Madilyn Bailey Breaks Through On Debut Album 'Hollywood Dead' [Album Review]

Kieran Kohorst

The life of an artist is many things, including over-romanticised. The lifestyle is a dream for most people, including the ones who chase down this dream by any means necessary. And while we love to revel at the stories of self-belief and fake-it-until-you-make-it fairytales, it's not an often-realized reality. Madilyn Bailey is a case study for this harsh career arc: her dreams seemed just within her reach as she made a storied run to the semi-finals of America’s Got Talent, with her journey including an audition that will forever live in ATG lore. Even while being on the cusp of success, there were lessons Bailey still had to learn, namely that all progress is hard-earned. "I think we all make the mistake of thinking that changing our name, moving away, falling in love, starting college, getting that dream job will be the answer to all our problems when in reality these things are just a part of the equation not the solution,” Bailey says, explaining the genesis of her newest album, Hollywood Dead, out now on all platforms. “I thought if I could just get to LA all my dreams would come true. But I arrived in LA with the same fears, the same doubts and the same insecurities. I had this idea of how it should work out, who I should be and what kind of music I should make. Hollywood Dead is the process of letting go of who I thought I should be to become who I was meant to be. It’s a self discovery, excitement, disillusionment, fear & hope.”

With a more realized version of herself and the music she’s meant to make, Bailey delivers her most inspired work to date on Hollywood Dead. On the title track, she pokes fun at the idea that her time has passed in music, that the industry instinctively discards musicians in favor of younger, more cosmetic faces (and voices). With a hint of humor and an overbearing amount of defiance, Bailey uses the track as a mission statement for the project as a whole. The surrounding songs prove she’s not only survived in the industry for this long, but is thriving and continues to ascend. “3,2,1” boasts a rebellious edge in its subtle punk influences, but there’s little doubt that Bailey is a pop girl at heart. “Petals” and “Wake Up Juliet” are tasteful recordings that standout on first listen and continue to grow as favorites with continued plays. Each time you press play on Hollywood Dead, a new moment emerges that grows your appreciation for the album, whether it be Bailey’s witty writing or the vocal acrobats she performs with ease. 

Most admirably, Hollywood Dead is Madilyn Bailey telling her story authentically, honest about the struggles she’s overcome to deliver in the biggest moment of her career thus far. It's a refreshing take not only on pop but on Bailey’s art in general, with risks and experimentation paying off throughout the project. Despite the barriers laid out across Hollywood to deter artists like Bailey from making an impression, there’s little that can slow her down now. 

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