There was a faint hint at where Caroline Rose was headed creatively after the release of her 2018 record LONER, but nothing could have prepared us for her latest, Superstar. A concept album through and through, it chronicles the dark depths of fame and lack of authenticity required to seek it through the irony-inflected perspective of an artist whose gradual climb has been somewhat plagued by the square peg-round hole ideology of “the biz.” Rose has slowly been inching toward a more fully realized version of her true self since the start of her career. No one has known where to put her, genre-wise, and that runaround has led her to create some of the most distinct and interesting music of the last few years. With Superstar, Rose has brilliantly created a kind of fantastical fictionalized parallel of this journey.
While LONER scratched the sonic surface of what Rose could do as a songwriter, producer, and, most of all, a performer, Superstar is her coming-out party. It’s a feat that can best be understood by its credits: all songs written, arranged, produced and recorded by Caroline Rose. She had to get here on her own terms, just like the “hero” of her Superstar story. Where is “here” for Caroline Rose? If LONER and Superstar are any indication, it’s a place she can stretch and experiment, where a bit of synth won’t hurt anyone and a distorted, fuzzed-out vocal can go lay its head where it likes. This message comes out swinging on dancefloor bait like “Got to Go My Own Way” and “Feel the Way I Want,” both with all the empowerment and none of the over-inflated corniness. Just pure genuine joy.
Superstar is Rose doing a cannonball into the deep end of the synth-pop pool. She finds her groove with vivid storytelling and oddball sound effects that elevate her songs to otherworldly status. Even when things get grim, narratively speaking, like on the anxious “Command Z,” Rose makes it so we can still get down to it. Songs like “Back at the Beginning” and “Freak Like Me” are slinky and sensual. Then Rose will bust out with an explosive pop anthem like “Nothing’s Impossible” or “Do You Think We’ll Last Forever?” It is the not knowing what’s coming that keeps us on our toes. It is the front-row seat to an artist being wholly original and unapologetically herself that makes Superstar the thrill it is.