Chelsea Dash “Quicksand”
“I mostly write in hindsight, because I have to be able to process all of the emotions of what’s happened before I feel like I can give a clear view from start to finish in a song.” That clear-eyed, measured view of her song craft is what gives Chelsea Dash the ability to write insightful, powerful pop songs with a purpose. What purpose? To empower and inspire – all while having a good time. Her clear view is on full display, from start to finish, on each of the eight tracks found on her aptly titled album, Dangerous, due July 22.
Dash is an enigma in the most positive sense of the word. She was born and raised amongst the natural wilderness surrounding Mill Valley, CA, but admits she’s not a “small town person” and from a very young age new she wanted to live along the concrete canyons of New York City. She’s smart and sexy and declaratively affirms she’s a fierce feminist in a male-dominated industry. Add these and many other traits, including the fact that she is a reflective versus reactive songwriter, and you get a sense of the subtext of several songs on Dangerous.
In “Quicksand,” the album’s next single (available June 24), Dash dives into a subject many would list as one of the most dangerous relationship pitfalls one can encounter: getting stuck in emotional quicksand. When asked if this cut is a cautionary tale about the never-ending story of falling for the bad boy, without hesitation and in her typically candid way, she says, “Yeah, it definitely is just that.” With refreshing frankness, Dash notes that she initially wrote the song about a girlfriend of hers and a guy she was dating, but confesses she too has been mired in that type of “toxic relationship.” Meanwhile, the video for “Massive Attack” plays out like an updated three-minute aural film noir piece, with a twist at the end. On the surface it seems yet another bad boy is in charge, but then Dash flips the script. Let’s face it, she’s in charge here. “Yeah, that’s ultimately the message I want to send, especially to women. So much of that song is really just an empowering anthem.
Both personally and professionally, projecting an aura of strength and confidence is indispensably important to Dash, who has an abundance of both. “I want young women to know that it’s totally fine to stick to your guns,” she says. That said, Dash points to Beyonce as an unabashedly bold and independent artist she counts as a role model. “She’s probably the best example of feminism that I can think of. It’s okay to be a woman and be sexy and in touch with your sexuality…but she’s also the first person to stand up when someone isn’t treating a woman right.”
Madonna is another pioneering performer she hails as a hero. According to family lore, she was almost expelled from preschool for taking one of her mother’s cassette tapes to school and choosing to singalong to “Like a Virgin” for show-and-tell. Luckily, mom – who happens to be Chelsea’s biggest non-musical hero – keenly noted her daughter’s budding musical talent and got her into voice lessons. “Madonna is a very big reason why I’m a musician.”
The lineup of collaborators Dash assembled for Dangerous is a potent group of heavy hitters who’ve worked with scores of A-list artists. The team includes Smitty Soul (“Fugitive,” “Glow In the Dark”) who’s worked with Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Sean Kingston, Keysha Cole and Chris Brown; Tomas Costanza (“Quicksand,” “Massive Attack,” “Dangerous,” “Fall Over Me”) who’s written for and produced seven top 5 albums, including three that have gone to number 1, plus had a hand in hits by Macklemore and 2 Chainz, among others; and Goodwill and MGI (“Take a Picture”) who have Justin Bieber, Akon, Sean Kingston, 50 Cent, and Twista, among others, on their respective, and respected, resumes.
The EDM-driven “Take a Picture” is a dancefloor filler with lyrics that stress the picture perfect balance between sexy and smart. At one point in the video for the track, Dash – an alum of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston – is seen wearing a, yes, sexy white tank top with the word “I’m Actually Really Smart” emblazoned across the front. So what’s the secret to obtaining a balance between sexy and smart in equal measure? “I think it’s a confidence thing. It’s knowing who you are and portraying yourself as a strong, confident woman. Sometimes I have to go with the literal route, and that’s why that shirt spoke to me.”
Dangerous climaxes with the deeply personal and poignant “Sticks & Stones,” which begins with a pretty piano intro followed by more of Dash’s declarative lyrics. “That was the most recent song I’ve written, and the last one we did for the album, and it’s actually the most personal song that I have on the record” Dash explains.
Feeling confessional, she divulges that “the song is actually about my older brother, and we had a falling out. Just siblings being siblings, really. It’s a very, very personal song.” And it’s very, very good. Dash’s commanding vocal performance combined with her strong sense of storytelling and a dramatic arrangement make “Sticks & Stones” worthy of inclusion in Beyonce or Mary J. Blige’s canon of similarly stirring anthems.
An enigma? You bet. Talented? No doubt. Tenacious? Hell yes. Chelsea Dash is a bright new star straight from the same galaxy that created groundbreaking and trailblazing superstars like Madonna, Beyonce, Rihanna, Pink, etc, etc. Dangerous is an eight-song sonic and lyrical puzzle with pieces that form a perfectly cohesive message of fun and feminism, revelry and rebelliousness, desire and danger.
“It’s okay to be a strong woman and to project that, and know who you are and not settle for anything or let anybody try to push you somewhere where you don’t want to go.” Chelsea Dash is going places. And she’ll get there her way.