You can’t blame newcomers for tentative moments on their debuts or missteps. Everyone wants to put on their “best face” for their first turn in the spotlight, everyone wants to make a good impression, but this earnest desire leads some off-course. Rosie Dean, however, isn’t among them. Her first release All Grown Up presents the music buying public with an artist “ready for prime time”, as they say, and still far from reaching what’s certain to be a head-spinning peak.
She’s beginning her musical career on a high note. Many fine full-length debuts from a gamut of artists don’t pack the emotional and physical wallop wrapped up within this EP’s four songs and it hits without forcing Dean to strain for effect. She sounds like she’s been doing this for years with the first song. “Bitter” has some self-reflective words that caught me off-guard during the first listen and they hold up under repeated listens. It isn’t that her writing broaches new ground, per se, but it isn’t common to hear such personal examination in this musical setting.
It isn’t an one-off. It doesn’t leap out at you at first but, possibly by the time you finished hearing the fourth song for the first time, a dawning realization arrives. Dean’s All Grown Up is a bit of musical sleight of hand, never dishonest however, pretending to be a superficial pop EP and nothing more. It can be all you take away from the collection, but there’s more going on. Each of the EP’s four songs are part of an overall design that comes through when you look at it on the whole.
Consistency is a big reason why it works. There are definite similarities between Dean’s musical direction during the opener and the remaining three songs, but diversity is key as well. “Lifeline” pursues another trajectory than “Bitter” but the two songs cross paths a few times. She uses guitar here, albeit breaking with the first song’s aims, and it brings a lot to the cut. The song has a far broader arrangement than its predecessor but a similar sound.
The arrangement further broadens during the third track “Sirens”. There’s desperation in this track’s music but it never plunges over the edge. Dean, instead, keeps a tight grip on the song with her vocal and the contrasting calm of her voice creates a compelling hook to keep listeners interested. She closes the EP with “Rosé”. A synthesizer fueled flourish starts the actual song after a smattering of preceding sound effects and Dean slips into the track soon thereafter.
It’s the best lyric on the EP for anyone paying attention and impossible not to admire how easily she handles its involved phrasing. Some may say this is wordy for a pop song but that implies overwriting. She doesn’t waste a word or note during this song. None of them, actually. Rosie Dean’s All Grown Up rides the line between commerciality and autobiography better than many other albums, particularly those in recent memory.