Shoshana Roberts walked around New York City for 10 hours. Just living her life. Not here for the over 100 times she was cat-called, ranging from whistles to vile pick-up lines and men stalking her for several minutes. The viral video, released back in October 2014, shows Roberts in jeans and a simple black tee. “Don’t you wanna talk?” one skeevy suitor asked her. “What’s up, beautiful?” probed another. Yet a third, “If I give you my number, would you talk to me?” (The answer is a no, dude, move along.) The clip now has 44 million views on YouTube. The unwanted advances are just a day-in-the-life of any woman in the world, constantly objectified and thought of nothing more but slabs of meat. Singer-songwriter Madelin claps back with her provocative and genre-bending single “Good List,” which has amassed 100,000 streams on Spotify, and she fumes, “I’m gonna show my legs, I don’t give a fuck.” Anger soaks her phrasing, boosted with the brazen hip-hop grind, but she doesn’t let egomaniacs dampen her confidence, sloshing against the pop/urban blend.
“Boy, you fucking lucky if I put you on my good list” is her rallying cry, anchoring her brand new self-titled EP (out now), a hearty collection of groove-based empowerment gems. B-Sides & Badlands had the honor of hopping on a call with the upstart recently, to discuss exactly how her fearless new EP started and “Good List”s insane streaming numbers. “I had been recording with lots of different producers over the past three years. It was always a little uncertain of what was going to be the next thing I put out. I hadn’t put anything out in a long time and going through a lot of ups and downs with my management and publishing company that I’m no longer with,” she recounts. “I wasn’t even thinking I was making an EP while I was making it. I was just recording songs here and there. I would go to LA and work with different producers and then here in New York. I don’t even remember the first song I wrote off this EP. It’s all a blur. It’s a culmination of the last three years of my life, though.”
As of this writing, “Good List” notches 122,860 streams, to be exact, something that’s understandably surreal. “I’m very happy about it. All I want is for people to enjoy the music I make. I’m excited people seem to be liking it. I look at it all the time to remind myself that that’s really a thing,” she giggles, charmingly. “There aren’t very many dance tracks or trap-influenced that are from the perspective of a woman who is sick of being cat-called and objectified. The combination of it being a fun, catchy song that’s on-trend, as well as being unique in its lyrical content, resonants today.”
In the visual, grainy and slinky, Madelin flips gender roles by tying up half-naked men in leather and chains. She sits prominently on a throne, of course, basking in her strength as a woman. She more than just topples the patriarchy, she sets that shit on fire. “I didn’t have any doubts making [the video]. I’ve loved the concept, and I think it’s cheeky and fun but also does show how ridiculous the objectification we are so used to is,” she says. “After the fact, I got trolled by the alt-right. That was interesting. I didn’t really think about how ‘controversial’ it could be until after it was already out.”
Down to the pink-hued cover art (below), Madelin frames sexuality, conviction and resilience at the center of her aesthetic. “The body paint kind of flashed in my head one day. I was just like ‘that’s what I’m going to do.’ I just really love the color pink. I thought it would be beautiful. I like to look like an alien or otherworldly. I guess I wanted to look a little genderless in a way, to be feminine but still neutral,” she says.
The EP towers over her competition, built from the ground-up on substantial, strapping stories born out of a very real place. “Want to be just like Malala, strong and anger-free,” she decides on opener “Roxelana,” and then with “Pinnacle,” she reflects on “being close to the world” even though “it hurts,” she intones. “Can I be a ghost for awhile? Can I choose how long? I bet I get stuck here wondering around the ocean floor.” Later, “High School Boys” burns with yearning for truth and youth in love-tragic heartache: “what’s the point of wanting anything,” she sighs. It’s one of the EP’s darker, almost sinister, compositions, rather brittle but aching.
Through writing and recording the project over the course of three long, tireless years, Madelin came to terms with many things: cutting negativity out of her life and how to better craft her musicality. “I’ve learned more about my sound as an artist and what I want to continue to have. I am free to experiment with lots of different influences in my music and that I don’t have to pigeonhole myself,” she details. “For awhile, during the process, I was being told ‘no, these aren’t pop enough and the choruses aren’t big enough, blah blah blah.’ That was discouraging. Now, that it’s out, I really see that’s bullshit, and I can make the music that resonates with me and be authentic. I can play with genre, too, and it’s going to be well-received.”
