Graham Reid | | 3 min read
While it's true 21-year old Madison Beer from New York does not make music for Elsewhere's ears, she is of considerable interest for all kinds of reasons.
And her long overdue debut album Life Support – arriving eight years after her debut single and three on from her debut EP – isn't bad at all . . . . by the current, downbeat self-centred and languidly sensual pop standards.
She co-wrote all 17 songs – typically there are five other writers credited on the non-charting debut single Good to Goodbye, in fact very few of her 15 singles charted anywhere – but you sense music is almost incidental to the idea of A Career in the 21stCentury.
It's notable she has made guest cameos on such TV shows as Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry, the pratfall show Ridiculousness and a couple of RuPaul Drag Race shows (one as a judge).
So who is Madison Beer and why might we be interested in her?
Well, she seems a symbol of her generation in that her ambitious upper-middle Jewish parents steered into life as a child model, then as a very young teen she started posting videos on You Tube singing covers, Twitter piled in after Justin Bieber tweeted about her, she signed to his management, the Bieber appeared in the video for her debut single, she signed to Epic . . .
Other singles followed (the slated album didn't emerge despite publicity), she was linked up with many other writers . . .
And away she went: onto the catwalk, those TV guest spots, appearing on others' songs, was the voice of a character on the virtual K-pop band K/DA, had her own cosmetic brand . . .
If there's a more emblematic millennial career it would be hard to find.
Needless to say she has had her “struggles”, notably with mental health, negative social media comments, self-harm and criticism when she announced she was bi-sexual.
This is an enormous amount to deal with in such a short life – oh, and relationships, of course – so you can see why the debut album was so long coming.
She had a career to create, a media to feed, videos to make, issues to deal with . . .
Needless to say the album comes freighted with her saying this is the real her: her life, loves, struggles (see the clip below), how brave she has been, where she's at now . . .
So is Life Support any good?
It's not too bad actually (with those caveats mentioned) and the 17 songs in 46 minutes fairly fly by, largely because she broadcasts on a fairly narrow, aching, languid frequency on the low-key songs.
If you come here looking for the 13-year old whose cover of Etta James' soul belter At Last which so impressed Justin Bieber, then you've come to the wrong place.
Whatever soul potential she had back then has been sucked out in favour of rather bland but highly serviceable r'n'b pop. A pity because there are a few hints of it there on Emotional Bruises and the lowkey Everything Happens For a Reason which could have made a fine torch song but get swamped by the production and Auto-Tune.
The songs Boyshit and Selfish are the standouts.
In the manner of so many r'n'b and hip-hop albums there are bookend tracks: the 58 second The Beginning and the dramatic Channel Surfing/The End with thrash noises, random sounds from TV and a whispered “thank you” to close proceedings.
Madison Beer stands at a self-imposed crossroads: on the one hand she plays the innocent girl vocally and the other as an assured and pissed-off woman in her lyrics (Good in Goodbye, Boyshit, Stay Numb And Carry On which carries a mid-period Taylor Swift kiss-off to a former lover).
Who she has been, and is, may be more interesting than the music for many.
But you'd have to concede, she's made all the right moves.
Recently she posted a video on Vogue's You Tube channel with beauty tips where she “gets real about her skin struggles over the years, and shares her perfected everyday beauty routine”.
So far it has had 3.2 million views.
You can hear this album on Spotify here
Her album entered the NZ charts at #33 this week, her single Blue at #19