosegold’s broader themes or ideas, they’re as disparate as the partners involved, but they’re all shielded under a very positive umbrella. From bold statements of belonging and declarations of love to sensual mood-setters and heartening encouragements, Monroe’s songs are effortless and effervescent. The Rosegold lenses through which she’s viewing (singing, rather) color the entire set of songs.
Whether the greater pop push works for Monroe’s longtime fans remains to be seen, but the new record is also likely to usher in plenty of new ones as well.