Ariana and the Rose on Making a ‘We’re Back’ Dance Floor Album for Her Full-Length Debut

·7 min read

When Ariana and the Rose hits TikTok, the New York City singer-songwriter perches behind a piano, tickles the keys and shares her thoughts on everything from relationships gone sour to “f—k boys” she should have seen coming a mile away. And while quarantine gave Ariana DiLorenzo some time to sift through her emotions and share her candid conclusions with a devoted niche audience (garnering over 12 million views on TikTok so far), her first full-length album, Lonely Hearts Club, is less about the digital and more about the physical. Sure, introspection is present and accounted for, but the album eschews second guessing in favor of bold statements, from the inclusivity anthem “Every Body” to the unrepentant “If New York Is Dead, Then Bury Me With Her” to the confident dance floor come-on “Cosmic Lover.”

“I wanted to make a ‘we’re back’ album,” Ariana tells Billboard. “Being on the dance floor is very healing.” Working with her musical director Andy Highmore for the first time as a producer in the studio, Lonely Hearts Club is a club-ready bouquet of sinuous synths, thumping beats and hypnotic house. “The house music resurgence is here,” she says. “As the world gets dark, house music has a tendency to come back.”

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With Lonely Hearts Club out now, Ariana and the Rose speaks to Billboard about everything from the state of NYC nightlife to DM-ing with fans to why The Rocky Horror Picture Show was on her mood board for this album.

You’ve been releasing music as Ariana and the Rose for several years now, including a few EPs. What made you decide it was the right time for a full-length album?

I had zero plans to make an album pre-COVID. I was about to go on tour, I had put out Constellations — Phase 1 in 2019 and had Constellations — Phase 2 ready to go. Then COVID happened and everybody stopped. By the time I got my bearings, maybe summer of 2020, I realized I had just been at my piano writing songs, stuck inside dealing with my own sh-t. For me, I had gone through a breakup right before COVID and I was sitting with myself. I realized, “I think I have a bigger thing to say.” And the world was different – those songs were from a different place and didn’t represent where I, or anybody, was.

So what inspired these songs?

The song “Every Body” I was thinking, “well, what does anybody need to hear from a white cis girl from New York right now?” I thought that if I have a privilege of a platform, what can I do with that? And that’s what “Every Body” was born out of. There’s a song on the album called “If New York Is Dead, Then Bury Me With Her.” And that was a response to everyone saying constantly for months that “New York is dead,” and after a while I was like, “enough!” I was writing and writing and writing on the piano, and then I took it to a producer, Andy Highmore, and the two of us made an album. Just the two of us — one other song on the record has another writer on it.

What’s your working relationship with Andy Highmore like in the studio?

He’s my musical director; I’ve been working with him since 2017 but never in the studio together. This album was made in my dream way, the way my favorite records are made: One artist goes into a studio with one producer and you make an album. From an identity standpoint, this is the clearest I’ve ever been about who I am as a person and an artist. It was a true collaboration between the two of us. He’s British and very steeped in house music and the British dance aesthetic and I felt very strongly at the time that’s where things were going – enter the conversation Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul.” I think the house music resurgence is here. As the world gets dark, house music has a tendency to come back. He’s worked with The Knocks and AlunaGeorge but hadn’t produced a pop album before. It was like, “here we go.”

It’s definitely harder-hitting dance music at points than what you’ve done in the past.

Once I decided it was going to be an album, I felt strongly that I wanted to make something for when the world was open again. I didn’t want to make a quarantine album, I wanted to make a “we’re back” album. This summer really does feel like the first summer things are back. It’s not like COVID is over, but people are out in a way now that being on the dance floor is very healing. I feel that now more than ever.

Traditionally, the phrase “lonely hearts club” was used in a pitying way, but I like that you’re using it as this empowering ‘club’ to invite people to.

With “Lonely Hearts Club,” I had the image of Rocky Horror Picture Show in my mind. They’re in this mansion and they’re a group of misfits: “Are you a mess? Has society cast you away? Come into our home.” That was a big inspiration for the album. And I love the idea of a “Lonely Hearts Club” being a club you can subscribe to and also a physical place. It’s community.

Your social media presence really expanded in the pandemic, with a lot of people connecting to these videos of you sitting at a keyboard and talking about breakups and romantic disappointments. Do you find that people have started DM-ing you and sharing their stories?

I get it all the time now which is really cool. I had a girl DM me saying, “I woke up to being dumped.” Some people will DM me with a story and some will DM me the beginning of a conversation — they’re looking to talk. I’ve had a few instances where I’ve met people in person, which is funny and new for me. I was on line in a coffee shop near my apartment and this girl from Scandinavia who was visiting Brooklyn turned around and was like, “Oh my God, hi!” And I thought, “Do I know this person?” So I was like “hi” and she reflexively hugged me and said, “I follow you online and I love your videos.” I’ve had that happen a few times where people hug me; I think because my videos are intimate and people feel like they know me. Which I love. It’s in my DMs, it’s in person. It’s been a very interesting development in my life which is kind of what the point of social media is, at its best. At least when it’s beautiful and not all the other things. There’s something easier about telling your deeper feelings to a stranger. There’s a freedom there. Sometimes you’re emotionally slutty with someone you don’t know that well. I’m proud to make a little corner of the Internet where people feel they can be uplifted.

Earlier you mentioned all the people saying NYC was dead. As an entertainer and event planner (with the Light + Space series, which had a pre-pandemic residency at House of Yes in Brooklyn), do you think it’s back? Are they eating their words?

I think anybody who wants to think the city is dead or who is over New York is over New York. Maybe they were looking for an excuse. I’m not out here trying to convince anybody to love New York. If you don’t love her, she doesn’t need you, she’s got plenty of people. Do I think it’s back? Maybe it’s just different. I grew up here. For me, the city feels a little more like when I was in high school in the sense that yes, it’s a little less safe, but there are things going on all over the place. Is it back fully? It’s different. If you want to look at it from a statistics standpoint, how people like to measure things – you can look at rent prices and crime rates – but New York has always had that fluctuating. But I measure New York by its spirit and soul and the vibrancy of what’s happening here. And I do think that’s happening again and in a way that we hadn’t seen in a while pre-COVID.

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