Ariana DiLorenzo is a hybrid artist, equal parts showtunes chanteuse, singer-songwriter and synthpop girl. She writes brilliantly infectious pop songs and uses electronic music to present them in a rock context, as the frontwoman of her band, Ariana and the Rose.
An Italian-American New Yorker with a background in theatre who attended the Tisch School of the Arts, shes the missing link between Barbra Streisand and Lady Gaga, with one foot in the classic-melodic past and the other in the synthetic future.
What Im going for is a more 'real aesthetic than most pop artists, she says, citing Florence and the Machine and Marina and the Diamonds as set-ups she admires. I grew up loving singer-songwriters with attitude such as Fiona Apple and Ingrid Michaelson, but I also loved the synths and sexiness of Goldfrapp and Santigold. I spent time oscillating between the two genres before deciding where to land. Now Ive found a way to create synthpop with proper instrumentation that, melodically and lyrically, comes from a singer-songwriter place.
Still only in her early-twenties, Ariana is something of a showbusiness veteran. Born in Long Island, she took a variety of dance classes - ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop - almost as soon as she could walk.
Im one of those classic cases where Ive been performing since I was three, she laughs.
At 12, she was invited to join the Synthesis Dance Project, who performed all over Manhattan. Between 14 and 17 she was a Musical Theater major at the Professional Performing Arts School while enjoying extracurricular work as a member of off-Broadway show the American Girl Revue and doing various voice-overs, jingles, commercials and walk-on parts on the likes of The Sopranos.
At 18, she studied Journalism at Tisch and had a day job in a casting agency before, aged 20, movung further towards realising a career in music: she released a dance track called Bliss and another called Beautiful.
But I didnt want to do trance music, she explains, so I went to Nashville.
There, she recorded a four-song demo with writers steeped in the art of pop song construction. And then, restless as ever, in 2012 she assembled her band: a bassist, a guitarist, a keyboardist, and a drummer. Oh, and Ariana on mezzo-soprano.
I work to hone and write for my voice, she says. Its fun to push the range and experiment with colour and tone.
I didnt want to be a solo act, just me, a DJ and some dancers, she adds. I wanted something more substantial and visceral. Live is where you create a bond, a cord. If a musician moves you, makes that connection - thats it, youre a fan.
She chose the name Rose as a nod to her grandmother and the other women in her family where everyones middle name is Rose.
Throughout 2012, Ariana and the Rose performed literally from coast to coast in such legendary venues as the Whiskey A Go Go in LA and the Gramercy Theater in New York: at the latter she played the after-party for Lady Gaga's Born This Way Ball.
She also spent 2012 in artistic development, refining her skills as a pianist, composer and singer with her mentor, Vera Tisheff. Then she collaborated with producers David Kahne (Lana Del Rey, New Order) and Greg Smash Mouth Camp.
It was with the award-winning Kahne that she recorded the Love Me, Love Me Not EP at Avatar studios in New York. It featured the lush, skittering 21, the super-catchy When You Know You Know, the reflective Goodbye Love, the synthy melancholia of Burned, the soulful, strings-enhanced Life In Longing with its electronic reggae pulse, and the exuberant Two Hands One Heart.
Since then, Ariana has branched out, Dating a little bit, producer-wise, as she puts it. Her intention has been to darken up her sound and age it up a bit. Her next release - and the first sign of her new, more mature direction - will be the Love Me Hate Me single and its B-side Heartbeat. The first track is a fabulous electronic pop song that would function just as well in stripped-down acoustic form, such is its classic structure. The flip is another example of unimpeachable machine-beat pop, with a chorus and a hummable refrain so memorable they will lodge in your skull.
Hold on: Love Me Hate Me and Heartbeat? Is Ariana writing about herself here? Are these singer-songwriter confessionals with a synthesized backdrop?
They're not about me or an ex-boyfriend, she insists, adding: I often dont write about my life. I start to but then it ends up being more fun to make it up. I love writing lyrics - I consider myself a lyricist, first. I could write lyrics all day long on any topic, I love it. I take bits and pieces of things me and my friends are going through, and make stories out of them.
She cites 21 as an example.
Its about that period when youre supposed to have figured it out, she says, describing it as a sort of pop-song version of the confused twentysomething lives depicted on US TV show Girls, albeit less sexually explicit. Its got the perspective of Girls and the visual aesthetic of Sex and the City with the natural glamour of French new wave cinema, she furthers. My songs are about more than just love. Theyre about getting lost and missing home and being stuck in a rut... They explore the whole concept of what it means to be trying to figure life out on all fronts.
With the music and lyrics good to go, all she needs now is a label.
Its sophisticated pop, she decides. Im creating something mainstream that doesnt dumb down, that gives the audience credit for being smart. It comes down to loving melody and the way melody flows through an arrangement: pop music that comes from an orchestral point of view.
As for the visual component, Ariana - whose parents work in fashion - describes her image as aspirational but also relatable. Above all else, hers is music with mainstream appeal and commercial ambition that refuses to pander to market trends. It is personal and idiosyncratic, with a tendency to experiment, while also remaining intensely accessible. In a word: pop. Ariana and the Rose are the acceptable face of the genre.
Pop shouldnt be a guilty pleasure. Its time, she says, for pop girls to be cool again.