Towards the end of our exclusive interview with queer pop superstar-to-be Madison Rose ahead of her debut album release, she reveals that an unexpected anniversary was close at hand.
One year ago to the day of release, May 27, Madison had lost her record deal for the album. Years of working minimum wage jobs and late night recording sessions seemed to almost go up in smoke all at once.
“I was like, ‘If you’re not going to support this then I should just put it out independently,’” she tells Queerty. “He told me, ‘If you put it out independently, it’s going to be a sh*tshow.’”
Instead, her independently released debut is now available on all major streaming platforms in stunning Technicolor.
Technicolor shines for the same reason that its creator does; the bright excitement of the visuals and pop flourishes are supported at their core by a hard-earned emotional fortitude. Even the title track, with all its bombast and refrain, paints a picture of someone making the conscious decision of joy and aiming to spread it as best she can.
Madison has always intended for the rainbow-drenched frontage of her music to act as a gateway to the deeper meaning, a technique that she’s appreciated since she was a child.
“I’m very inspired by cartoons,” she notes. “As a child it’s bright and colorful and fun, and that’s kind of what hooks you in, but then you go back as an adult and you realize ‘Oh, there are all these deeper themes that I was subliminally getting.’ The empowerment that I learned from that in this kind of candy-coated shell–that’s the approach I take to pop music.”
Indeed, there is an iceberg-underside story attached to the sparkling sound of the album. It’s a story the singer refers to as “the fall and rise of Madison Rose.” It almost separates the album in two halves, from the darker beginning of tracks like “Lost My Mind (To The DJ)” to the synthy heights of “Better Off Alone.”
“I describe it as ‘the fall and rise of Madison Rose’ because there was a big fall first. There was no rise and then fall and then rise again. It was all stumbling and trumbling through the dark and then it was making the decision to be like, ‘Okay, who is this person that I want to be?’”
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Madison seems to have had an inkling of who she wanted to be as an entertainer from a very young age, having asked her mother to move them from Cincinnati out to Los Angeles at just nine years old. The understanding of her identity in the queer community, on the other hand, wouldn’t come until a bit later.
“I wasn’t really involved in the queer scene, because I didn’t even know it existed. Of course, later in life I realized all the things that I like were inspired by queer people and people of color, but at the time I didn’t know that.”
Though initially seeing herself as an ally (“the ‘I’m a strong, strong ally!’-to-pansexual pipeline is is strong with this one,” she jokes), her gradual exposure to queer culture over the years came to inform her work intimately.
“At first it was an homage, maybe even unknowingly,” she says, “and then as I was able to get into a place that supported my creativity and expanded the kind of people that I’ve met, then it became a direct connection.”
Madison’s certainty of wanting to be an entertainer was her true North Star in those early years of trying to get her music career off the ground.
“For years I worked multiple jobs – restaurants, hosting, social media, retail–all at the same time as trying to do music,” she details. “I would clock out and I would be hustling. I would be running to whatever event, whatever session, whatever I could make work.”
Her vision of her future and love for the art not only kept her going through her day jobs, but through after-work recording sessions that would sometimes stretch from a late worknight straight through to the morning.
“I felt like I was leading this kind of double life almost; you know, very Hannah Montana vibes, but less glamorous. At that time in my life I felt so scrappy, and I felt like ‘I know who I can be.’ Not even who I can be–‘I know who I am.’”
Madison got her foot in the door in 2018 with her first official single “Diamonds” and its accompanying music video, an early realization of her flashy and highly chromatic style that earned her indie acclaim and a cute Billboard profile. This was the first of a number of singles she would come to develop over the next few years–“Keeping Secrets”, “Rainbow Phone”, “Saving Grace”–all in preparation for her eventual debut album.
It was approaching the rollout for her fifth single “Sunshine” last year when the record deal she had quietly been in talks for was unceremoniously pulled out from under her. They apparently then pitched her a second deal with a worse budget for promotion and lower royalties, to the point where she couldn’t have imagined accepting it.
“The original deal wasn’t great, and then this other one was actually terrible,” Madison states. “It sent me on a complete spiral, and I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
After this, the initial fall of Madison Rose, there was that deep moment of uncertainty–deep enough to send her back to the single thing of which she’d always been certain. The North Star of her dream still hung in the sky.
