Review Summary: Stardom awaits.
In the nicest possible way, Superstar
is a Tame Impala record with an acute theme surrounding it. That’s not to deter Rose from finding her own musical identity, but it’s an indisputable observation that hears Tame’s influence imprinted all over Caroline Rose’s most recent efforts – especially on Superstar
. Of course, this notion is one of the very reasons I find her music to be so important in today’s musical climate. In spite of the instrumental backdrop that’s about seventy percent derivative, it’s Rose’s execution and the more unique elements she integrates into her sound that make her an important figure to watch out for in the future. So, to get it out of the way now; yes, fans of Tame Impala’s synth-pop sound and the like will find solace in this very well-crafted album. Her mixture of contemporary hyper-and-snyth-pop sounds, slick guitar riffs, and the now signature, scintillating, retro-beach-resort-organ sound are anchored by a booming rhythm section. The ethereal, psychedelic moods oscillate over thumping drum snaps and simplistically infectious bass hooks, while Rose continues to fire out pillowy vocals to strengthen the tone overall. It’s also a far more sonically focused entry than its predecessor, albeit with a tinge of disappointment in that regard.
Comparatively, her excellent 2018 breakthrough LP, Loner
, makes this one sound sonically vanilla – sticking to a narrow road of the aforementioned sounds. However, it’s a sacrifice made for a fully fleshed out, overarching concept this time around. The clincher to Loner
’s enjoyment comes from Rose’s clever humour and sharp wit, which told self-contained, satirical stories of modern-America’s obsessive culture and the narcissism and hedonism that comes with it. This time around, it’s based on a single narrative that follows someone looking to make a big footprint in showbiz: armed with a bag load of ambition, hubris, and narcissism; the counterpoint of the tale sees Rose perverting and marring the character’s over-zealous qualities with contradictory emotions – i.e. self-deprecation and loathing as the story moves along. Of course, for anyone who’s worn out their copy of Loner
will know, the juxtaposition of cynicism and optimism, humour and anguish are huge selling points to her music, and it comes as little surprise. This is obviously where the album highlights its main strengths. Rose is an incredible lyricist, showing moments of articulated brilliance on the likes of “Nothing’s Impossible”, as she barks “No one is gonna stand in my way. Even if I have to leave this whole city in flames, I'd rather be a hustler on an 8-ball pocket than a tattered tarot card in your fake gold locket”
, or listening to “Feel the Way I Want”, as she effortlessly narrates and balances our protagonist’s confidence and vigour with insecurities and depression – resorting to drug use in order to cope with the judgemental setbacks. Thematically, the record is wonderful to sit through, and Rose’s excellent vocal performances only stand to sell the tales here.
Here’s the awkward part though; it would be hypocritical of me to criticise Loner
for being a little hodgepodge in terms of how it pieces itself together stylistically, only to criticise Superstar
for being more focused in sound, but lacking in variety. Unfortunately, this is a matter that throws the baby out with the bath water. Where Loner
openly acknowledges its roots to some extent, and has various elements of hard-rock and indie-rock thrown in there for good measure, those elements feel somewhat lost in transit here. There’s nothing wrong with hearing these well-written songs, packed with sashaying grooves and wobbly synths, but by the mid-section of the record there is a definite sagging point, and the album doesn’t feel as effortless to listen to as Loner
did. Even so, this is as enjoyable to listen to as its former, it’s just a shame that it doesn’t progress Caroline all that much as an artist – it’s like she’s taken two steps forward, but then doubled back on herself to compensate on the concept. Hopefully next time she finds the perfect balance between these last two records – one that finally displays her awesome lyric writing and songwriting with harmonious results, because Lord knows she’s proven her talent in recent years.
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