But when it comes to her personal evolution and discovery, she’s “matured a lot,” she begins. “I came to the conclusion that the person I should be listening to the most is myself. I’m getting a lot more confident in my own choices and testing my intuition. I can still listen to other people’s opinions and take them for what they are. But I want to make myself happy. If my music is something I like to listen to, then it’s something others will want to listen to.”
Then, the grind of working and reconfiguring her vibe, from hip-hop to electric pop, took equal effort and patience. “Well, I love pop music. I definitely am a pop artist, you know, but I’ve never been the type of person to write a song with the idea that ‘oh, this song is gonna be a pop hit and it’s gonna have a bangin’ chorus.’ I don’t write songs with a preconceived notion of what they’re going to end up being,” she says. “I like working with different producers because I like seeing what the combinations are and what that can be. I’m taking the elements of pop I really love, which are catchy melodies and accessibility, but I’m also staying true to my more introspective singer-songwriter roots, in the sense my lyrics are important to me. I will never water down my lyrics. I will always write my own lyrics. It’s finding that balance.”
Stylistically, though, she always knew the precise touch points she aimed to emulate, and rock was not on that (good) list. “I was in a rock band in high school. I don’t really resonate with that. I guess you could say I have some indie-rock influence. It’s not really my vibe, overall. I’d rather be a little more quirky and pop/hip-hop, not as grungy or gritty, I guess,” she admits. That variation and boldness probably comes to her, in part, from the tunes she spins on the daily. “I listen to a lot of music. I mostly listen on Spotify, so I’m always listening to their playlists. I’m really into Lizzo right now. I love her. I also love Allie X, been really into her lately. Of course, I love the Kendrick Lamar album. Run the Jewels. I’ve been getting into Katy Perry’s new album, too. I know that’s very unpopular of me to do,” she smirks. “It’s really good. I also love listening to female rappers, all over the map. As long as it’s good, I’ll listen to it.”
Turning to some landmark albums which have influenced her the most, Björk is at the top of the leaderboard. “She is one of my favorite artists of all time, if not my favorite. Hard to pick one of her albums, but ‘Vespertine’ is probably my favorite. I would take that album on a desert island. I love ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,’ a classic. I love No Doubt’s ‘Return to Saturn.’ Nowadays, it’s not much albums as it is songs. I also love ‘Four’ by Beyonce, that was a really influential album for me. I love Nicki Minaj, too; ‘The Pink Print’ is great. Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue,’ as well.”
Madelin recently hit quite a pivotal life milestone, too: turning 25. You are halfway between being a kid and an adult, the pressure reaches new heights but that comes with unexpected release. “I think it’s a little better than 24. I feel like more of a full-fledged adult and more sure of myself, that I’m moving in the right direction. It’s good,” she says. Not only can she now rent a car in the states, but the lessons she’s learned as a 20-something are key to where she goes next. “Let’s see. Don’t drink too much. It won’t end well. I’ve learned to value my time and only give my time to things that are important to me. I don’t feel like I have to say yes to things I don’t really want to do or work with people I don’t really want to work with now. I’ve learned you have to be a little selfish in order to get where you want to be in life–in a way, you have to value your own feelings and leave room to make yourself happy,” she reflects.
“Don’t overbook yourself. It’s good to be busy and have lots of balls in the air. I need time to recharge every once in awhile and be alone. Maybe watch some documentaries. If you never recharge, you could go for weeks doing things. Especially in New York, there’s always an event or a party or something birthday thing. You have to carve out that time to marinate in yourself. As a songwriter, that’s really important for me: listen to what is happening inside my own mind. If I don’t, I start to feel anxious,” she adds.
The last documentary she watched? “A really, really depressing one about opioid addiction. Pretty dark. It was an HBO documentary. I don’t usually watch documentaries that depressing, but I happened to watch that one. I’ve probably seen every documentary on Netflix. I don’t usually watch regular movies much. But the last documentary I watched that really got to me was ‘Party Days,’ the one about Michael Alig.”
The Madelin EP is only one month old, but the singer is already eyeing the follow-up. “I really would like to start working on my next project. I have a lot of songs already written on the back burner. I want to go through all those and see which ones I’d like to have on either another EP or a full-length album,” she teases of her plans for the back-half of 2017. “I’d also like to keep writing and making my sound that much more interesting and undefinable. I have a lot of music video ideas I’d like to put into motion.”
Madelin is expected to drop a remix EP “very soon,” she says. “All the songs on the ‘Madelin’ EP got remixed my friends of mine who are also musicians. That’ll be really cool.”
Madelin’s latest EP is out now on iTunes, and you can spin it below, via Spotify: