Caroline Rose has the Midas touch – everything she touches turns to gold. Early in her career, she created timeless folk and country-inspired songs on America Religious (which if released today would be extremely relevant) and I Will Not Be Afraid, respectively. Her third album, Loner, meanwhile, was a melodic, pop dazzler filled with witty observations and cunning lyrics. For Superstar, the Long Island native once again dons a new costume, turns back time, and delivers an album that sounds like a Casey Kasem Top-40 list from 1984. More accurately, Rose takes the synth-pop, R&B, and pop of the ’80s and makes them astounding.
Superstar, however, is more than just a retro record. It is a concept album that, on the one hand, focuses on the exploits and desires of an ordinary individual who wants to be so much more. On the other hand, Superstar is clever social commentary. Her thesis is premised around an anti-hero – someone who walks to the beat of his own drum and with little care to what others have to say. She’s an idealist, but not a conformist. She is the symbol of everything we’ve been told is uncool.
The pulsating, synth-R&B “Nothing’s Impossible” opens the album with the unnamed hero strutting with the confidence of a Hollywood A-lister. She’s heading off to fulfill her destiny as buzzing synths and a choir swirl around him. The moment is humorous and ingenious. Her immense confidence is revealed on the super groovy, “Got To Go My Own Way”, on which she tells herself and anyone willing to listen, “I was born to be a star”.
And every star needs a great partner, and she goes on the prowl on the seriously funky, Prince-esque “Do You Think We’ll Last Forever?” As the song seamlessly transforms into a buzzing psychedelic-pop overture (another example of Rose’s genius), the hero rationalizes she had, at first, a heart attack then a panic attack after being turned down.
After a moment of unconsciousness, which is reflected on the short and dreamy “Feelings Are A Thing Of The Past”, she gets back on the saddle and struts down Broadway like she owns the neighborhood on another funky and fun tune, “Feel The Way I Want”. Surely this is Saturday Night Fever‘s Tony Manero decked out in a white polyester suit and a styling, ’70s perm. She finally finds love in an unexpected person on “Freak Like Me”. While she eyes her dominatrix, her hired lover tells her, “My love is a skin-tight suit / A tailored overcoat with steel-toed combat boots.” With her love not being reciprocated, she searches for “Someone New”, which is an infectious, synth-pop number. The track is more than just a love tune, but our hero realizing who she is.
The romantic slow dancer “Pipe Dreams” is our hero daydreaming about the possibility of finding the one and marriage. She’s set aside her grand ambitions and only wants to be with someone. With each passing failure, she faces her humanity on the very short, trippy, synth throbber, “Command Z” and the cool, melodic “Back At The Beginning”. Her confidence is shattered, but not for long. Through a dark ambient atmosphere on “I Took A Ride”, she sings about “getting her baby back someday”. It is only in her eyes where she can truly feel like a Superstar. After all, everyone wants to be loved, not just famous. This is the mantra by which Rose has long followed, and, as a result, she’s crafted some of the most memorable albums of our lifetime. And Superstar is another, but an album made for 1984 and 2020.
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