@iammadisonrose“ICONIC” IS OUT EVERYWHERE NOW 🚨🖤 stream besties!!! i love u sm and thank u for supporting me! ##iconic ##nobones ##bones ##drag ##queer ##camp ##runway♬ ICONIC – Madison Rose
In the fall of 2021, Madison put out a two-minute long b*tch track she’d been teasing for just a couple of weeks on Tiktok: the soon-to-be-aptly named “ICONIC”. With its boastful lyrics, driving beat, and heavy drag and ballroom influences and references, “ICONIC” took the drag side of Tiktok by storm.
Fans of Rupaul’s Drag Race, one of the programs that had informed Madison’s art for years, began to put out fan-edits of queens from the show set to match each line of the song.
“Those started from a very organic place,” Madison says of the edits, referring to them as “a beautiful manifestation taking place.”
Little had she known that one of the queens from the show would quickly take notice. Drag Race alum and LA drag legend Morgan McMichaels apparently came across “ICONIC” on Tiktok and was enamored at first listen.
“I was so fortunate to connect with Morgan through Iconic,” Madison says. “Morgan found Iconic and was immediately so supportive, and this was when the song had like 20,000 plays. Maybe less, actually. Morgan found something and commented and was like – you know, in Morgan tone, – ‘oh my god, I almost crashed my car because this song is so good; I’m literally changing my number for tonight–my tonight show–to do this song. I’m learning it right now.’”
At first, Madison couldn’t believe her eyes.
“I click and I’m gagged because I just respect Morgan so much as an artist. Through that, we’ve developed this beautiful friendship.”
Moreso than the exposure or acknowledgement from Morgan, it’s clear that the things Madison has appreciated most from the queen are the advice she’s given Madison – and just who she is as a person. That said, the exposure certainly didn’t hurt:
“I’m sure that there were queens doing it, but I think something about Morgan [doing the “ICONIC” number], they felt like ‘Oh, I think we can tag Madison now. Let’s make sure that she sees it.’ So then there was just this onslaught of like, yes there’s a queen in New York doing it,”
@lillyxbolaI C O N I C stream ##iconic by @iammadisonrose ##cashapp13plus ##drag ##dragqueen ##performer ##art ##fyp ##lovewins♬ ICONIC – Madison Rose
“and in LA,”
@iammadisonroseit’s very legendaric if u ask me! @morganmcmichaelsofficial ##morganmcmichaels ##dragrace ##rupaulsdragrace ##rpdr ##allstar ##iconic ##lipsync♬ ICONIC – Madison Rose
“but then there’s like Berlin.”
@marvynmacnificent„niChT mEiN tYp“ zieht nicht bei mir♬ ICONIC – Madison Rose
“There’s all these things popping up where I’m like, ‘I’ve never even been to these places and you know my music? And not even you know it, but it’s inspiring your art? That’s so… I mean, what an honor.”
Once the “ICONIC” stardust settled a bit, Madison found herself with some 60,000+ followers on Tiktok, a viral hit on her hands, and soon, a real album era to begin.
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Looking ahead of Technicolor, Madison sees the usual pop superstar checklist in her future: Lollapalooza, Coachella, a cute visit to the MET Gala. Today, she’s right at the sweet spot where potential energy blasts out into the kinetic.
Her album is available in all its pop glory, she has a whole string of tour dates coming throughout the summer, and she’s even set to be on a billboard in Times Square after writing and performing the opening number to Revry’s House of Pride.
She recently hit up South by Southwest and her first ever international performance dates in Calgary, as well as an incredibly full-circle “ICONIC” performance on the main stage of Rupaul’s DragCon LA after being brought out by none other than Morgan McMichaels.
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“DragCon was just really eye-opening for me because it put a lot of the hard work that I’ve been doing in perspective,” Madison says of the performance. “I was getting stopped every five feet by someone.”
The chance to be able to contribute her art to the program that has helped influence it for years was a great opportunity for her–and, she hopes, not the last of its kind.
“What a beautiful moment it’s gonna be for me and the people who support me and listen to my music when ‘ICONIC’ finally is the ‘Lipsync For Your Life’ song on Drag Race–like, how iconic. It’ll be like, ‘Do you remember when it was a fan edit?’”
Whether her music makes it to the mainstage or not–which, judging by the reception to her DragCon set, we have a very good feeling–Madison just seems happy to finally be able to interact with and perform for her supporters in person after the isolation of the pandemic.
“We’re co-creating my journey together. We’re co-manifesting it. They probably don’t even realize that, but I do. I have full-body chills, I do. I really see it.”
With Technicolor finally out today, it’s now the world’s turn to see it–with 20/20 color vision.